Questions for the Readers March 18, 2009

Questions for the Readers

I’ve mentioned before that I am working on a book proposal for my summer project. I could use some help on a couple big questions…

What would be a good title for the potential book?

The premise is that I would live with a Christian family for the summer and explore faith from that perspective in a variety of ways. (They are paying me to live with them.) I would love a catchy, humorous title, but I’m having a hard time coming up with one.

What are topics that deal with the atheist/Christian divide that rarely get discussed in those kinds of books?

We’ve all seen books that talk about Christian pop culture and an outsider’s view of a fundamentalist environment. I don’t want to focus on topics that have been covered to death. What would you like to know about or see brought up?

Thanks in advance for your help.

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  • Title: This Soul For Rent

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Title: Into the Heart of Darkness

  • justanotherjones

    I think most of my questions have to do with how they come to having their views about other groups of people. Specifically atheists, but member of other religions, as well.

    In their letter, they wrote about how their July 4th party brought their church members together with neighbors of other faiths. I want to know if they use these events as opportunities to proselytize.

    They also said “this is a three month opportunity to find Truth.” I have come to expect this from Christians, but it still bugs me.

    As for a title, I would bet that plenty of good ones come once you are in the thick of it.

  • David D.G.

    justanotherjones wrote:

    They also said “this is a three month opportunity to find Truth.” I have come to expect this from Christians, but it still bugs me.

    Amen — so to speak. That smug, arrogant condescension from religionists is highly offensive, and it makes me bristle every time I encounter it.

    As for your request for ideas, Hemant, I’ll give it some thought and see if I can come up with any worthwhile suggestions. Meanwhile, best of luck with the project.

    ~David D.G.

  • Steven

    What a great question! Try these titles on for size:
    Summer Soulstice
    I Sold my Summer
    My Soul Went on Vacation and All I Got Was…
    The Summer of My Internment
    An Atheist in Christ’s Backyard
    If I don’t Believe, Can I still have the BBQ Chicken?
    Summer of Sundays
    Sun, Sand, (No)Sin – An Atheist’s Summer

    As for interesting questions for Christians I have too many to list. Most of them are of the “do you really believe that?” variety. What might be interesting (and productive) would be to explore areas of common interest. It may be possible for an atheist and a Christian to agree on most moral questions yet remain completely divided over belief in God.

  • Jochen Bedersdorfer

    You will experience the comfort of a community believing in the same values, performing rituals to affirm their community, which can and will be quite comforting.

    The same can be had from any club, association or similar groups.
    Religion only provides some arcane rituals to it.

    Familiar Rituals: How comfort dampens critical thought

    Or something like that 😉 English is not my native language, so the title may sound stupid 😉

  • I’ll loan you my blog title. Wow, talk about pimpin.(grin)

  • Steven wins!

    I might enjoy seeing what happens what all the proselytizing ends. What do you end up talking about?

    Also, how do their children view their faith?

    What happens when someone sneezes and you don’t bless them?

    oh, and Steven wins on the book title ideas. I’m not trying after that.

  • Brian E

    Gotta add to one of Steven’s suggestions: I Sold my Summer to Jesus.

  • Tom

    Title: …And Then a Step to the Right.

    I’d like to know about what they learn from you in the experience. Learning about them has been done to death, as you say… I want to know what’s capable of reaching them, and how, about us. We (atheists) all know what it is that each side is trying to give the other, but we don’t know how to communicate to them in a manner they’ll listen to, in which we can actually convey to them something about us or our message such that they’ll actually let it sink in. If you find any of that, it’d be a pearl of great price.

    Ultimately, I’d be more interested in the opposite book, in which a fundamentalist christian goes to live with atheists for a summer and hopefully discovers that we’re just as moral an boring as everybody else and it’s nice to sleep in on sundays, but that’s not the opportunity you’re offered.

  • benjdm

    Into the Sheep’s Den ?

  • I don’t mean to burst yer bubble, but you know, they’ve done this on Wife Swap. oooh! Life Swap! what?(grin)

  • Larry Huffman

    1) Christian Like Me

    2) Get me out of here!

