A Christian/Atheist Dialogue in Michigan October 15, 2010

A Christian/Atheist Dialogue in Michigan

Reader Hilary had seen some of my postings about atheist/Christian dialogues and decided she wanted to do something like it:

I contacted a Christian friend from work, sent him the link to your dialogue, and asked if he could help me set up something like this in our area.

He liked the idea and talked to his pastor, who was interested as long as it was going to be truly just a dialogue rather than a debate.

They managed to set up the dialogue at a fairly large church in Midland, Michigan. It takes place Sunday night, October 24th. If you’re in the area, please go to church (I know…) and give her your support!


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  • Dygal

    I can’t believe it–this is taking place in my (extremely religious) hometown! Unfortunately I am currently living elsewhere, but I’ll definitely spread the word.

    Hemant, thanks very much for posting this, even though it’s only a local event. It’s very exciting to hear about such an event happening in such a conservative part of the state.

    (I will also bring this post to the attention of your “gay spy” Maria, who also comes from the mid-Michigan area!)

  • Joan

    Interesting. I’d like to see someone try to set a clear distinction between “dialog” and “debate.” Seems to me that there would have to be some overlap in any conversation between people who disagree. I wish them luck.

  • MonBon

    Glad to see this is happening in Midland. Props to Hilary!

  • Siamang

    I love this! I have to say I’m constantly inspired by Hemant’s non-debate discussions. Joan, maybe someone here can link to previous dialogs that Hemant has had. Watching them can give great insight into how to proceed with non-debates.

    The basic stance is this: you never say “you guys believe X, and that’s wrong”. Instead, when a topic comes up you say stuff like, “well, agree to disagree on this, but here’s how I see that issue from my point of view.”

  • Richard Wade

    One way to keep it a discussion instead of a debate is to explain at the very start the difference between the three types of questions:

    1. Information-seeking questions. “Please tell me about atheism.” “Where do you get your morals?” etc.

    2. Challenge questions. “Who are you, what are your qualifications for being here to tell us about atheism?”

    3. Rhetorical questions. A statement disguised as a question. “Isn’t it true that… “(then a long speech or rant about how atheists are amoral, or depressed, or unpatriotic, or whatever.)

    Say that you’ll be happy to answer information-seeking questions as best as you can. Give enough information about your background and experience to satisfy the challenge questions before they’re even asked, and say ahead of time that you’ll be politely declining to respond to rhetorical questions. Get the host to agree to keep that under control, being willing to interrupt when (and it will happen) it becomes clear that somebody is making a speech instead of asking a genuine information-seeking question.

    Emphasize that the overall goal of talking together that evening is to understand each other rather than for one person to agree with another person.

  • Vanessa

    Awesome, that’s right by where I live! I might have to actually go see this.

  • Tim van Haitsma

    I wish I could go but I have to go to my daughters birthday party with religious relatives. And it is about 3 hours from my house.
    You need to come to Grand Rapids MI and have a go with Rob Bell.

  • Joan

    Thanks, Siamang and Richard. I’m somewhat new to the party here. I’ll try searching for previous dialogs when I get a chance. (I am currently reading Hemant’s “Ebay” book.)

  • Hilary

    Thanks for posting this, Hemant, and for the encouragment, all. Yes, Midland is extremely conservative, but there are surprisingly quite a few secret atheists around as well. I’d love to see many fellow readers at the event. Anyone who’s there should definitely say “hi” afterward.

  • S-Y

    This is about 4 hours away from where I live but I doubt I could get a ride there, I’d have to see.

  • Shane

    Is there a non-facebook link to check this out, or at least a public one? I’m 20 minutes away from Midland.

  • Hilary

    Here’s the link from the church’s website. http://www.mefchurch.org/events/atheistchristian-dialogue.html

  • Hey, that’s my home town! And I think that may be my aunt and uncle’s church. I’ll have to encourage my cousin into checking out this event.

  • Drunvea

    This “event” was a huge sham. The so called atheist on hand this evening was, in my opinion, chosen for their ineptitude. Do you really think a Midland church would allow such a controversial subject to slip out of their control? The woman claimed to be an “agnostic atheist”. Red flag, right there. Which one are you my dear? Do you know the difference? Her answers seemed insubstantial and without any supported facts or evidence, very unlike any atheists I know. Don’t be fooled by this theater. Midland has shown its fear of the truth, or even fear of a fair discussion with a capable free thinker. Thumbs down.

  • What did you expect from the preacher – a fair shake ?  Lol.