Why are you doing this?
We got tired of atheists and theists firing across the bough at each other, and decided it was time to throw up the white flag and try to understand one another and like the civilized adults we are. We feel that both sides often spend too much time preaching to the choir. Specifically on our part (secularists), we desire to change the public’s negative perception of non-theists, atheists and humanists.
What’s your “real” motivation? What do you non-religious get out of it?
It’s simple. We as secularists and atheists want to be respected and not stereotyped in our society. We don’t care if you stay christian or not, or never change your beliefs, we just don’t want to be viewed as inferior or morally deprived. We want others to respect our constitutional right to believe as we choose and “agree to disagree”. We hope that opening a friendly dialog will remove possible biased labeling and put real human faces on what might otherwise be a mis-characterization of the non-religious.
For example, some feedback from FTE meetings:
“I have a strained relationship with my atheist son who I haven’t talked to in years. Now after meeting you guys and seeing a positive side of atheism I am encouraged to try to connect with him again.”
“I was expecting more hostility from the Christians but they were actually very pleasant and easy to get along with!”
“My husband is an atheist. I could never understand him, but after meeting you today I feel like I understand him more now.”
“I really appreciated how the Christians handled themselves.”
“It was a very civil dialog.”
The response from Christian pastors has been very positive. Several of them have told us that they felt it was very productive, that we should do this more often. Many have asked us to come back.
As a Christian pastor why would I open my congregation up to something so contrary to my beliefs?
What is in it for the Christians?
In addition to the previous point, it gives Christians a unique opportunity to share their faith and evangelize with people who would normally never mingle. Also, it gives Christians the opportunity to demonstrate to atheists that they are not aggressive, intolerant, bigoted like some non-religious individuals often imagine them to be. Finally, it gives us all the chance to work toward serving our communities together side by side.
Are you just trying to deconvert Christians?
Absolutely not! We simply want to change the negative perception that others have about us as secularists and atheists and work together toward a culture of tolerance. We are NOT asking you to change your beliefs. We have no hidden agendas, we will be transparent, open and honest with you.
Besides, atheists would have the worst marketing strategy ever:. For example, “We offer no protective transcendence, and when you die, there is no afterlife.” This doesn’t win us many converts.
We gladly acknowledge that religion brings many people inner strength, moral support and comfort. These things we have no problem with and do not wish to take away from others.
How will you assure us that there will not be any militant or obnoxious atheists that show up to these meetings?
Most atheists are very well mannered and respectful. If there is anyone who comes to argue and be contentious then we will take full responsibility. If any “incident” arises during a gathering we will quickly address the issue and deal with it. I trust this will not happen. We will do everything to prevent all potential conflict and strife.
What are you trying to accomplish?
We want to see all people understand and respect one another more. Not necessarily to respect one another’s beliefs, but to respect one another as fellow humans. We want others to see that we share more in common than many suppose. We want to make people think.
Are you ok with the Christians trying to evangelize and win you atheists over?
Yes. We would expect Christians to desire to evangelize to us with the goal of our salvation. We have no problem with this. We understand that when someone believes our eternal destiny is at stake then they will be more motivated (than us atheists) to bring us over to their side.
We on the other hand, are not interested converting people to atheism, we simply want to change the public’s perception of who atheists are.
How do you get churches to let you in?
We simply demonstrate to them that we care about them and are not trying to change their beliefs, or steal their congregants; and that we respect them and want an open respectful dialog.
Aren’t you just watering down the atheist message and compromising your principles?
No. Sometimes there may be a place for a firm voice in opposing err, but that is not why we are here. We are here to engage in a non-confrontational friendly dialog. We respect that many loving caring people genuinely believe things that we are strongly opposed to and that is okay. We know that using a bullhorn isn’t the most efficient method in connecting people with one another. No one wants to be told what to think.