A Summer of Christianity: Worth $10,000? October 15, 2008

A Summer of Christianity: Worth $10,000?

And they said being an atheist has no perks…

I recently received an offer from a Christian couple (husband and wife) in their 30s who would like me to spend the summer with them:

We would like you to consider, at no cost to you, spending the summer with us. There are no strings attached (with the exception of the open mind you agreed to in you auction) and, should you decide, you may leave at any time. If you have stayed, at the end of the summer, we will give you $10,000.

Maybe that sounds like a scam. But they actually seem sincere about this:

As far as what you would do… We just want you to get to know our family and what our lives are really like. Spend time with us, fellowship with us, see us in many different situations. For example, since moving here 3 years ago, we have had a 4th of July party for the church, neighborhood and work. So far, we have had great attendence (~70). It is important to us to do that because it brings together our friends from church and the neighborhood, including: Muslims, Jews, agnostics, other Christian denominations, other cultures and ideals. People have seemed to really enjoy themselves. We want you to experience our lives through things such as that. Your schedule is your own; this is a three month opportunity to find Truth.

We are open to any questions or comments that you have. We don’t claim to have all the answers, either. We do think that we could shed some light on several of the points you brought up in your book. Think of it as an “immersion” experience. One of the things that struck us when reading your book, is that it seems as if you got small glimpses (think speed-dating) of many different things, mostly of the “religion” of Christianity. We want you to see people with a real relationship with Jesus Christ (think exclusively dating). Our church is small, but the people there are sincere, a rare quality inside or outside the religous world. Their flaws, for that matter, our flaws, will surely be evident to you, but I believe that you will be able to see true Christianity.

We are not planning on telling people why you are here, so you can see them as they really are. You, of course, can tell them if you wish.

I don’t know if this is possible from my end (*so* close to finishing grad school and my summer class would be my last one), so it could all be moot. I suppose things could always be rearranged, though…

In any case, we’ve exchanged a few emails and they seem to be really interested in this.

I’m not sure if it would accomplish anything. I have spent far more time with True ChristiansTM than I have inside a church — before and after the writing of the book. And that hasn’t changed my atheism in the least. I don’t think that being with a different group of True ChristiansTM will change that.

Though, this experiment does sound like something I’d do…

I’m not ready to say yes anytime soon. (Lots of things would have to be worked out.)

What do you think?

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  • Bo

    Do it and write another book; I’m running out of good books on atheism…

  • Do it! It’s $10,000!! I’m not even going to start outlining the things I’d do for ten grand.

  • David

    I must say, I wonder if there will be some reason to renege on the $$ when a summer is insufficient to re-convert you?

  • Hmmm, I think money compromises the situation. How can they offer real Christian relationship when real Christian relationship can never be based on earnings? This Christian thinks the proposal is flawed and the money could be spent better elsewhere. No offence mate.

  • the Shaggy

    Sounds like a literary sequel to me.

  • Helfrick

    Get the money in escrow first.

  • ungullible

    I would feel guilty for taking their money so easily. 🙂

    It sounds to me like their “arguments” for Christianity are based in emotions rather than logic. If they were based on logic, then they could explain it to you in your email exchanges rather than requiring you to come live with them.

  • If they are willing to write it up in a legally binding contract (i.e., not screw you)—and, of course, you can figure out how to make it not interfere with taking or teaching school—totally take it. $10,000!

  • I’m skeptical (of course). Why is this worth $10,000 to them? What do they think they will be getting out of the deal?

    Smells fishy.

  • Jeff

    Don’t go! It’s a trap!!

    Seriously, I agree with the others that there’s something unsavory about, essentially, “buying” someone’s salvation (since I’m sure that they’re sure you’ll end up converted). Isn’t that one of the reasons they broke away from the Catholic church? And I find their presumption offensive – “Truth” with a capital “T”, a “real” relationship with Jesus.

    Why don’t you ask them how many “Muslims, Jews, agnostics” they’ve managed to convert?

  • mkb

    My guess is that you have a better understanding of Christians than they do of atheists. Could you do it for a month for $5000 and an agreement by them that they would spend x amount of time with you and groups of atheists?

  • Why not? Where else can you make $10,000 by just hanging out with some nice people for 2-3 months? Can you do any of the grad school work on-line?

    And besides, you could write some FA posts while you’re doing it. It would be fun for us to vicariously be a part of it all.

