Churches Around the Country are Discussing Atheism This Month

This morning, I saw a post on the message board of my local atheist meetup group. It was a newspaper clipping about a local church hosting a talk this coming Monday about the rise of atheism.  Curiosity piqued.

event_456299788

So I did some digging, and down the rabbit hole I went.  What I found is that this local discussion isn’t local at all. It’s just one meeting in an international network of small discussions going on around the country and beyond.  It originates with something called LifeTree Cafe.  LifeTree is an organization that sells a subscription service to churches and other Christian groups who want to participate in a weekly informal discussion group.  For $200/month, LifeTree provides discussion topics, videos, marketing images and trailers, and other presentation materials to local group leaders to use to facilitate these café-style conversations.  Aside from next week’s “Giving Up on God” topic, other topics include:

  • Overcoming Worry: Practical help, simple solutions
  • In the Beginning: an atheist professor considers intelligent design
  • Crafting a Truly Fulfilling Life: Making the most of whatever comes your way
  • The Aliens are Coming: What if it’s true?

In the “Giving Up on God” discussion, attendees will watch a video that includes interviews with a former Christian turned atheist, as well as a former atheist professor turned Christian.  Strawman, anyone?  I wonder how many references to God’s Not Dead will come up in conversation.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/182552137[/vimeo]

I won’t wonder for long, because I’m planning on attending.  And if it goes well, I plan on attending more of the topics on the list that refer to atheism, to be sure we’re fairly and accurately represented.  Besides, as the author of Understanding an Atheist, I feel like it’s my duty to attend and help correct what I anticipate will be some misguided perceptions.

But I can’t do it alone.  I encourage all SecularVoices readers to go to the Find a LifeTree Cafe Near You site and search for a group in your area. After doing a zip code search, you’ll find local contact information, locations, and possibly a website or Facebook link depending on the group.  Find out when your local groups are meeting and, if you care about how atheists are perceived by your community, attend and represent us in a positive light.  If your aim is to be combative and hijack the meeting, don’t bother going.  That’s not what I’m asking for and I don’t support that strategy.

This is a call to action to show Christians that atheists are no different than them from a human perspective — we just don’t agree on the existence of a deity.  If you’re sick of hearing Christians propping up their atheist strawmen and tearing them down, then attend your local LifeTree meeting on the topic and take its place.  Imagine the productive discussions that could be had if every LifeTree meeting about atheism had a representative from our community there.

If you do go, I’d love to hear how it went. Please comment here or send me an email at contact@secularvoices.org and let me know!

 


Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the head writer and editor for SecularVoices, co-founder of Young Skeptics, and author of Understanding an Atheist. He is known for local and national secular activism and has spoken at conferences and events such as Reason Rally 2016 and the Ark Encounter Protest and Rally.

View all posts by Kevin Davis →

26 thoughts on “Churches Around the Country are Discussing Atheism This Month

  1. I notice the “atheist” in that graphic is a petulant-looking girl, angrily turning her back on whatever wunnerful-looking thing is going on without her anyway. I guess they had to get the negative stereotype out there at the start, just to keep things from getting out of hand too soon.

  2. As expected, there aren’t any within reasonable driving distance. Dialog isn’t likely this close to Bob Jones University.

  3. Let me imagine a conversation between the Christian attendees:

    >Hi Frank, nice to see ya ! I hear some guys don’t believe in God !

    >Hi Dwayne, them suckers is gonna burn in hell.

    >What didya think about that 49ers game Frank ?

  4. I’ve got one church near me (as in, the second-closest is 90+ miles away) that’s doing it. Looking at their website, I can’t find any information about when they’re actually showing it. I suspect they’ve rolled it into one of their regular sermons, or that they’ve discontinued the program without bothering to cancel their subscription.

    1. I got Camarillo and Coalinga as the closest ones. Neither is feasible for San Diego, thank dogs!

      I don’t even have to THINK about going!

  5. “Giving up” on god … no. Former Christians (like myself) didn’t “give up” on god. We started to suspect it was all BS, did some research and contemplation, and we stopped believing in it. Similar to how children stop believing in Santa. We didn’t “abandon” or “give up” on god.

  6. There is one being hosted near me. It might be fun just to see if I am able to dialogue with them at all. I was raised secular so I do enjoy the anthropological aspects of going to this sort of thing. It gets me out of my atheist bubble, which is a good thing.