    3) The Summer of God

    4) A Soul for the Summer

    5) Summering in Heaven

    6) Avoiding Truth, or how I spent my summer with true believers

    7) The Season Of Belief

  • skinman

    An Atheist in the Attic (or Basement – depending upon where you’ll be sleeping)

    Hemant and the Hendersons (doesn’t work so well if their last name isn’t Henderson)

  • sc0tt

    The Summer of Their Apostasy

  • My two favorite suggestions are I Sold My Summer and This Soul For Rent. Makes it sound like a sequel to the previous book.

  • Closetatheist

    Book title suggestion:

    Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and Staying?!

  • The Christian Chronicles: The Unbelievable True Story of an Atheist’s Adventures in the Land of Woo.

  • Spurs Fan

    Hemant and the Hendersons (doesn’t work so well if their last name isn’t Henderson)

    I’m cracking up.

  • How about a play off of one of Steven’s suggestions: Three Months of Sundays.

  • Sandra

    When Beliefs Collide

    No Sleeping In On Sunday -OR- My Summer With Christianity

    An Atheist In Sheep’s Clothing
    (Sorry if any of these are copies…I didn’t read them all first)

    I would like if each of you sat down at the beginning of the stay to write about what you think the other(s) will be like (preconceived notions) and then at the end do the same and compare the expectations with the realities of this whole ‘experiment’. – Ooh! The Belief Experiment

  • How I Became a Christian. 🙂

    (You never know!)

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    Crossed Purposes

    So Long and Thanks for all the Wafers

    Behind enemy Lines – Chicago

  • David D.G.

    If services are held in a revival tent or the like, how about My Summer of This Con Tent.

    >_<

    ~David D.G.

  • still not hip to the whole “they’re paying you to do it” aspect. From either the payee, or the recipient. But I’m sure the book will be worth a read in any case.

  • How about:

    Living as a Christian: An Atheist’s Search for Truth and the Power of Belief

    How I Sold My Soul to Christianity and Lived to Tell About It

    Summer Loving: Observations of an Atheist in a Christian Home

    I think atheists should do the same and invite christians to live with them for a week or two, to see how non-believers really are like. I don’t think there will be much takers, lest they burst into flames in the presence of heathens!

  • TC

    I think a good title will come from the process – if you force a title at the beginning you run the risk of predetermining what it would be like.

    Perhaps a coauthored volume is the ticket, where both you and a Christian can articulate the myths busted – and myths confirmed! – about the other during the whole process. It’d also be nice to see a compilation of areas of agreement, places where Christians and atheists might be able to work together to affect positive change in the local and the global.

    That assumes, of course, that there’s a genuine bidirectional cultural exchange going on. In my view, that should be the goal of this sort of thing. There’s been enough of them trying to convert us and vice-versa.

  • “Saved for a Summer”

    Hmm, that’s all I can think of right now >.>

  • Topics to cover:

    What are the thought processes of a believer when confronted with or encounter information that is not covered in their teachings?

    Are believers really willing to discuss difficult topics, or are there topics that are strictly off limits, and why?

    What can atheists and believers truly do together that will bring peace and harmony everywhere?

  • Larry Huffman

    …more

    1) Intellectual in Sheeps Clothing

    2) Leaving Reason at the Door

  • Laura

    Some of these feel just as condescending toward Christians that most atheists (myself included) hate from them. For instance “Intellectual in Sheeps Clothing” (although this is definitely not the only one that has this effect). Though I will be the first to admit that Christianity is not terribly intellectual (read: not at all intellectual), I also don’t think that completely alienating an entire group of potential readers (namely Christians) is going to be the best way to start it off.

    I also agree that forcing a title before it begins is probably not the best idea, and i would suggest waiting at least for a little while into your stay with them before you think of it again, or ask us again… 🙂

  • Craig

    I just think its funny that whereas most (atheist?) families would expect a boarder to pay for the privilege, a christian family has to pay someone to undergo the ordeal of living with them! 🙂

  • If you combine Laura’s thoughts with Craig’s, you get: The Ordeal of Condescending. BTW, I love this comment thread. (grin)

  • Larry Huffman

    So…how many people who believe that a virgin can give birth do you think of as intellectual?