    If you can’t go, however, send Spork. 😉

  • Rachel

    I echo what others have said, about this sounding like a perfect sequel.
    Ok, so weigh out completing the course or pushing it off till september in terms of both your life and economic prospects.
    On the surface you’d think that considering how degrees effect your long term earning, go for getting the degree done ASAP, but personally I think that 3 months delay is worth it.
    In the long run this experience could result in a book sequel, blog material, etc.
    Think about it as an exercise in personal branding (who gives a darn about the 10 grand) in the long term that could really pay off, if this is the thing you want to do (be a math teacher, or be the guy who they interview on point of inquiry and discovery channel and who writes books and is well known, etc).
    To take the dirtiness off the money, I say commit to donate half to an atheist charity/cause (and work out the money details in advance so they can’t reneg).
    Reading their email, they don’t seem totally crazy, but so what? That makes even better material!
    It’s like Morgan Spurlocks 30 days, document the heck out of it.
    You know this could really be a golden opportunity.

  • Absolutely do it as long as:

    * You all sign a legally-binding contract.

    * You get proof they have the money.

    * You can have all the Hookers and Blow you want while there.

    Otherwise, what a ridiculous waste of an entire summer!

  • swizzlenuts

    I think it sounds awfully sketchy. What point do they have to spend $10,000 just to convert you? Shouldn’t their arguments and appeals to emotion enough? They seem too nice and not professional enough.

    Or maybe they’re just into crazy sex and think atheists are better at sex? If that’s the case, do it!

  • mikespeir

    Boy, do I ever understand where these people are coming from! That was me an all too uncomfortably few years ago. Oh, if only people could see what those with a “real relationship with Jesus Christ” were like! Why, they’d convert in a heartbeat! What they, themselves fail to see is that those with a “real relationship with Jesus Christ” often don’t pan out the way they expect. (In which case, of course, they can simply dismiss the failure with, “Well, they didn’t have a real relationship with Jesus Christ.”)

    What they’re doing here is the standard tactic of trying to get you to shelve your intellect and submit to being dragged in by your heartstrings. But it wouldn’t work. Oh, it would feel good for a while. But then the silliness of the whole thing would come flooding back. Once again you’d call to mind the actual evidences and reasoning that render it absurd. Then you might stumble across the one Bible verse that’s true if none other is: The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). And you’d know firsthand just what that means. Your heart can’t go one direction while your mind insists it’s all delusion. You’d either end up a mental basket case or you’d finally drop out again for the sake of your sanity.

  • steve

    Just think of it as a summer job! As long as Christians are giving you money for your books and to speak at their churches, why shouldn’t they pay you to be their roommate 🙂

  • Kate

    It won’t do anything. I’ve dated Erik for almost three years (talk about an immersion experience! way beyond just living at a couple’s house) and he’s a “real” Christian like they’re saying. And it hasn’t changed my willingness to convert.

    Still, interesting.

  • Larry Huffman

    Yes, do it and write a book about it. That would be an interesting book. Call it “God, for $10,000” (I was tempted to put Alex at the end of that…hehe)

    On the other hand, I would feel guilty about taking their money. Just living with christians would not make me want to be christian again…no matter how nice or sincere or ‘good’ they are. In fact, living with them while they try to show me what I am missing might just make me dislike them and resent them, which would not be good if they are otherwise nice people.

    I think money for conversion is a bad idea, period. I think these people are over zealous and not really thinking about the fact that they are basically trying to lure someone to their god with money. Bribing them to, what, come and see what it is like to be in a loving christian home? They do not realize that it is not the feeling or emotion…it is the logic and the facts that have pulled us or kept us from a belief in god. In fact, many of us were in perfectly fine, loving, happy christian homes. But, no matter how nice and loving and wonderful the spirit is…they are not going to like it when I completely and totally shoot down their virgin birth or resurrection tales as utterly and incomprehensibly false.

    Best case scenario for me…and I would tell them this going in the door…they would be paying me $10,000 to be a houseguest. Nothing more. And I would not feel right taking that money, even if they do seem willing to part with it. And, when I left they would be very very happy to be rid of me, I am sure. In fact, they may pay me the $10,000 early just to get rid of me.

  • Can I go instead?

  • Kyle Peterson

    I’d say go ahead and do it since the money you’d earn from this as well as publishing a book about your experience would far outweigh the costs of giving up a summer.

  • Kate

    Do it, ask only that they pay your living expenses, and donate the rest to a charity. No guilt in taking the money then.

  • Jeff

    Also, Hemant, think about how uncomfortable it will be over the course of the summer. This isn’t an afternoon in church. You’ll be with them for two or three months, a guest in their home, and you’re an affable guy; you aren’t going to want to offend them or hurt their feelings. What are you going to do, spend the entire summer mumbling, “Well, er, um, I just don’t see it that way”? You won’t be able to be honest or forthright with them – boundaries, etc.

