… I hope this mashup of my two interviews with them will help Christians and atheists talk with one another and show mutual respect, even amidst important disagreements. I hope listening a little more and talking a little less sometimes will help us as Christians treat atheists with more kindness in an increasingly polarized culture. There’s a time and place for debate, but I think taking a moment to just listen is important too.
So the format is one in which she simply has a question, and the guys then write an answer. This all comes with many extra bonus points and a big thumbs up from me to Rebecca; she has no snide rebuttals, instead she just asks honest interesting questions, for example …
What is something you wish Christians understood better about you?
Neil: I wish more Christians could accept that I’m not as different from them as they seem to believe. I don’t feel that I’m lacking something inside of myself, I don’t feel hollow, hopeless, or joyless, and I really do wake up each day with purpose and meaning to my life. I have a moral compass that performs at least as reliably as theirs, and it matters far less to me that they agree with me how I got this than it does that they acknowledge it is there and is working just fine. I wish they could accept that as a former Christian I’ve already been exposed to most of the same things to which they’ve been exposed, so there’s no need to preach to me or recite Bible verses because I can rattle them off as well as they can. The words aren’t magic, or at least they aren’t for me, and as I often say, they don’t work like a Jedi mind trick. I would much prefer a normal conversation and a relationship free from proselytizing. I can tell when I’m being seen as “a prospect.”
JT: Myself and almost every other atheist: if ever there was real governmental persecution of Christians, like in many Islamic countries or with the Church of England before colonization, we’d be up in arms right beside you. People must be free to believe as they choose and espouse those views (this doesn’t mean they get to dictate laws based on those views if they’re bad for society, of course). We want to change people’s minds by talking to them, never by any other means. And not only that, we want to convince people when they have full command of their faculties, so if somebody’s in a position of desperation (if they’re hungry, homeless, sick, dying, etc.) our goal is to first help, then wait until they can make a decision with the fullness of their reason.
So why does any of this really matter?
Well perhaps because, as pointed out by Rebecca …
I think talking with people with whom we disagree–even those with whom we disagree profoundly about things we each find very important–can be a really positive thing. It helps us to treat our neighbors as human beings and care about them as real people.
Humans tend to be generally more hostile towards “them” (basically anybody outside their ideological circle), and yet when they get to know somebody personally who holds quite different views, the degree of that hostility often evaporates or at least is greatly toned down, and so an open dialog like this can greatly help to reduce friction.
It really is a great interview, you will find it all here.