Friday, October 2, 2009

Holy cows... Christians

Wow... good meeting

I got a hurried e-mail yesterday from a good friend and fellow atheist, Cheryl, from Joplin Missouri. She wrote: "Hey, we're meeting with a Christian group for some "light debate" and I wish you could come." Joplin is just a quick seventy-five mile drive up the highway from my little apartment in Fayetteville, Arkansas, so the decision was foregone. By the end of almost two full minutes of careful deliberation, I found that my hands were already busily engaged by packing up my laptop and grabbing up last minute things to take along. A quick snack later and I was on the road.

Joplin Freethinkers are a marvelous bunch. The group is still in its first year and its growing nicely, but that's not the marvel of it - the marvel is its members. Good people. I was pleased to have another reason to visit.

The Christian group, St Pauls, gave a cordial welcome and acted as host. Their casual facility is KOOL and I wish atheist organizations would begin to acquire such places. They called this place The Salvage Yard.

Conversation was lively, to say the least, and it was remarkably candid without becoming offensive. And although I was a little disappointed that so much of the time spent was on the question of whether or not god was real, I was happy to see that some questions and some statement focused on common ground, on our shared interests in having fewer violent crimes, fewer teen pregnancies, better government and better schools and the like. More of that kind of talk is needed.

I may not be able to take part in the next get together of these groups, but I'm sure happy to see them doing it. We need a better appreciation for how we're the same, as Americans, and about how to conduct ourselves cooperatively for the betterment of all, much more so than pointing out the obvious of how we're different, believers vs. non-believers. On that note, on the god question of whether gods are or are not, as we all know, both sides can't be right.

One rather sad result of the meeting happened even before the meeting took place. It was reported by a Kansas City Christian group leader, that his congregation lost a member simply by advertising that they planned to meet with atheists. I hope that sort of thing ends fast. If a Christian decides to leave his group, (and I don't mind saying that I hope they all decide to eventually) I'd like it to be for a better reason than a show of narrow-minded hatred of the group's willingness to find similarities and reasonably debate over differences.

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