    Mikespeir is correct, they’re thinking, “Oh, if only people could see what those with a ‘real relationship with Jesus Christ’ were like! Why, they’d convert in a heartbeat!” In the end, they’re going to expect you to cave, and, when you don’t, they’ll interpret it as a threat and they’ll react badly; people of faith always do.

    Also, whatever the outcome, you know they’ll twist it to their advantage. They’ll tell other True Christians™, “We almost had this guy. We were so close. If only we’d had a little more time!” It’ll be easy for them to talk themselves into this, especially if you’re reluctant to challenge them vigorously, as you almost certainly will be. You don’t want to end up being used to fuel apologetic arguments.

    Plus, you don’t know anything about these people. They could live out in the middle of Hooterville. And they may want to confiscate your car keys. For them, this may be an adult version of Jesus Camp.

    This just has “train wreck” written all over it.

  • They would rather waste 10 thousand trying to convert one man than to put it too good use helping the poor of America.

    They have their priorities very, very wrong.

  • I think that you should go and offer a reciprical arrangement for the following year. Sod the money, that’s just in the way. Let them fail to convert you and then you get the following summer to convert them to the joys of baby eating and atheism.

  • Larry Huffman

    Sean has a very good point Hemant…it is a screwed up priority they are showing.

    When you turn them down, you can give them a lesson at the same time. Tell them, “No, I think you should do something charitable with that money rather than try to bribe me to listen to you talk about god for a summer…unless it is more chrisitan to bribe than to give to charity these days.”

  • For $10,000, I’d sing in their church choir. I need to write a book so I start getting offers like that.

  • Kate

    In the end, they’re going to expect you to cave, and, when you don’t, they’ll interpret it as a threat and they’ll react badly; people of faith always do.

    Generalizations are always bad. 😉 I can show you one Christian who hasn’t.

  • Larry Huffman

    You know…it is getting expensive to follow the christian god, it would seem.

    It is not enough to have to ‘protect’ and ‘defend’ their all powerful deity. They also now have to bribe people with their own money…5 figures no less…in order to have the person hear about god.

    I think that if I hadn’t already walked away, I would find myself disgusted with a deity that is supposedly all-powerful…who apparently used to get involved and has now disappeared and who now relies on little old me to defend him. Relies on me to spend my pittance on getting people to come and learn about god. I think the notion that god is all-powerful just has to be questioned by his own followers…jeez guys…you are doing all the work and expending all of the ‘power’…your god is a no-show.

    If these people really wanted to get you, Hemant…and if they really had the faith they claim…they would tell you that GOD would pay you $10,000 of HIS money if you come and stay with them. Now…if they told me that, I would be there in a heartbeat. I mean, getting 10K from god has to be easier than moving a mountain right?

  • Jeff

    When you turn them down, you can give them a lesson at the same time. Tell them, “No, I think you should do something a little more christian with that money than try to bribe me to listen to you talk about god for a summer.”

    What Larry said.

  • Jeff

    Generalizations are always bad. 😉 I can show you one Christian who hasn’t.

    In a situation like this one? With so much time and money invested? You’d have to go far to convince me.

  • This reminds me of the Dave Barry quote, that people who want to share their religious beliefs with you almost never want you to share yours with them.

    What they’re describing is a long way from an earnest exchange of opinion, since the flow of information is going all one way, from them to you. At least they seem open to questions, so there’s hope for breaking up the discourse into an interesting dialogue.

    The money is immaterial (unless it isn’t, depending on your personal situation). At the very least it’s a dynamite premise for a book, and authors have devoted a whole year to many more frivolous topics.

    I think it boils down to whether these particular people, whatever their beliefs, are folks you can spend this kind of time with. Maybe you can. I doubt I could.

  • Desert Son

    From the couple’s notes:

    this is a three month opportunity to find Truth . . . We don’t claim to have all the answers, either.

    Welcome to Mutual Exclusivity, population: you two folks.

    At least that’s how that reads to me.

    But the more important point was made by Sean the Blogonaut. $10,000 could buy a lot of food, or shelter, or counseling, or training, or building supplies, or vaccines, or medical procedures, or other useful things for people in truly desperate need. Instead, they’d rather pay someone to be their roommate?

    The other thing that seems to be happening here: they talk about the importance of community. How much of that reflects back on them? We all have selfish motives, and that’s fine. But if it’s the message that’s more important, why not contact you, ask that it NOT be publicized, and make it NOT about their effort, at all. In the end, if they convert someone (or not), they get a story out of it. It seems like this is another way for them to get publicity. But I guess evangelism is about publicity, too.

