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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!