  7. There’s a Lifetree Cafe happening five minutes from me in about an hour and a half, but I can’t get a hold of anyone to confirm the topic tonight. Do their talks run on a schedule? Are they all doing the same one at the same time?

  8. So I went. ****Spoiler Warning*****

    It’s set up as a small group conversation. They play a bit of video and then raise a discussion question. Everyone talks and then the group moves on. They showed video of a former Christian turned atheist and video of a former atheist turned Christian. Because the conversation was very controlled, there wasn’t much opportunity to refute incorrect information, although the people I was sitting with were quite curious to hear my perspective on things. One of the questions was “what do you think people find attractive about atheism”, and no one at my table had to speculate, because they could just ask me. Which is good because the former atheist turned Christian had a terrible answer.

    The discussion questions I remember (somewhat paraphrased):
    Describe a time you engaged with a person from a different culture than your own.
    What do you think people find attractive about atheism?
    What is the difference between doing good for goodness’ sake and doing good for God’s sake?
    Describe a time you felt your faith affirmed.

    My memory is bad, so that’s pretty parse, but a heads up about a few things you may want to be prepared to refute:

    The atheist turned Christian is pretty certain the historical record affirms the Bible.
    She states that atheism means there is no standard for morality.
    She conflates atheism with nihilism.
    She states that charity and education is a result of the spread of Judeo-Christian values.
    She states that babies were left out to die in pre-Christian Rome, a statement that while technically true is used to imply that it was a lack of Christianity that gave the Romans license to do so.

    The entire thing ended off with a silly analogy about a family of mice that live inside a piano and attribute the music first to the strings and then the hammers. The implication being of course “those silly atheists, don’t they see how limiting science is”. Here’s a good summary: http://www.allanstanglin.com/the-mice-in-the-piano/

    All in all, it’s obviously contrived to lead people who already believe in a god down the path of affirming their own faith. I wouldn’t say they portray atheists in an unflattering light, but the conversation is very staged, the information from the atheist turned Christian is highly suspect, and there was really no opportunity to discuss whether or not arguments in favor of atheism have any merit.

    That being said, I’m glad that I went. The ladies I was sitting with attend regularly and told me about some of the other topics that had already come up. I will probably continue to attend some Cafes in the future provided the topic interests me. “An atheist examines Intelligent Design” is in a couple weeks and I will be at that one.

    1. Based on what you’ve said here, there’s little opportunity to build actual understanding. Given that white Evangelicals voted 81% for a fascist white supremacist, however, it’s probably more important than ever to stay in contact with them. In the same way that we should remind hostage takers and kidnapers that their victims are human, we should keep reminding Evangelicals that atheists are human.

      1. Actually, I think there’s opportunity to build a lot of understanding. Hell, just being a human embodiment of the discussion topic shook things up. It’s hard for nice church ladies to say shitty things about atheists when there’s one sitting right there. They asked me genuine questions and listened to my answers.

    2. … The atheist turned Christian …

      Wasn’t an atheist.
      ——————————–
      To the mice in their piano-world came the music of the instrument, filling all the dark spaces with sound and harmony. The mice were much impressed by it. They drew comfort and wonder from the thought that there was a Someone who made the music—invisible to them, yet close to them. They loved to think of the Great Player whom they could not see.

      Mice won’t stay in a well played piano. They don’t like noise – they need to hear their enemies. And sure as hell they won’t be impressed by it.

      Facepalm! Facepalm! Facepalm!

      1. Meh, I’m not willing to play No True Scotsman on that one. I will say that I very much doubt she was an atheist because she spent any great deal of time examining the question. I didn’t get the impression she did a lot of reflection before or after her conversion, considering her answers were pretty stock “make the Christians feel affirmed in their faith” recitations of all the usual arguments.

        1. ISTM that these so called “previous atheists” always turn out to be something else.

          “I was an atheist because I was mad at god.”

  9. ” For $200/month, LifeTree provides discussion topics, videos, marketing images and trailers”

    We get all that and more for free on Patheos!

  10. The Find thingy gave no answer for the zipcode of Mormonville, not even a meeting 1000 miles away. I guess Utahns aren’t eligible…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *