Our talk at the Christian organization went really well!
A few days before the scheduled meeting I got a little nervous. I had an atheist pastor of a secular church (intentional oxymoron) no longer able to come and be my token atheist. I didn’t want to do this alone.
Thankfully, the day before the talk some awesome people I had only recently met said they could help me out. I now had 3 people backing me up. Although we barely knew each other, these three were willing to put themselves in a vulnerable position.
This Christian society’s website announced my talk as “Compassion for the Lost.” Underneath was a picture of me and a short bio that emphasized all my missions involvements. It looked like I was going to talk about witnessing to third world ‘lost’ peoples, which is pretty racist, along with being condescending to non-Christian faiths. Not a great way to introduce a talk about respect for non-believers.
That was when I realized that the people I was speaking to would have no idea what they were about to hear.
The organizer didn’t even introduce my topic when he introduced me.
After I announced I’d be speaking about atheists, the room grew really still. After I said that we had some “real live atheists” to talk to afterwards, everyone turned and stared at the three people they knew hadn’t been there before. One person even got up and left.
My speech went quickly. I talked about how I was qualified to speak from past experiences, went over definitions, and then talked about common myths and assumptions that hurt many Christian interactions with atheists. There was a hand-out on how to discuss ideas honestly. I talked about how we derail conversations with defensiveness and ways to counteract that (something I’m still learning, so any advice here is appreciated). We ended with talking about some of the ways that atheists are mistreated and oppressed in our society. That really got through to a lot of people. Plus, a good sprinkling of bible verses.
Then it was question time and we all sat down in a circle. At first there was silence. Everyone looked scared, and they really were as they told us after. Finally, one guy began to ask some of the questions I’d suggested they ask in my talk.
The three ‘token atheists’ were wonderful. They were kind, well-spoken, and funny. Even when one woman decided to try and witness to them, they were polite. Most of the audience stayed for another 2 hours after to talk.
For your listening pleasure, I present Life, the Universe and Everything Else #56 podcast where Rob, Richelle and Greg share their perspective on the night and the Atheist Agenda in general: http://lueepodcast.wordpress.com/