  • Emily

    I like Summer Soulstice, This Soul For Rent and An Atheist in Christ’s Backyard, though how I feel about that one could change depending on where this family lives. Three Months of Sundays is also a fave.

  • I would like to see a more in depth look at the christian mindset. Do they REALLY believe in those wacky things? like virgin births, zombies and a world wide floods? I think there is a lot of cognitive dissonance to explore.

    I assume that the family is not complete wackaloons. I am sure they could point out some possible contradictions inherant in your(our) positions as well. It would interesting to explore them and compare and contrast how we deal with them.

  • Larry Huffman

    You know…the idea that anything critical of religion…or humorous regarding their beliefs…is condescending is just over reacting.

    This has nothing to do with how good or bad the title is…I want to speak up against this poo pooing (yes, I said poo pooing) of anything that lampoons religion.

    The title intellectual in sheeps clothing is not condescending. Hemet is an intellectual in my book. Yours? Ok, we agree. Christians call themselves a flock AND call Jesus the good shepard…so, they are sheep in their very own descriptions. The sheeps clothing comment, further, is an admonition of jesus for his followers to watch out for false prophets.

    So…while it may have offended some people’s overly active ‘be nice to religion’ feelings…it is not condescending. It is rather a good fit.

    I agree that Hemet will have to write the book in order to get the title. I am sure he is not going to arbitrarily title his book with our suggestions. he merely opened up for comment and we are having some fun with it.

    So relax and have a cream soda. 🙂

  • Larry Huffman

    …more titles…those offended, get in line! 😉

    1) $1000 worth of Faith (Substitute whatever they pay in the place of $1000)

    2) Paid to Believe

    3) The Best Summer job Ever!

  • In The Lion’s Den

    🙂

  • curious

    Reminds me of the joke: If Jesus was burned at the stake (or cremated) would everyone be wearing weber grills around their necks instead of crosses? (learned this joke as part of a “christian summer program” –from a clergy person, yet)

  • The crook, the theif, his summer and the bannana

    or

    My Soul Ponzi Scheme

  • Devysciple

    Perhaps a coauthored volume is the ticket, where both you and a Christian can articulate the myths busted – and myths confirmed! – about the other during the whole process. It’d also be nice to see a compilation of areas of agreement, places where Christians and atheists might be able to work together to affect positive change in the local and the global.

    TC

    This is awesome!!! While some fundies might be fretting and fuming, lots of reasonable christians might actually realize that atheists are not the most despicable people in the universe. Sort of getting a foot in the door…

    As for the title: I sorta have, like, absolutely no idea, ya know (and no, that is not an actual suggestion)

  • mkb

    I like An Atheist in the Attic.

    The thing I would find most interesting for you to find out is how they approach ethical questions that aren’t answered in the Bible. For us, that means all questions and they don’t understand how we approach such questions, but surely it happens for them occasionally. What methodology do they use?

  • faraway

    Wow, fascinating project, Hemant! Though I have to add ‘good luck’, because my internal book about this is named ‘Summer with the In-Laws’.

    I don’t know what audience you’re trying to reach and so I’m not sure whether a humorous title would be the best thing – it’s so easily perceived as offensive. Personally I’d love an irreverent title, but consider the totality of the people you want reading your book – who might be interested in vs. turned off by the title. YMMV.

    Depending on the denomination of the people you are visiting, they are going to have a very determined idea of what atheism is, why you are mad at/denying God and how to help you become born again (from the letter you posted they sound like Evangelicals). I’d be interested to see whether their perception of ‘atheism’ became more reflective upon knowing you and how they felt at trying to convert an atheist yet not succeeding, and if that fact changed anything for them. A ‘this is how I feel X months later’ interview might be interesting.

  • I know what you did last summer

    Summer of Love

    60 days with Christ

    Hell’s Kitchen, Christ’s Back Yard

    An atheist and a Christian walk into a bar…

  • Larry Huffman

    An atheist and a Christian walk into a bar…

    …Ouch says the christian…God must be punishing me for being with you!