    I’d vote no, but then, I’d mostly do that because, evangelism aside, it strikes me as, well, a little creepy, to be honest. But maybe that’s just my paranoia.

    [adjusts tinfoil hat to block out mind control lasers from orbiting space platforms]

    No kings,


  • Tyson

    $10,000 would not justify me taking time off my job. If we assume the summer is 3 months long, one quarter of the year, that’s only equal to about $40,000 in salary. Sure, you don’t pay for housing and food or anything else, but that amount of money wouldn’t be able to justify it for me. But of course, I’m not as cool as Hemant.

    I think it would be an interesting project, and if you can finish graduate school and then do it, it would be something worth spending your time on while you’re in between phases of your life.

    At let’s be honest, it’s not really so much as an atheist being sucked into a Christian family. They would have to spend an ENTIRE SUMMER with a rational person. Who knows what that could do?

    Probably nothing. I hate this world.

  • Sounds like another wonderful book to me Hemant. I would love to read about this, and let me tell you why.

    This is a unique opportunity to not only spend time with “the Christians” but to spend time with a couple of folks that happen to be Christian. If you set some ground rules, for instance mutual listening, then I think this is a great chance to bridge the gap that we have with religious folk.

    I say, go for it. It will only set your grad degree back by a couple of months, but the experience is something that will stay with you forever.

    Full Disclosure: I have finished all my books and want another one by Hemant 🙂

  • Tyson

    Why are people here so skeptical about $10,000? I agree, it’s a good chunk of change, but there are many people in this world that can afford that type of thing! I think it’s completely reasonable that someone of faith who wants to actually spread their views, if they had the resources, could part with $10,000. It’s a small price to pay isn’t it? For Christians, the real salvation is after this life ends.

    In that case, echoing a previous post by Hemant, shouldn’t Christians do EVERYTHING that they can in order to reach salvation? Isn’t life on this Earth meaningless compared to salvation? And if this is the case, what does $10,000 mean anyway?

  • Bryan

    Do it! Regardless of the 10,0000.

  • Larry Huffman

    Yes kate…I think your generalization of the generalization is incorrect…hehe.

    I am sure, where you are concerned, you can live and let live with your attempts to convert. But, you are not offering someone $10,000 to do so.

    There are christians who proslytize softly…as you might…where they merely want to offer the message, and then graciously back away when the person shows no interest. In that respect, it is unfair to generalize about christians as was done.

    However…the generalization, I think, was aimed at a different type of christian. A type that can be generalized. That is the type that wants to win souls regardless of who they offend or how pressured their tactics appear. After all…$10,000 is a very extreme and quite silly proposal really, when talking about religion and everything that the christian god is supposed to be. In fact, offering money like this smacks of being opposite of what your god would want, considering he would ahve you give that money to the poor anyway, lest you be unable to fit through an eye of a needle (hehe…christians with money always ignore the fact that their god does not want them to have money).

    I would challenge you…as Jeff suggested…to see if you would feel the same way as you handed someone a check for $10K after having them tell you they think you are wrong for believing what you do all summer. I think the generalization offered would be more likely when adding the money and time consideration.

    But Kate…that is the point…it is not an offer you are likely to make anyone in the first place.

  • SarahH

    I wouldn’t do it, personally. They might be great people, but as you point out, you know plenty of great people who haven’t convinced you to convert to their religions. And you don’t know them. And one thing about not believing in any afterlife: time is precious.

    Only do it if you consider the time well-spent.

    If you do it, I would seriously consider spending the money throughout your stay (I think the best solution would be for them to give you an “allowance” for every week of your stay and divide it that way) to work and give to a worthy humanist cause – helping build homes, mentor kids, volunteer and donate to nursing homes that need it, etc.

    The family might not consider their summer (and money) wasted if they’ve learned more about giving time and money to people who need it and perhaps they’ll stop focusing their attention on “helping” non-believers and start helping those who need it in this life.

  • I wouldn’t offer you $10,000 (almost half my annual salary)….and I don’t think my wife or kids would be down with it…but I think it’d be totally cool to have you stay with us for 3 months.

    Not so much to convert you, or for you to convert me….but cause I read your blog a lot, and you seem like a fun guy.

    If you’re ever in Decatur, hit me up…we’ll rock McDonalds.

  • Living with folks is never a one-way “exchange”. Obviously they are interested in sharing their world view, but it seems to me they are also looking to better appreciate/learn about your world view, and how this informs who you are.

