Last year I got the opportunity to be interviewed in a Church of Christ in Jackson, Mississippi for the aptly named Interview an Atheist at Church Day. The talk went really well and the church was very warm and welcoming. Most churches in my area would not be amenable (heh) to something like this, but this church received me with open arms. The pastor interviewed me and allowed me the chance to explain the ways in which I feel atheists are misunderstood in our region of the country. I really enjoyed a chance to lay those things out to a group of Christians who listened intently and told me afterwards that they appreciated what I shared.
Since that time, the two videos which came out of that talk have made the rounds on the web and the feedback has been mixed. Many Christians were horrified that an atheist would be allowed to speak to a church. Others praised the event and said it was wonderful to watch a pastor and an atheist sit down to have a calm, congenial conversation for the benefit of everyone present. If nothing else, this event shows that it’s entirely possible to discuss religion without getting worked up about it and without feeling the need to shout the other person down. The most flak I got was from atheists who felt I should have been more polemical in my talk. I was too nice for many of them, and they got particularly upset about the last point in the segment called “What atheists wish Christians knew about them.” At the end of that talk, I intimated that I don’t identify with anti-theism because mere faith in God doesn’t really bother me. What bothers me most is Fundamentalism, and I have come to be openly critical of that strain of religion as well as the related strains which incorporate aspects of it into their own subcultures. In retrospect, I might restate that last point differently today simply because I’ve been learning the importance of speaking more openly against those forms of religion which are harmful. Some things really need to be said out loud, and if my last point in that segment discourages that, I take it back.
Many who have seen the shorter excerpt (which is 15 minutes long) never saw the longer interview (which is 49 minutes long). For the benefit of those who didn’t see the full interview, I’ll post that here.
Many won’t have time to watch the full interview. For those folks, I’ll put the shorter talk about how Christians misunderstand atheists in my next post, along with a bit of an elaboration of each of the points I made.