Interview an Atheist in Church Day (Jackson, MS)

In conjunction with National Interview an Atheist in Church Day (May 5, 2013), the pastor of the Meadowbrook Church of Christ in Jackson, MS interviewed me on May 1st. This is the full video. Next I’ll post it again in four parts.

About Neil Carter

Neil Carter is a high school Geometry teacher, a tutor, a swim coach, a father of five children, and a skeptic living in the Bible Belt. A former church elder with a seminary education, Neil mostly writes now about the struggles of former evangelicals living in the midst of a highly religious subculture.

  • Greg Wilson

    This is great, Neil. I’m glad I stumbled upon it. My “deconversion” is very similar to yours. I appreciate the way you carried yourself in this setting. I’m also curious about any followup you may have experienced with the members of the Meadowbrook CofC. Were you able to have conversations afterward with any of the members?

    • http://godlessindixie.wordpress.com godlessindixie

      I was approached by two or three folks after the talk. A couple of them knew me when I was a kid so they were just saying hey (although one of them put his hand on my shoulder in a somewhat fatherly gesture and suggested “some thoughts for my consideration”). One of the youth group members was eager to engage me in debate, so we chatted for a few minutes but kept it light. It was the usual stuff: evolution, finely-tuned universe, etc. Nice to see the interest. That’s how it all started for me, too ;-)

      • Greg

        Thanks for the reply. From the interview, I can tell you have learned the art of diffusing emotional conversation – either that, or your personality helps you in that regard. You really present the thing that matters most when believers and unbelievers talk about topics such as the existence of God, the bible, religion, etc. – that civil conversation is more profitable than debate. Thanks for doing this. I predict the video will get many hits.

        Twelve years ago, after moving to Nashville, I asked myself “Why do you believe what you believe?” That question led me on a domino toppling journey of deep biblical study, science, psychology, and self analysis. It began as a serious study intended to deepen my faith and knowledge of the bible and Christianity. It ended in the rejection of virtually all of the religious beliefs I had held for 35 years. This seems to becoming more and more common, especially with the access the internet is providing now.

        • http://godlessindixie.wordpress.com godlessindixie

          I’m a middle child, and a father of four daughters, and a middle school teacher. So yeah, I know how to defuse emotional conversation :-)

  • Chris Adams

    Hi Neil. I came across this video through Twitter and just wanted to say thank you for sharing. I can understand why there is a lot of anger on both sides of the religious debates but this approach seems far more productive and positive and I really hope it inspires other similar discussions.

  • Zach

    Hi Neil… I really enjoyed watching your video and the message it conveyed. I’ve had similar conversations with Catholics, Christians, and other people of faith regarding what most atheists actually believe, or more importantly, what our values consist of. It usually stems from the shock they feel when I tell them I do not have a believe in the existence of god. These are folks who have known me for several years, and are surprised that a “nice person such as myself could not possibly be an atheist”. I’ve also had heated debates which clearly got us both no where; only rendering one side (or both) frustrated, and unwilling to listen or cooperate in meaningful discussion. I really liked your approach in in the “11 Things Atheists Wish Christians Knew About Them” portion. I feel like these items are a hard sell to hard-core persons of faith, but can be a great way to at least attempt to eliminate the stigma placed on non-believers. I am glad to hear your message of “Mutual Respect”, and truly hope people could learn to adopt this method of interacting with people different from ourselves. I feel that this is the only way to enhance the human experience, and hopefully someday lead to better understanding.

  • Ron Godin

    Excellent talk and I was surprised that a pastor invited you. I’m wondering if he got into trouble with his congregation. Anyway it’s nice to hear that someone tells Christians that atheists are not bad people and that except for the fact that we don’t happen to believe in a god, we are just like them.

  • Nick M

    I need to ask: when the pastor at the end told the christians that they might have heard things that offended them or rubbed them wrong… what things would those be? I’m honestly interested — I’m worried that I’ve been in the atheist bubble for so long I can’t really understand what part of what you said that they would object to.

    • http://godlessindixie.wordpress.com godlessindixie

      I can think of a few things. Using the Santa discovery as an analogy for a loss of faith tends to rustle some feathers. But it’s such a universally accessible one I can’t resist using it. I’m sure more than a few took issue with my Goofus and Gallant dichotomy as well. Some would be quite upset to hear someone say they don’t accept conversion–rebirth–as anything other than a metaphor.

  • http://runtowin.blogspot.com Jeff_R

    Neil – I”m a leader at Meadowbrook who was out of town last week and missed your talk. However, I watched the entire session video and thought it was fantastic. So glad you felt both comfortable and purposeful in sharing your story with us. I have received nothing but positive comments on the evening. All the best. Jeff R.

    • http://godlessindixie.wordpress.com godlessindixie

      Thanks for the feedback, Jeff. Glad to hear it was well received.

  • JSM

    Thank you for doing this. I find being a young atheist in Alabama very hard, I’m glad there are some churches nearby that are more welcoming to differing ideas than the ones in my area and I’m glad there are people like you spreading the “good word” for our little group.

  • Anthony Magnabosco

    Very enjoyable. I am what you might call an “anti-theist”, and your technique gave me something to consider. Thanks again, and I look forward to your upcoming blog posts.

  • Jeana Routh

    This is fantastic and now I’ll have to go back and read through your blog! Glad you mentioned it in the video :)

    Wish I could present myself so well :)

  • David Austin

    Hi Neil,

    I really enjoyed watching your video, and how you kept it very cool and rational.

    I am hoping to have a similar encounter with my local pastor sometime in the future. I think the pastor is quite open to the idea.

    Would it be possible to list out your 11 points you raised, as I think they are very well framed.

    Thanks a lot.

    Warm regards

    David Austin

    Perth, Western Australia

    • http://godlessindixie.wordpress.com godlessindixie

      Thanks for the feedback, David. That’s a good idea. I’ll see if I can work on that tomorrow, with more detail.

      • David Austin

        Hi Neil,

        Much obliged.

        Will keep you posted if I can organise an interview with my local paster.

        Warm regards from “down under”,

        David Austin

  • Jenn

    saw the video, and am now a new subscriber. Its not the easiest thing being a freethinker in West VIrginia, but I’m finding tools like the internet one of the best. Will be reading your blog. Thanks.

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  • Chuck V

    I really enjoyed listening to you talk. Well done! Best of luck to you.

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  • carmen

    Hi! I am so impressed with this interview. What I saw and heard was one very good human being speaking respectfully to another very good human being, both obviously interested in promoting good in the world, or rather, “the best good for the most people”. What a wonderful exercise in promoting tolerance, respect for others, and good, old-fashioned sister/brother-ly love.

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