    We are all in this together, as the saying goes. If neither side of the god camp is going to be converting, which is probably the case, the second best thing to do is learn to live together well.

    I would go to live with these folks for one week, and see if the experiment is reasonable. Take notice of things like: will they drive you to suicidal thoughts after 2 days?

    Take this with a grain of salt (as another saying goes…) I would probably do something like this for free anyway.

  • Do it, and then use the cash to pay for this site. That way I don’t have to see “Yes on 8” banners (“protect traditional marriage!”) at the top of your posts.

  • it sounds like a “win-win” situation – for the Christian family.

    If they convert you, they “win”.

    If they don’t convert you and you take their money, they can always point out that “greedy” Atheists have no ethics and you only agreed for the money.

    They would “win” because they have discredited your ethics. Anything you said in the future would be discredited by other Christians.

    Remember that Atheist dinner with Ray Comfort? By paying you off they could be “silencing the ignorance of a foolish man”.

  • Jeff

    If they don’t convert you and you take their money, they can always point out that “greedy” Atheists have no ethics and you only agreed for the money.

    They would “win” because they have discredited your ethics. Anything you said in the future would be discredited by other Christians.

    Yes. As I said, in the end, they’ll spin it any way that makes them comfortable.

    Bad idea. Don’t do it.

  • Can you be sure that they’re not freaks who talk to God, and to whom God talks back, who will take you, tie you up in their basement, torture you to death, so that we’ll never hear from you again? Forget the money, can you be sure you’ll come out of it alive????

  • Phillip

    Ok, what’s the money issue really? Hemant got paid to go to church, didn’t he? It’s not unreasonable to expect that he’d have to be compensated to do this as well.

    The money from the eBay auction went to SSA, right? Why can’t this money as well?

    Do it and bring a book out of it. Don’t put in their names. Make sure they know that you will argue with them critically, and while you will be fair in the book, you must come to it with a critical, skeptical mind.

    As they see it:
    Any amount of money is nothing in the face of saving a soul.
    The first book did some good for Christians–maybe they’re hoping for a second book that will do the same.

  • JSug

    It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and a great topic for your next book. Do it.

    But with some stipulations. Take only as much money as you need to cover your living expenses for the summer. That may include continuing to pay rent/mortgage at your existing residence. Whatever. Any money left over should go to a secular charity group of your choosing, donated in the name of the couple.

    Three months isn’t that long. It will go by quickly, and you might even be able to continue your studies. Is there any reason you can’t do so remotely?

    My only concern is that once they realize their example is having no effect, they may try to drive you out so they don’t have to pay up. So you might want to get some stuff in writing.

  • Christophe Thill

    I think you should accept if you have nothing better to do for your holidays. At the end, if they proved to be nasty, closed-minded and boring, pocket the money. But if they were nice, if you had a good time and friendly discussions, refuse it.

  • miller

    It sounds like they have certain expectations that will be disappointed in one way or another. I don’t know whether you should accept the deal, but I don’t think they should.

    I say just go to their 4th of July party.

  • Larry Huffman

    Well…if they are really sincere in the offer…and just naive about why people do not believe in their god…then save them $10K and yourself a long, miserable summer.

    They can take you out for a nice meal…pay $50 or so for a steak and some wine…and they will see in a matter of 2 hours accross the table, why they would have wasted money. You could explain to them that you living with a family that truly ‘lives christ’…only shows you how true believers live day to day while believing in something false. In other words, your problem is with the doctrine, not the people, ultimately.

    They have some idea that you will see them living all christian-like and happy (forget that you are just as happy without the belief)…and will totally check your brain at the door…forgo rationale and decide to accept utterly false premises as true? All because you see how they live? hehe…deluded and naive!

    Yes…save them money and let them get $10K and a summer’s worth of insight in the course of the meal. By the end, I am sure I could make them see just how bad a deal it was going to be for them. I know you can too.

    Of course…if they have ulterior motives…that will come up too, I am thinking.

  • Joseph R.

    Generalizations are always bad. 😉

    @Kate…Thank you. You are truly a voice of reason.

  • sc0tt

    I can’t imagine anything positive coming out of this on either side. And it’s likely not even enough material for a book – maybe a long blog post. I advise writing a polite and carefully worded rejection letter (suitable for quoting and forwarding). You’d never get that summer back.

  • Sounds like you are about to be served some chocolate shit.

    I wouldn’t do it (I’d be insane by the end from listening to all the drivel) but I think you can handle it – you seem much more patient.

    And, yeah, you could write a book about how you de-converted a whole family.

