Last year, I did a funny thing. I spent almost every Sunday waking up early and attending a new religious service. I stuck with this experiment for approximately six months, and I visited a lot of churches (a couple mosques, synagogues and meditation meetings as well). Why did I do it? Well, as an atheist, I think that understanding religion and the faithful is important. I encourage every non-believer to read the Bible, the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon – any religious text they can find. Forming a well-rounded argument is impossible without knowledge of your opponent.
During my weekly exchange, I met with a number of religious leaders and members of their congregations and engaged them in discussion. Some of the dialogue yielded new understanding between those involved, and some led me to wander how certain people navigate their way out the door in the morning. The interaction was to what I looked forward the most though, and for the most part I was happy I took the time.
That same concept is now being put forth as a group effort, spearheaded by Kile Jones, a student at Claremont Lincoln University. Jones has started an effort called “Interview an Atheist at Church Day,” for which he is asking for willing pastors and atheists to agree to talk openly at church services about faith and non-belief.
According to the group’s Facebook page, the effort is “aimed at bettering the understanding between atheists and religious persons” – certainly is a worthwhile effort. For many believers, “atheist” is just a concept rather than a real human to whom they can put a face. Part of the incredible mistrust of atheists in the United States is probably due to the simple fact that many people don’t know any atheists. So bringing atheists and believers to have these discussions is an important component of increasing atheists’ visibility in mainstream America.
Will Jones’ project be successful? That depends on the willingness of its participants. If you are interested in helping, and you are an atheist or a religious leader, contact Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org. You should also like the Facebook page and let Jones know that you support what he’s doing.