  • «bønez_brigade»

    What would be a good title for the potential book?

    Book title suggestion for Hemant:

    Cluebat for a Christian Family of Two?
    [That’ll Be $10,000 USD, Please!]

    Book title suggestions for the Christian family:

    Livin’ On The Edge…
    […of II Corinthians 6:14-18]

            …or, of course:

    We Sold Our Souls on FriendlyAtheist.com

    BTW, I really like Steven’s “I Sold My Summer” — though more words after Summer will work.

    BTW2, ‘Summer Soulstice’ will only work if said solstice is occurs during Hemant’s stay. /astro-pedantry

    What are topics that deal with the atheist/Christian divide that rarely get discussed in those kinds of books?

    — How much a conversion to Xianity is worth to them.
    — How they react when you accept Jesus as yer savior and then say, “psyche!” (especially if you do this several times, or in a church, or every Sunday at church)
    — What they do/say when they think you aren’t around/listening. (I’ll chip in to the hidden camera/mic fund.)
    …and, of course,
    — If they invite you in for some hot 3-way action!

  • Mark

    Here are some titles that I think are already taken:


    Stranger in a strange land

    much ado about nothing

    midsummernights dream

    my own private Idaho (works better if they are in Idaho)

    one flew into the cockoos nest

    How about this one?

    In search of truth – a summer’s journey

  • I can’t be the first person to say this, but seriously, you guys are believers too. I mean, you believe you know what happens after death. Nothing, right? Oh and hoverFrog…I’m in awe.(grin)

  • I think atheists should do the same and invite christians to live with them for a week or two, to see how non-believers really are like. I don’t think there will be much takers, lest they burst into flames in the presence of heathens!

    Many of those of us who are ex-Christians stay with Christians and have Christians staying with them all the time. My born-again mother lives with me and I’m going to stay with friends who pastor an evangelical church when I go to teach some knitting classes in Minnesota next month. There’s not usually much exciting to tell except that I sleep in on Sundays while they go to church. (Yes, even when visiting pastors.) We also had brother & sis in law who are born again xians stay with us for six months once. Again, the only differences were our Sunday morning activities. Oh, and when we go to stay with xians, we sit quietly while they say grace at meals, since we are guests in their home. If they want to pray while staying with us, they can do so silently because it’s not a ritual that is practiced in our home. I can’t think much else except that my in-laws don’t allow booze in their house.

    It’s not really very controversial or newsworthy.

  • writerdd, it’s all in the point of view. For instance, your comment points to another title possibility: The dirty little secret of Christianity.
    But that’s a whole nother level. (grin)

  • J Myers

    I’m going to stay with friends who pastor an evangelical church when I go to teach some knitting classes in Minnesota next month.

    Minnesota has to import knitting intructors? This economy is worse than I suspected…

  • Craig

    Just curious, Hemant: What would you have done if it was Scientologists (to pick another set of wackaloons) making this offer rather than Christians?

    I’m guessing you wouldn’t take them up on it. Not because their beliefs are any wackier, but because they’re less “mainstream”/accepted in US society than Christians. (And the cynic in me would say that’d give you a smaller market for the book! 😉 )

    What about Muslims? Hindus?
    Hey there could be a whole book series in the making here! 🙂

    Oh and not to forget the Jains…if your folks would have you 😉

  • «bønez_brigade»

    W-wait a second–
    Minnesota… religion… knitting…

    Strangely, those three things have previously come together:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHiZjOH1NmQ

    writerdd, is that what you were implying with “knitting”?

  • Lysistrata

    I think back to a time when I was in high school when I went to church with a conservative Christian friend. I had never been exposed to evangelical Christians having always attended a Methodist Church or gone with my Catholic friends to mass. I remember being surprised about them talking about the “other Christians” and realizing they were talking about my family and my other friends. I would be interested in not only how they respond to your atheist views but how you might change their views on other Christian denominations since you attended so many other churches. Also, I would be interested in how the families children react to your views what questions they ask-what discussions do you have with them when their parents are around.