  • I smell another book. 🙂

  • Another Primate

    Dude… If you don’t do it can I go and pretend I’m you? I hope you go. This would be the opportunity of a lifetime. If for nothing else, as most commentators have said, it would be invaluable research for a great book. Further more, I think your blog readership would explode as people log on to follow your encounters with the credulous….

  • Larry Huffman

    Just a note here: In fact, generalizations are NOT always bad. We generalize all of the time. It is an important part of our internal filtering system and it serves us well, day to day in all sorts of situations. We generalize based on our experiences. We generalize in our day to day decisions constantly. We have to. We understand nothing is absolute.

    True, there may be perfectly nice pit bulls, but if I generalize about them, I will keep myself from getting bit by them, no? Generally speaking, trucks make wide right turns…do all truck drivers? No…but some do…some cannot help it. If you generalize, you can avoid problems. I can generalize that when Jehova’s witnesses come to my door, they are selling their religion, even if they state otherwise. Am I being unfair…or have I just had so much experience with this that I know my generalization holds up enough for me to trust it? (Maybe they are just coming to visit…I will never know…I am going to shamelessly generalize. If they do not like that, they need to consider the actions of other JWs and how the generalization came about in the first place)

    Let me give you a tough one: Is it wrong to say, generally speaking, christians believe in the bible? Nope…not at all. In fact, most christians would agree with that generalization. But…I can tell you that I have run accross a number who do not. Do I feel like my generalization is incorrect? Nope…most still do, and that is the point. The generalization still hold up for all practical purposes.

    There is an exception to everything…so the exception can remain unstated. Generalizations rule our lives…day to day, subconciously or overt. It is part of what we are, and how we process information and make determinations.

    So…the ‘never’ statements are far more out of place than generalizing. Generalizing is not always bad. However…saying never usually means you have to go back and recant…as there are always exceptions, both ways.

    There, I generalized and I will stand by it. Generally speaking, saying something is NEVER good…is an incorrect statement. Although…sometimes never does work…not in this case, however. So…generally it is wrong to do.

    A more accurate argument for this would have been to say: Sometimes generalization is not accurate or fair, based on the situation. That is true…and Kate would ahve removed herself and others from the genralization…without saying something as incorrect as ‘generalizations are never good’.

    However…the generalization does fit for the type of christian we were discussing…and Kate is the exception…or better, not even part of the group we were referring to in the first place.

    AMENDMENT: I re-read…Kate did not say never…she said always. Still the same premise. Saying that something is always bad…or never good…either way, they are absolutes, far worse than generalizing…as generalizing does allow for exceptions. Always and never do not….they are all inclusive. So…I stand by what I said…given that she said “always bad” not “never good”.

  • Ron

    Move in with them, blog about it, get feedback from others while you’re living there, then write a book. The $10k? Take it or leave it, that part is immaterial. You need to do this, for the benefit of everyone who got here ahead of me and said to write a book about it.

  • Kristen Mary

    I would say that my beliefs aren’t for sale.

  • NachtMaher

    I’d love to have 10000 bucks for what I already deal with every day. You’re lucky; it’d be interesting; everyone would benefit. My vote is for it.

  • Steven

    Tyson wrote:
    “If we assume the summer is 3 months long, one quarter of the year, that’s only equal to about $40,000 in salary”

    Tyson, I really, really want your job.

    As for whether or not earning $10,000 by spending a few months with some true believers is a good idea, there are a few things to consider:
    Do you have better things to do?
    Is the cash better off in your pocket (where it could be donated, spent, etc.) or in theirs?
    Does this have “reality TV” written all over it?
    What would Jesus do? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
    I fear that there would be some disappointment at the end of it – unless of course there was a miraculous conversion one way or the other.

  • Rachel

    This is setting off my both my Creepy People and Bad Idea alarms.

    I think it’ll be uncomfortable, awkward, and end badly. Even if you both go into it with the best of intentions.

    You can write a different book.

  • Sad when I think of what that money could be used for. How many small business loans to African entrepreneurs would that make? How many RIF books would that buy? How many meals at a soup kitchen would it pay for, or blankets for disaster victims?

    Gah. I’m probably just bitter because my son’s having problems in his public school and I can’t afford to privately educate him. Every dollar I see these days reminds me of tuition money I don’t have.

  • Zeolite

    I wonder how much money this family has – is 10K just a drop in the hat for them, or are they scrimping to pull this money together? If they are scrimping, and you get to know and like them over the summer its going to be really hard to take their money, even if you plan to donate it to charity.

