Last night, I was at the Evangelical Free Church in Bloomington, IL for an atheist/Christian dialogue (I don’t do debates). I sat alongside Dr. Todd Daly (left, below) of the Urbana Theological Seminary, and we were moderated by Pastor Brett Miley.
I love it when churches hold these kinds of events — it’s incredible to me that so many Christians would be willing to hear what an atheist has to say about their faith and (for the most part) tell me how much they appreciated it afterwards. When you think of church services, how often does that kind of event come to mind?
(There were a handful of atheists in the audience, too, which was fantastic.)
There were a few questions that I knew would be asked beforehand, but the bulk of the time was spent answering questions from the audience — they texted the pastor if they wanted to ask something or wrote their questions down on notecards and passed them along to an usher, who filtered out the crazier ones. If anything, I feel like the audience agreed with me on many of the things I said about my problems with religion.
There’s audio of the entire event available if you subscribe to the church’s free podcast. (There may be video available soon, but I’m not sure about that.) You can judge for yourself how useful you thought the event was.
In the meantime, there was also a nice story about the dialogue in today’s local paper, The Pantagraph:
Miley, along with Mehta and Daly, wanted to break away from a debate style because they said they felt it does not strengthen relationships between opposing ideas.
“I hope that if anything there are some stereotypes of atheists that can be displaced,” said Mehta.
He said he lives by the Golden Rule — treat others as you would like to be treated — and does not feel the necessity to use religion as a reason to do good. Daly had other advice for living your life.
“The world would be a better place if we all lived like Christ did,” said Daly.
Here’s hoping other churches are courageous enough to hold more dialogues like this one.