  • writerdd, is that what you were implying with “knitting”?

    Nope. I teach knitting classes. There are events around the country (and in Europe) that invite teachers, usually authors of knitting books, to come. So, I’m going to MN to work, essentially, but staying with Christian friends (who don’t knit, btw).

  • «bønez_brigade»

    Mewonders if you could possibly persuade them to see how fun their religion would be if it were practiced as a hobby like knitting, and not as serious life-living business.

    [“bwahahahaa”, he muttered…]

  • Tony

    TITLE: What I did last summer!(Summer)

    Subtitle: Vacation Bible School…with a twist of atheism!

  • I’m startled and disappointed nobody already claimed my title suggestion:

    30 (/60/90/120/?) Days in the Wilderness

  • I 2nd/3rd/4th the notion that you should wait until the whole thing is underway before thinking about titles. It should reflect the actual experience.

    That aside, I’d vote for some twisting of a KJV quote.

  • Chad

    Jesus Hostel

    In bed with the Enemy

    An excersize in conformity

  • Larry Huffman

    Jimmy Paravane…No…it is not that simple at all. We do not claim to know what happens after death…we merely say there is no evidence that is credible…none whatsoever…to base an entire life’s worth of belief and subjugation to the notion that there is a heaven or hell as outlined in so many holy books.

    In fact, I do not claim to know anything about what happens after we die. All we know is that we stop breathing and our bodies decompose. Period. That is the extent of it, and so that is all I know happens.

    If evidence arises that shows something else happens, most atheists would be on pretty good intellectual footing, not having an existing ideology to have to leave behind. Chrisitans, on the other hand, will argue against any such evidence because it does not mesh with what was written in their old moldy book. Don’t believe me? Well, there is ample evidence of evolution, and chrisitans make wild excuses against or flatly deny the evidence. Which is in far greater abundance than any evidence of their own views. Why? The evidence at hand does not mesh with what the bible says…and so they disregard physical, actual, tangible evidence in lieu of the writings of a bunch of middle eastern nomadic men claiming divine authority, that had barbaric and quite poor social values.

  • Amy

    Someone above made a comment about someone coming over for dinner and it gave me a good idea for a cover…

    You sitting straight up at a table with the family members on either side with heads bowed in prayer. Make it look a little like the last supper. Maybe you could have your fists on the table holding your fork and knife up like you’re anxiously waiting to get something out of the experience…dinner. 😛

  • Brian

    I hope the family is in the market for a car or other major purchase. I would like to see you contrast their research efforts in making the purchase with the research they conducted in selecting their religious practice.

  • Thanks a lot Larry Huffman. I was really enjoying my “gotcha! muah hah hah!” moment with the whole “you all believe…nothing, right?” statement. Now I have to go and think about stuff. I hate that. This just goes to prove that if yer gonna play the belief game, you should never match wits with the kids who are smarter than you.
    So, I guess this rules out my next title suggestion: When belief systems collide. (grin)

  • Dysentery

    Well, to keep a link with your previous book, how about “I Sold My Soul for the Summer“?

  • Well Hemant, we all wait with baited breath for some juicy fireworks in your summer stay with the Christian family. Hopefully it will be an experience that both you (and they) will be telling their grandchildren about… with smiles on their faces and money in the bank account. Make it good for everybody and you can’t lose. As others have said, the title will come after the experiences.

  • One atheist/Christian divide topic that comes to mind is jargon. There is so much terminology that fails to communicate–like “worship”, “ministry” and “holy.”

    I recently read I Sold My Soul and enjoyed it, but I was disappointed that it didn’t have more in-depth discussions about your observations with the people in the churches you observed. It was extremely frustrating that you were unable to attend the Q&A session offered by one church. I hope this book will be much longer and include a lot more discussion with your hosts about how you and they interpret your experiences.

    Although I’d be happy to never attend another church “service,” I would be very interested in taking your place for this experiment. Failing that, I hope to see a book that helps break through some of the communication barriers on the philosophical issues.