  • Carlos

    I’d do it, and keep a detailed, daily diary which you can use for another book.

    I wouldn’t worry about them being ‘creepy’ as others have said – they sound pretty genuine to me. I know Christians just like this. I’m pretty sure they think they’ll convert you, but maybe make it clear up front that you consider this highly unlikely.

    And remember, it cuts both ways. It’s as much a chance for you to demonstrate how to live well by Humanist values as it is for them to ‘witness’ to you. Something tells me that they’d have a lot more to learn than you in this situation.

    Good luck.

  • Jeff

    I think it’ll be uncomfortable, awkward, and end badly. Even if you both go into it with the best of intentions.

    YES! This is what I’m saying. And that’s at best. At worst – Hemant, I’m concerned about your safety.

    I can’t understand why so many of you are urging him to do this.

  • Richard Wade

    Two things made my alarm bells go off while reading their proposal. The first is less important than the second, so please read this comment all the way through:

    Firstly, this stopped me like a fallen tree on a curving road:

    Your schedule is your own; this is a three month opportunity to find Truth.

    Beware anyone who spells Truth with a capital “T.” This is only about converting you, not about them understanding you and you understanding them. Their one and only goal is a “victory” over your atheism.

    Secondly, if that’s their purpose, why you? why not some similar person in their own town who, despite being an atheist is a decent, safe person to have in their home? No, no one else will do because they want “The Ebay Atheist.” You have earned notoriety and even some small fame, and a chance to “get” you rather than any other sole needing salvation is just too juicy to pass up. There’s ego and bragging rights here for them. They may be the ones who have a book in mind. Also, as Calladus points out, when they fail to convert you they can mitigate their embarrassment and discredit you by spinning it as you having shallowly done it just for the money.

    It smells bad.

    Hemant, if you do this, these are my suggestions:

    1. Everything in writing.

    2. Tell them ahead of time that you most probably will attempt a book if there’s enough material. They accept that in writing. (no lawsuits later)

    3. Accept only the money to cover your expenses such as your rent back home.

    4. Make them (not you doing it) directly donate the balance of the $10,000 to the local gay support group of your choosing and/or the local atheist organization of your choosing.

  • Polly

    Jeff wrote:

    “Well, er, um, I just don’t see it that way”? You won’t be able to be honest or forthright with them – boundaries, etc.

    This is exactly why I would never do this. I know what a polite dork I am. I once stood by a classmate’s car who was barely an acquaintance and listened to him blather on from 10pm until about 3am!!! TO this day, I have no idea why I couldn’t bring myself to bow out of the conversation gracefully.

    I’d probably end up getting (re-)baptized just to avoid hurting their feelings and out of a sense of obligation for the $10K+R&B.

    Not to mention the outside possibility of ending up on “Unsolved Mysteries” my picture hovering around the grim expression on Robert Stack’s face.

  • Kate



  • miked

    i like what kyle byron had to say (except for the hookers and blow part, but im sure he was kidding so i enjoy is humor).

    write up a contract. get your things in order. collect that money.

    i say donate it to a charity of your choice, but do whatever you want with the money.


    also maybe write another book about this experience? in the least let the media know about this so you can get more publicity.


    also, this is my first time commenting, im usually a lurker, but this post definitely require a response.

  • Jen

    When I first read this, I thought: sure, do it while taking your class and get the money, write a book, and keep the damn money for yourself. It occurred to me that you should be sure to get in writing that you have a social life, and can invite over friends or lovers to socialize with, and go out drinking/attend atheist events/ spend the night somewhere else, and that they don’t complain when you eat vegetarian (and babies).

    However, reading the comments, I am no longer so sure its a great idea. After all, they are free to spin the event however they want. I can’t imagine anyone would be able to feel relaxed at any point knowing that they are under a microscope. I have no idea what your salary is, but it might be worth it, depending on your financial situation. I would be willing to be uncomfortable for a paycheck (hey, I do that now!) but certainly not everyone would.

    Now, this all changes if you decide to tell everyone you are their new boytoy. That would be hilarious.

  • penn

    You’re a grad student debating whether you’ll take a job that pays $10,000 over the summer and leads to an obvious book sequel!? GO! If not for yourself, do it out of respect for the rest of us poor grad students.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    This seems kind of scary to me. An unpleasant job is one thing, but usually you get to go home at the end of the day. If this is unpleasant, the unpleasantness never ends, because you’re living your job. And I’m guessing that the sort of people that are willing to pay $10,000 to have an atheist living with them are going to be pretty agressive proselytizers. I mean, what’s the chance that they’re going to spend $10,000 just to show you that they’re a nice, happy, Christian family, and then feel perfectly content for three months if you just say “Yep, you seem pretty nice, but I’m still an atheist.” They say in their e-mail that it’s rare to be sincere, “outside the religious world.” I’d guess that as the months tick by, and you fail to covert, they’re going to increasing see you as insincere, and not approaching them with the open mind that you promised, and they’ll get more aggressive and unpleasant.

