Do Nice Atheists Surprise You?
I was able to participate in a Dogma Debate episode recently. The topic was God's existence and Jesus's resurrection. Interestingly, despite being an atheist radio show, it was the hosts (headed by David Smalley) who actually had to deal with a lot of “hate mail” from atheist listeners, and I got the opposite! Most of the mail I got wanted to either politely challenge me on some point, ask a question, or to say something encouraging. This one was really nice:
“Blake. Hopefully I'm in the right spot. I just wanted to send you a quick message of support for your appearance on Dogma Debate last week. I listen to that podcast religiously and I felt that, so far in the show's history, you have been the best Christian guest. I kept cringing at the hosts not letting you get your full argument out. I'm an atheist and was very interested to hear what you had to say. If you look at the Dogma Debate Facebook page, the post for this episode is full of other atheists who were upset that you didn't get to speak and were constantly interrupted. You did an excellent job of keeping your cool and attempting to stay on target when they would derail you. Anyway, that's it. Take care!”
I'm going to defend David in a bit, but let me say that I visited the page and this guy was right: most of the atheists commenting were coming to my defense. This was partially because of the DD team's seeming distaste for philosophical reasoning, but most of it was because listeners felt they (mostly Aron) were:
“projecting previous arguments onto the apologist long before he's afforded the uninterrupted time to finish laying out his premise. He's been cut short several times, none of which were for the justifiable reasons of droning on, getting off topic, being unduly repetitive, etc.”
I would be lying if I said no part of me liked reading all the supportive comments (“you guys had me actually rooting for the apologist”), but on the other hand it's impossible for me to enjoy the negative attention oriented at the DD team. David is just too neighborly, Rachel is too bubbly and fun, and while Aron could use some polishing, even he is not malicious (he is just passionate). Anyways, what I wanted to call attention to is this:
(a) Atheists en masse are putting their foot down against a perceived unfairness to “the Christian.”
(b) Atheists en masse are sending encouragement to “the Christian.”
If this surprises you, then you might not know as much about atheists as you think you do. The stereotype, here in Texas at least, is often that atheists tend to be bitter, hostile, and egregiously biased. In my experience, however, atheists are pretty normal neighbors. Contra the stereotype, you do not need “God” to behave morally, or to stand up for people you disagree with.
Anyways, because of the mayhem, David devoted a small segment of yesterday's episode to damage control for our show last week. He did three things:
(1) He explained that, despite the impression, “We don't really hate philosophy.”
(2) He promised to have me back early June where we would discuss the problem of evil, just the two of us. Then we would discuss my previous arguments again with a student of philosophy: Justin Scheuber (he is host of Reasonable Doubts, winner of the 2009 Peoples Choice Award for Best Religious/Inspirational Podcast).
(3) He had a caller offer some preliminary objections to the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument I had presented.
Over the next few posts, I will talk about each of these in turn. Today, I just wanted to encourage Christian readers to be careful with their stereotypes. It can affect how we relate to people, and it can affect how we as Christians are in turn regarded by the people we are stereotyping. Both of these affect evangelism. (See Col 4:5-6; Titus 2:7-8; Prov. 16:21; Rom 12:18; Eph 4:15).