An Atheist in a Church? Go figure!

Friends, 

Someone left a reply to one of my posts and I visited his web page. He has a link at his blog to another blog: The Friendly Atheist, who happens to be a teacher in Illinois (You can access his site here: http://friendlyatheist.com/2007/07/26/my-willow-creek-appearance/.)

Anyhow, the reason I post the link is not so you can become an atheist but because the fella who posts at the friendlyatheist.com was, evidently, invited to speak at the Willow Creek Community Church. He wrote:

Last night, I was invited by Pastor Randy Frazee to speak with him at Willow Creek Community Church. I had a great time and was treated really well by everyone there. It was even more fun to hear Willow Creekers (?) tell me stories about their own atheist/Christian interactions during the book signing afterward. [This evidently took place on July 25, 2007.]

Well, isn’t that nice! Instead of gathering a group of seekers and telling them about the Gospel, they gathered some seekers and told them about atheism. The reply comments at this blog are quite telling. I knew there was something about Willow Creek I liked!

Listen, I get the point, but isn’t this just a little (or a lot) absurd? Is it necessary to hear from an atheist what he does and doesn’t like about church and Christians? Are we then supposed to change to please him and other atheists in the (vain) hope that they might suddenly, because we are more friendly, have better window dressings, or less emphasis on actually believing in something, start worshiping God?  Am I the only one who sees something seriously wrong with this? Isn’t this just ‘atheism evangelism’?

jerry

Advertisements

  1. You are suggesting that people with different beliefs shouldn’t talk to each other, attempt to understand each other?

    Where does that lead – ignorance of others leads to conflict.

    We need to hear each other and recognise that we have common values which provide a basis for common actions on the world’s problems.

    The “ostrich” approach won’t solve anything.

  2. No, actually I’m suggesting quite the opposite. However, what is there to understand about an atheist? What do they believe in besides nothing? That’s not too tough to figure out now is it?

    But again, if you read carefully, you would see that my criticism involves inviting an atheist to speak to a church and then having a book signing. I don’t think it is imperative to have a book signing in order to talk to someone about Christ. But evidently, you think it is imperative to win and atheist to Christ by having an atheist talk about atheism. I don’t see the connection you are saying I’m making.

    There are other formats where atheists and Christians can debate and learn about one another. I don’t think having an atheist speak to a church is going to help bridge the gap of ignorance you say exists.

    jerry

  3. “However, what is there to understand about an atheist? What do they believe in besides nothing? That’s not too tough to figure out now is it?”

    Now, doesn’t that suggest you need to do some listening? As an atheist, I know from experience that your description is completely wrong (dare I say ignorant).

  4. OK. Tell me then, as an atheist, what do you believe that I need to know? I’m all ears. As I have said, and you have not listened, my issue is not with learning about atheists, but rather where we learn about that at. I don’t think a church is the place to invite an atheist to preach. I won’t change that position regardless of your objections.

    Still, I’m here. I’m more than willing to hear your defense of atheism. This is a forum where such a conversation can take place. Welcome. Perhaps you are offended that I have generalized and caricatured your belief system. So, I’ll ask: What is your belief system? What does it consist of? To whom to do you answer but yourself? To what moral authority do you hold yourself accountable? Please enlighten me.

    jerry

  5. James

    you might actually be exposed to a different point of view and become open minded! oh no…..blasphemy. get over it. non Xtians and non religious are everywhere, and we’re not going away. if you want us to accept you, you’re going to have to accept us. live with it

  6. James,

    Thanks for your comments, I really appreciate your point of view. I accept that there are many folks on the wide road that leads to destruction, but I am thoroughly unconcerned with whether or not you accept me. I really couldn’t care less about your opinion of me or any other Christian for that matter. I don’t want you to accept me because that means I have to accept you in the state you are–and I can’t do that.

    Again, you have missed the point of the post which had nothing to do with being exposed to other points of view and everything to do with criticizing a church for doing the wrong thing. Read a little more carefully.

    The only acceptance I need, and the only approval that matters, is the Lord Jesus Christ’s. Your opinion of me, my thoughts, and, even my Lord, is irrelevant. All I have to accept is that you exist. I don’t have to be happy or accept that your opinion is valid because you are in rebellion against your Creator. live with it, or repent. I’ll pray for you.

    jerry

  7. “OK. Tell me then, as an atheist, what do you believe that I need to know? I’m all ears.”
    If your are really interested have a look at my blog (http://openparachute.wordpress.com) where I am discussing a lot of these issues, and have a concern that people of different religious beliefs (including non-theist) need and should talk with each other, recognise their common interests and their ability to work together to solve problems.