    As other have suggested, if you do this, you should get a written contract, spelling out exactly what your obligations are. I would also suggest you might want to spend a fair amount of time talking to them on the phone first, explaining the reasons that you don’t think it will accomplish anything, that you already know that Christians can be good people, with good families, and happy lives, and so on. This would accomplish two things. First, it would make clear that any misconceptions they had about the chance of converting you would be their own responsibility, and you could take their money with a clear conscience. But second, their reaction might give you some idea what your time with them would be like.

  • stephanie

    I’m not going to surmise on their ethics, although I agree that the invitation is sketchy. But where do yours lie? IMHO, ‘buying’ your time with that 10k puts the whole thing squarely within the definition of whoring.

  • Sophia G.

    Why not try a sort of compromise? Stay there for a month, and have then donate $3,300 to a charity of some kind? Or have a sort of ‘test week’ to see if they’re a bunch of crazy mofos, or if you think you could have an interesting time. It is an interesting opportunity, after all.

  • Tao Jones

    I’ll do it right now if they give me half up front.

    I need the cash and I’m in the early stages of writing my own book on atheism.

    Hook me up.

    I’m serious.

  • Fengie

    I find the offer somewhat fishy. What qualifies as being open-minded, having the cranium split open? 😉

    Someone mentioned a nice talk during dinner. I’d say that’s enough.

  • Richard Wade, I was thinking exactly the same thing. What kind of person actually capitalizes “Truth” without trying to be ironic? Also, this part:

    Our church is small, but the people there are sincere, a rare quality inside or outside the religous world.

    Did they just dismiss the sincerity of everyone else in the world? They sure have that “True Christian(tm)” mentality, don’t they? They think they have something unique to offer. As if you’ve never met sincere Christians.

    Hemant, when you originally sold your soul on e-bay, remember how you originally offered to go to a single church of your buyer’s choice? Remember how you got a lucky deal when your buyer decided that it would be better to tour churches all over the country? I know it was your original intention to attend a single church, but do you think you really would have enjoyed fifty-some weeks in one location? That’s what this will be like.

  • Cassie H

    i think it should be appealing enough without the money! it sounds like an interesting experience to me! i’d go for it even without the money! it would be a great experience to write and read about!! like others i would say it sounds a bit fishy that they are gonna give you the money. i feel like they already have this idea in their minds that they are going to convert you. like there’s a target on your back and like they think just because your an atheist you wouldn’t be interested in spending a summer with some geniuinly nice people. It’s like you need a bribe and thats why the money’s in with the deal. i can’t say for sure cuz i don’t know what they are really thinking or what the real motives behind it are, it just seems kinda insulting on your part, and as a christian i think its a shame that most christians think that all atheists are closed to just spending some time with some nice christian people, just like a lot of atheists i know are afraid to hang out with christians because they think that they’re out to convert them. sometimes there’s just some genuinely nice, real people who are proclaimed atheists and proclaimed christians!!!!

    overall, i say go for it!

  • DO IT!
    When will someone else offer you this opportunity again? Probably not anytime soon… so do it now while you can!

  • Jeff E.

    With all of the arguments that others and myself have put forth against it, I really cannot understand the insensitivity of those of you who are encouraging him to embark upon this potentially dangerous enterprise. It really is completely irresponsible.

  • I’d do it for free if I had the time, just for the fun. But it’s probably a scam

  • Do it, but don’t take the money. Or take it and give it to some sort of charity.

  • Think of the $10,000 as an advance for the book you could write based on this!

  • I’d get my own drinks and food. You can’t trust strangers, even couples. I’d get a lawyer to iron out a deal so they can’t renege because you don’t pray or something.

    This sounds fishy to me. What can’t they explain in an email?

  • athound

    You have an obligation to this family to save them from themselves. 10 grand is cheap considering a lifetime spent in dilutional thinking. You have only three months to wake them from a state of the brain dead. GOOD LUCK


  • sc0tt

    oops, wrong thread

  • I agree with a number of commenters here that the money compromises things. It smells like a setup. They hope to either convert you or else publicly discredit you. Why the heck offer you the money, anyway?

  • Eliza

    Because noone would accept their offer otherwise??

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