Interesting reading here after Marcos’ sermon last night. The message then was on the importance of our own experience and story as it pertains to the importance of Christ in our lives. It’s the simplest form of evangelism … and the most important.
Hemant Mehta has gotten a fair amount of publicity as the “eBay Atheist” due to having auctioned off his attendance at a church via eBay. The results have been enlightening – for Mehta and, I would argue, for us Christians as well.
There’s food for thought all in Mehta’s interview here … and I’m sure the book will be worth a peek as well. For now, here’s an outtake from the interview. Later, I’ll try and dive into Marcos’ sermon a bit.
HJ: You say in your book that your interactions with Christians, for the most part, have always been good, but they’re—we’re—not asking the right questions. What are some of those questions that Christians need to be asking when we’re talking to someone with different beliefs?
HM: You should ask: Are atheists really bad? Why do we think other religions are wrong? And not just “I’m right, so they’re inherently wrong,” but what really do they believe? Why do so many people believe these other things? Why do only certain people believe in Christianity? How do we know what’s divine? How do we know every single thing the Bible says is true?
And I know some of these questions have been answered in apologetics books, but it would be great if more regular people, not just academics and authors, asked themselves these questions. I think that might make their faith stronger—or maybe it’d weaken it—but more than anything, it would get them thinking, to really distinguish what they believe.
HJ: Often, many Christians shut down because they’re afraid they may not have all the answers.
HM: And I want to say—that’s OK! If you’re talking with someone who’s also not trying to convert you to atheism or another religion, but is just trying to have a discussion with you, it’s OK if you don’t have the answers. Talk about the questions you have. You may find you have some of the same ones. You can always read and look up material after the conversation, but just talk while you’re together!
HJ: Hemant, you’re still an atheist, but you say you’ve learned some things through this experience. And you’ve wanted others—Christians and non-Christians—to join you as you went through the process of exploring Christianity and its churches. So, what do you hope Christians learn from your observations?
HM: Clearly, most churches have aligned themselves against non-religious people. By adopting this stance, Christians have turned off the people I would think they want to connect with. The combative stance I’ve observed is an approach that causes people to become apathetic—and even antagonistic—toward religion as a whole. Many evangelical pastors seem to perceive just about everything to be a threat against Christianity. Evolution is a threat. Gay marriage is a threat. A swear word uttered accidentally on television is a threat. Democrats are a threat. I don’t see how any of these things pose a threat against Christianity. If someone disagrees with you about politics or social issues or the matter of origins, isn’t that just democracy and free speech in action? Why do Christians feel so threatened?
You need to spread the message of Christianity—the message being what Christianity stands for—loving each other, helping the people around you. Those are things everyone can get on board with.
Also, atheists … we’re not non-believers. We do believe in a lot of things, but they come from other experiences and other encounters, not necessarily a book.