Ask An Atheist…

Transient

Today I'm excited to announce a new series that will give us the chance to interact with some interesting people. Each Thursday, I’ll introduce you to a guest—a Catholic, an atheist, an Orthodox Jew, a Mormon, a missionary, an artist, an activist….you get the idea.  Then you can use the comment section to ask him or her questions. We’ll pick our top five or six questions, and the guest will respond to them in an additional post the following Tuesday.

Our guest today is an atheist…and a very friendly one! Hemant Mehta graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with degrees in Mathematics and Biology. While there, he also helped establish their first secular student group, Students WithOut Religious Dogma (SWORD). He earned his Masters in Math Education at DePaul University and currently teaches high school math in the suburbs of Chicago.

He has worked with the Center for Inquiry and the Secular Coalition for America, received scholarships from American Atheists and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and now serves on the board of directors forFoundation Beyond Belief (a charity organization targeting non-theistic donors) and is the former chair of the board of the Secular Student Alliance (which creates and supports college atheist groups nationwide).

Hemant has appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and his book I Sold My Soul on eBay(WaterBrook Press) was released in 2007. His blog, the winner of the 2011 Bloggie award for Best Weblog About Religion, can be read at FriendlyAtheist.com.

I really enjoy Hemant’s blog, and he and I have corresponded a bit over the past few months, so I know that he will respond to your questions with graciousness and honesty. 

....So ask away! 

[A note about questions: Obviously the point is not to proselytize or challenge, but to ask the sort of questions that will help us understand one another better. Please take advantage of the “like” feature so that we can get a sense of what questions are of most interest to readers. To see what Hemant has been writing about lately, check out his blog.]

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52% of evangelical leaders think that Jesus would make a lousy evangelical

Wine Glass In Focus IIphoto © 2007 James Williams | more info (via: Wylio)

Since so many of us either came from or continue to identify with the evangelical religious culture, I thought it might be interesting to discuss the results of a pew forum study released last week. The survey polled over 2,000 evangelical leaders worldwide. Some of the more notable results include: 

Women…

  • 75 percent of responders favored allowing women to serve as pastors
  • 79 percent believe that men should be the religious leaders in the marriage and family
  • 53 percent believe men should be the main financial providers for the family

Homosexuality…

  • 84 percent of responders said that “society should discourage homosexuality” 

Abortion…

  • 96 percent said that abortion is usually or always wrong

The Prosperity Gospel…

  • 90 percent of responders said that God does not always give wealth and health to people of faith
  • Only 7 percent endorsed the “prosperity gospel”

Evolution...

  • 47 percent believe that humans have existed in their current form since the beginning of time
  • 41 percent believe that evolution occurred, guided by God

Influence…

  • 82 percent of U.S. evangelical leaders think their influence is declining
  • However, 58 percent of evangelicals in the global south (Africa, Asia and Latin America) see their influence as increasing

The Bible…

  • 98 percent agreed that the Bible is the word of God
  • 50 percent said that the Bible should be taken literally, word-for-word

 What is essential to be a good evangelical?...

  • 97 percent said following the teachings of Christ in one's personal and family life
  • 94 percent said leading others to Christ
  • 73 percent said helping the poor and needy

Booze…

  • 52 percent said that drinking alcohol is not compatible with being a good evangelical
  • 42 percent said that drinking alcohol is compatible with being a good evangelical.

***

My thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised by the growing acceptance of female pastors and what appears to be a consensus against the prosperity gospel. I also loved that alleviating poverty made it to the "essentials" list. 

Regarding homosexuality, I suspect that if the same poll is taken in 10 years, the number will decrease dramatically. (Of all the “issues” reflected in the poll, I think this one is the most generational.)

Regarding alcohol, I think it’s funny that 52 percent of evangelicals think that Jesus would make a lousy one! 

Check out the survey for more fascinating results

So what from this survey most captured your interest? What did you find encouraging/discouraging? 

Do your views align with those of most evangelical leaders? Do you identify yourself as an evangelical?

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I’m sorry...

While most readers seemed to enjoy today’s post, “25 Things That Shouldn’t Scare Christians,” I understand that some felt I was picking on conservatives disproportionately, insinuating that those who oppose gay marriage and “happy holiday” greetings do so solely out of fear. That was certainly not my intent.  I tried to include a mix of issues (some serious, some silly) that are amplified by conservatives and liberals alike to appear more threatening than they really are, especially in light of our citizenship in God’s kingdom.

Looking over the post, I see how just a few adjustments could have perhaps improved the tone and spared us from some of the bickering that occurred in the comment section. I owe it to you guys to write the best post I can each day, so I’m sorry for not paying more attention to those little details that can make or break the "feel" of a post.

I stand by my opinion on this one…perhaps just not the way I delivered it.

Thanks for understanding.

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25 Things That Shouldn’t Scare Christians

Despite what some may say, these twenty-five things really shouldn’t scare Christians: 

1. Someone leaving the phrase “under God” out of the pledge of allegiance before a golf game
2. Sharing civil rights with gays and lesbians
3. Scientists
4. Target employees that say “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas” 
5. Mosques 
6. The media 
7. Missing God’s will and accidentally going to the wrong college 
8. Theological differences 
9. Suddenly getting asked to explain the religious symbolism in “Tree of Life” 
10. Mormon presidential candidates
11. Yoga
12. Conflicting interpretations of Scripture 
13. Bringing the worst maccaroni and cheese casserole to the church potluck (I've lived through this, believe it or not.)
14. Getting left behind 
15. Not being “relevant” 
16. Women with opinions 
17. Nice atheists 
18. Sharing the gospel 
19. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Tea Partiers, Communists, Anarchists 
20. Anabaptists 
21. Statues of the Virgin Mary 
22. Separation of church and state 
23. The gay “agenda”
24. The removal of plastic, light-up manger scenes from courthouse lawns
25. Being a religious minority in the U.S….(especially when we’re not) 

What would you add to the list? 

***

(Note: Just so we're clear, I'm not saying that anyone who opposes gay marriage or the Tea Party or "happy holidays" is doing so out of fear; just saying that as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, fear need not be a factor in our discussion of these issues.)

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Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.