    Seeing your questions are very general this would be the best approach to take.

    Look forward to making contact there.

  8. Pamela

    “While I subscribe more to atheism I do not concede that it is an overall ‘belief’ per se. ‘Belief’ implies that atheists have an “existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof” [source]. There is more proof of atheism or in no deity(s) than the existence of a deity, but ultimately, there is no absolute truth in either.”
    http://pam3la.wordpress.com/2007/07/27/atheists-mirroring-theists/

    “Many morally reprehensible acts have been committed in the name of religion by religious people. One starts to reflect on the history and literalness of the religion and where its morals originated and that is subjective to the interpretation of each and this interpretation has evolved over time through the emergence of differing cultures and sociological environments. To hold responsible any one religion is moot when the overall problem is intolerant, prejudicial, dogmatic uniformity.”
    http://pam3la.wordpress.com/2007/07/27/universal-moral-order/

  9. Pamela,

    Thanks for posting. No one says that Christianity is necessary for a moral universe. However, God is. Without the presence of a transcendent God, morality simply cannot exist.

    As to your second comment about morally reprehensible acts being committed in the name of religion by religious people, well, so what? What does that prove? I can throw back to you Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and so on and so forth. Your assertion proves nothing except that there are morally rephrehensible people. Your assertion says nothing as to whether or not there is a God.

    But I would suggest that your religion of atheism is just as intolerant and prejudicial as that of any religion. Do you think Richard Dawkins doesn’t want some sort of amoral, atheist, uniformity in this world? Isn’t that what you want too, a world where, and I quote: “compassion, empathy, understanding, tolerance, etc.,” are the rule? The difference between you and me is that you hope to get there without any moral agent governing the cause; while I recognize that man is ‘morally reprehensible’ and incapable of getting there on his own.

    I’m sorry you had a bad experience growing up in Christianity. I wish it could have been different for you, but perhaps that is just your excuse for rejecting God’s grace now. A bad experience with Christian folk is a pathetic reason for rejecting the Christian God. I’m sorry you knew hypocrites in the church. (That is the reason I rejected atheism: there were too many hypocrites in it!) I will think about you when I pray to the Lord that perhaps He might stir in you the hunger for a salvation that is not so-man (or woman) centered. So long as you rely on yourself, you will never rise above yourself.

    jerry

    ps–I left your links on your reply not because I approve your blog, but because maybe people will also read your story and pray for you.

  10. Then again, Pamela et. al, I got to thinking. IF there is no God, by what standard to judge others to be ‘morally reprehensible’? If there is no God, how can the acts of anyone, in any religion, be deemed ‘morally reprehensible’? What is your standard of measurement? How am I any worse than you? How are you any better than me, if there is no God? Where do laws come from? Who sets that standard?

    Just wondering.

    jerry

  11. Pamela

    The compassion, empathy, understanding, tolerance, etc. is where you don’t get it. Atheism isn’t a religion. Richard Dawkins isn’t my preacher. Compassion, empathy, understanding, and tolerance that is what it’s about. It’s not about an egoistic’s journey of saying it’s all about me and my god and my religion and I want to talk about my beliefs and I don’t think you should talk about your beliefs. It is about humanity and kindness and compassion and tolerating what others believe in without condemning and judging them. It’s about opening up your heart and understanding them without berating them with the ignorance of hate and intolerance and ridicule. I don’t challenge your faith; I challenge your intolerance and your judgments, the generalizations, and the ignorance. Compassion, empathy, understanding, tolerance, etc. is why the folks at Willow Creek opened up their doors to an atheist.

    Learning from these comments is a step in the right direction and the journey begins with one step. I do wish you the best in your journey and hope it leads you to a more compassionate, understanding, and tolerant view. Best, Pamela

  12. Josephine

    I was there the night the friendly athiest spoke and I left agitated as I watched a pastor of a Willow Creek (randy frazee) admit that he wondered whether or not he should say a meal time blessing in front of the athiest, never mentioned anything about what or why Christians believed and was just completely accepting about what the athiest said. I kept waiting for him to say “Even though you don’t believe it, we believe that God has a plan for your life and wants to know you personally”. It never came. I think there is great danger in mega churches being so ambivelent about their beliefs and so broad in their definition of sin. I heard another sermon at Willow Creek where divorce for marital unfaithfulness and abandonment was given a broad definition. And there is no wonder the divorce rate among Christians is so high. The biggest flaw here is that churches have become so accepting, and so politically correct that they stop being effective witnesses of Christ and his true Word.

