What Atheists Wish Christians Knew About Them

What Atheists Wish Christians Knew About Them May 4, 2013

This is an excerpt from the video I posted yesterday in conjunction with the National Interview an Atheist at Church Day.  This shorter clip is 16 minutes (as opposed to 49 minutes…ain’t nobody got time fuh dat) and it represents the portion of the interview I want most to be shared (but if you really want to see the longer interview, just click here).  If you like it, please share it far and wide!

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  • Wow! this was awesome!

    Hope you don’t mind if i reblog it?

    I don’t think an atheist would have ever been allowed to speak in the churches i was in.

    so, good form for the pastor willing to take this step.

    I love your desire to change up the face of atheism and be willing to reach across the divide.

  • That was amazing! And I agree with Holly, kudos for the priest to allow him to speak in his church. And he really does a wonderful job.

  • Carl

    This is a breath of fresh air. All the handbags at twenty paces stuff isn’t getting us anywhere, and to be honest, I’m just as guilty as anyone. I’ve had nasty debates with theists which become a game of one-upmanship and are ultimately non-productive and leave me feeling bad about myself because that’s not who I am. I’ve been thinking there must be another way for some time, and this is it. People who have the experience of both sides and the intelligence to articulate that journey, bringing people along from both sides of the debate. Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris et al removed the taboo of criticising religion, which was important, but their way is too barbed now, it’s too aggressive. We need a newer, more human approach. For me, you have found that way and demonstrated it perfectly here Neil. I have taken inspiration from this and intend to follow a more considered view. Thank you.

  • Thanks, Carl. Very encouraging words. I tend to see the arguments as battles in a much larger culture war, and like any war there are multiple fronts on which this war will be waged. Some are fighting on the front lines, pursuing a direct attack, and that has to be done. But even in the most violent war there is diplomatic work to be done by building bridges and making friends with potential allies. I see this kind of interaction as an important complement to the work being done by the more direct critics of religion.

  • Feel free to link :-)

    And for what it’s worth, I think both the confrontational approach and the diplomatic approach are necessary and each has its place. But I agree that more work needs to be done at present along the diplomatic lines. Thanks for commenting!

  • Carl

    That’s a striking analogy. Put in those terms I think I would rather build the bridges than fight on the front line. I think with me the frustration just takes over because you spend all your time debunking the myths of the Atheist stereotype, which tends to strangle reasoned discourse from the outset. I thought the way you and the Minister dealt with the usual questions you’d expect from the audience was great. We need more sessions like this, where we discuss real human similarities, instead of the usual places we end up such as, universe from nothing and where does morality come from. That has it’s place, but, going back to your analogy, should not necessarily be the standard.

    I’m curious, how were you received by the audience after the session? There were some moments I thought were genuinely laugh out loud funny but it didn’t seem like the audience felt the same. :) Was the room as bristling as the video made it seem? It’s funny I felt the lump in your throat at the beginning and was thinking, ‘Come on Neil, keep it together’. :)

  • Wouldn’t it be nice if we could start all conversations with the “other side” past all misconceptions and assumptions! ? (dreamy sigh) :D

  • There were at least a couple of varying responses to the whole event, and fortunately I only had to deal directly with the more welcoming ones. There were some at the church who disapproved of the interview concept, and I believe much discussion was needed prior to our chat. Those who were most displeased with the idea of inviting an atheist to talk in front of the group mostly decided to just stay at home. As a result, those who approached me after the talk were fairly welcoming and friendly. One of the youth decided to practice his apologetics skills :-) That would have been fun to do for a while (it’s a hobby of mine), but we kept it short since that wasn’t the goal of the evening.

  • I really enjoyed this. I just watched the whole interview on Friendly Atheist. My background is very very similar to yours. I live in Southern Louisiana, and most of my family is still fundamental Christians. It is so HARD to be an atheist in the deep south!! Unlike you, I am still very much in the closet. Only my very immediate family and three close friends know the truth.You were very articulate and respectful, which in my opinion, is the best way to talk about and deal with differences. Yelling and insults get us nowhere. I won’t even engage a person who is rude, because personally i find it is a waste of time. I wish I knew of others like me, but other than my husband and two of my eight children who deconverted with me, I know of no other atheists in real life. Anyway, great job!!!! I will be reading your blog from now on : )

  • I really enjoyed this video; looking forward to watching the full version. Nice job.

  • The Thinker

    Thank you. I am an agnostic myself and it is refreshing to hear you speak as you did. My brother is an “anti-theist” atheist who seems intent on telling me and any other agnostic or theist friends and relatives how unreasonable and lost we are in our world views. He’s very combative about it. Quite ironic really. I think we are all lost because we are finite beings in a finite space with finite abilities. The combative nature of fundamentalists (atheist or theist) undermines their stance because I don’t think anything can possibly be true that exploits and hurts nature (and nature includes other people). So being combative really doesn’t prove anything except how pig-headed people can be and self absorbed. :-D I liked your “anti-fundamentalist” title. I think that would be me too. Though I am more uncertain about whether there is or isn’t a God/god, I just wish people could get along. There’s tragedy in the world (socially and environmentally) that is being ignored in favour of arguments over god. You are right, how much more good could we all do if we got over this hurdle of “you believe/I believe” and just tried to love our neighbour instead?

  • Shawn

    I want to know if you attend church with your wife and children that are still devout Christians? If so, do you follow all the rituals etc? I ask because I recently told my wife I no longer believe but I did make a promise to her during our vows to bring the children up catholic and I’ll keep that promise at this point. I attend church but don’t say any prayers (or anything for that matter) but I stand and kneel etc so i don’t draw negative attention to my family. Deep down I don’t want to be there and feel it’s a colossal waste of time but sometimes you need to make some sacrifices for family harmony. Just wanted to get your take on this as I’m sure you have thought about it as well.

  • I continued to attend as long as I could without it giving me a bad attitude. Each of us has his own limit and I pushed mine as far as it would go. But in our kind of church, there is just enough small group interaction (and I have entirely too much theological education to resist participating in those discussions) to make simply shutting down an impossibility for me personally. I’m totally with you on the sacrifices, though. I continue to make them even now, although the details of that are between me and their mother and not appropriate for discussing on a blog. But church attendance is something that I figured out a couple of years ago would not work out anymore, at least as a regular thing. I’ll be attending to support them in an upcoming church musical in just a few days though, does that count? :-)

    These are complicated things, and I have to make decisions about my interactions with them on a day-by-day basis, and there are numerous compromises to be made. I feel ya.

  • RBH

    Thanks for this, Neil. I’m doing an ‘Interview an Atheist’ session on the 19th (postponed because of illness) at a Baptist church, and I’m going to shamelessly steal some of your stuff. :)

  • Please do! They say imitation is the highest form of flattery (I prefer cash…or being asked if I’m single).

    I’ll try to get a typed version of this up soon so that I can expand a bit on each of the points I made.

  • Justin

    I waver a lot on anti-theism. By that I mean that I genuinely believe the world would probably be better off without religion, but I also don’t think being impolite moves people very much.

    At least, not the individual to whom one is being impolite. If you find yourself faced with belligerence and you’re in front of an audience, the ability to effectively deconstruct your opponents argument with a taste of righteous indignation can reach your audience.

    But it’s never appropriate to assume someone is stupid or belligerent simply because they’re religious.

  • I like this post, enjoyed this one thank you for putting up. “The universe is not hostile, nor yet is it unfriendly. It is simply indifferent.” by John Andrew Holmes.