  13. Josephine,

    Thanks for pointing this out to those who have replied to this post. You express exactly the sort of danger that the Church runs into when anyone, and everyone, is allowed to speak and say whatever they want in the pulpit. I appreciate your honesty and your concerns.

    jerry

    PS–if you happen to read back, I’d be very interested in knowing some of the things the friendly atheist had to say that evening.

  14. Josephine

    Jerry –

    it’s been a while… but from what I remember he related how as a teenager he really didn’t know why he was participating in the religion his parents were practicing (I forget what it was) so he just decided to believe in nothing.

    He then decided to start an athiest group in college since there were religious groups on campus and from there his site grew.

    Realizing he had never stepped into a Christian church he decided to “sell his soul” on ebay, and for every $10 bid he had to go to church on Sunday. I guess the winning pastor bid $500+ dollars however they struck a deal that he would go to a certain amount of churches and he would write about the experience on the pastors website…I don’t recall him mentioning who it was.

    Really, much of the conversation was on this history, not so much on what he actually disliked about church or Christianity. He said he would have liked if churches had a question/answer time after each sermon so those who had questions could answer it.

    He said he felt often in a group of Christians that he was a “target” for conversion, and that he didn’t like feeling that that was why someone would talk to him. He wanted people to want to know him, not just try to convert him. His message was that athiests are good and normal people, not phycotic heathens like Christians often portray.

    He made light of the fact that people recommended books to him like Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ and Josh McDowell’s books, saying that YES he’s read them all…however he really didnt’ comment on why he didn’t find them valid. Just that he doesn’t want people to recommend books to him regarding Christianity.

    He really didn’t offer too much concrete the church has got to change this and that (of course I haven’t read his book and it might have more of this in it) however I know that he said that he would have to be converted in a church like Willow – basically because it has everything, (including an internet cafe)

    He posted on his blog after the talk that it was a pleasant experience..(of course he probably sold a lot books in the bookstore after the service, when he signed them).

    Heard a sermon last week when Paul was talking about how some were preaching Christ out of selfish ambition, but that it mattered little to Paul because Christ was being proclaimed. I think it wouldn’t have mattered that the athiest was being interviewed at Willow if Frazee had proclaimed Christ while he was at it. But he didn’t, sadly.

  15. Josephine,

    Thanks for the comments, I really appreciate it. Sadly, I only had one side of the story and that was simply the fact that Willow had invited in an atheist to speak.

    Your last point about Frazee proclaiming Christ is well put, and well taken. You are right: It is sad. The Church is about preaching the Gospel, whether the atheists who visit the church like it or not. Of course they are being ‘targeted’; isn’t that very much the point of preaching and evangelism?

    Thanks again for stopping by and reading and replying. I really enjoy the feedback.

    jerry

  16. Josephine

    I found this interesting bit on friendlychristian.com – an interview with “the friendly atheist”

    Enter your search terms Submit search form
    Web http://www.friendlychristian.com

    A Moment With The Friendly Atheistposted on September 5th, 2007 by Bill
    Hemant Mehta, aka the Friendly Atheist, has been kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

    Bill: Newspaper articles, popular websites, books, center stage at Willow Creek…do you ever stop and think, “Is this really happening?”

    Hemant: Funny, isn’t it? But it’s nice to know that people are interested in this dialogue and that they’re willing to listen to what I might have to say . Some of these people may never open up a Richard Dawkins book, but they’ll read mine. But it’s all very surreal. I don’t want to squander the terrific opportunity I’ve been given.

    I bet churches wouldn’t be as willing to let him speak if they knew he felt it was a “terrific opportunity” to share his non belief and to tell others to question theirs.

  17. Josephine,

    It’s like I’ve been saying all along: He’s just as evangelistic as any Christian, plus he’s an entrepeneur trying to sell books. I imagine Christians are buying his books because his fellow atheists aren’t. Thanks for stopping by.

    jerry

  1. 1 Atheists…in Churches??? « The Fake God Blog

    […] We need more folks like “Jerry” who has taken issue with a so-called “Friendly Atheist” who had the sheer audacity to accept an invitation […]




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: