Saturday, March 27, 2010

Event at Purdue: Kicking the Christian Strawman

If you're in the West Lafayette area, you may be interested in an event we're holding next week!
Kicking the Christian Strawman: What Christians are really like
Talk and Q&A w/ Rev. Jon Weyer
Wed, March 31
6:00 pm in PHYS 223
Free, Open to public

Atheists spend so much time trying to get religious people to understand them, so now it's time for us to learn a little more about Christianity. Jon has a lot of experience cooperating with atheist groups, so hopefully his talk will:
- Help us understand how Christians view the world
- Help us understand American Christianity
- Debunk stereotypes about Christianity & Christians

Rev. Jonathan Weyer is a campus minister with the CCO at The Ohio State University and an ordanied minister with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. At Ohio State, he started a group called "The Thomas Society" that seeks to honestly discuss questions about God, the nature of reality, and how people ought to live their lives. He has worked extensively with the Students for Freethought and SSA board member Ashley Paramore to create an atmosphere of cooperation and dialogue between Christians and Atheists at Ohio State. As a part of this work, they are taking service project trips to New Orleans over spring break, hosting joint group discussions, and events that including bringing Hemant Mehta to campus. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and three kids. To relax, he likes to write novels that scare people, sometimes intentionally. Jonathan also writes the blog for the Thomas Society

Sponsored by the Society of Non-Theists
I met Jon at the Secular Student Alliance conference last summer, and he is a wonderful guy who's sure to give an interesting talk. And don't worry, this isn't some secret way for him to convert us all. At least, I don't think so...hmmm...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Mwahhaaaaahaaaaa, even though you have guessed my secret plan, Jen, I'll shall convert you all!!!! :)

  3. Yeah, because I grew up completely surrounded by atheists and have never met a christian...oh wait, no, I grew up surrounded by christians, have been to both protestant and catholic mass, have a good understanding of both european and american christian history, and didn't even know the word atheist until my teens. Maybe they should have a seminar to help us understand straight people, white people, rich people, and able bodied people while they're at it, because it's not like these groups are normalized or anything.

  4. Hey up! Your resident troll is back Jen. These whack job religionists just don't seem to understand that threats of damnation and hell fire don't work. When you don't believe in a god or gods the the hell place is a non-problem.

    @DM Stick to scaring children with your horror stories, that kind of child abuse isn't illegal............ yet!

  5. Going back to the post..... Yes, as with every issue we find strawmen. Religionists have always straw-manned us atheists as ethical illiterates or even worse, and I guess atheists straw-man religionists back.

    However, to suggest that atheists per se have a straw-man perception of religionists (not sure Weyer himself is doing this, though) would itself be to commit a strawman fallacy. Like the 12:09 Anonymous, I have a good grasp of biblical exegesis, theology, confessional nosology and church history -- much better than that of most Christians. The same goes for many other atheists. Not all of us are hanging off the trees by our tails, throwing mud in ignorance. Though that certainly does happen; in particular, there are an awful lot of irritating myths about the Middle Ages, some of them invented in the 19th century by anticlerical Protestants. Weyer is very welcome to debunk those.

    I have also been an insider, which has given me understanding of the deeply pathological socio-psychological mechanisms operating in the cults, ahem, in certain kinds of church and group. This direct experiential knowledge makes me less sympathetic rather than more. Another temptation to be avoided, therefore, is to accuse any atheist who is describing such mechanisms of manufacturing straw men. Personally, I like to describe the mechanisms, and let anyone whom the cap fits, wear it.

  6. He might be a nice man, and I'm sure he means well, but I've clicked over to his blog from your list from time to time, and to be honest I have never been impressed by his arguments. At all.

    He seems to engage in a lot of the special pleading and such to which most Christians seem to be prone... not that I'm surprised he argues like a Christian, given that he is one, but I honestly expected better given his lofty aims of "answering questions for atheists".

    I will be interested in reading your review of his talk, however.

  7. Hey! I know that dude. Well, not really. I internet know that guy. He shows up from time to time in healthyaddict's youtube channel.

    Sorry Jen, there are multiple Midwestern female atheists in my life. It's not you, it's me. I'm kind of an internet slut.

  8. McBender,
    To my knowledge, I don't claim to answer every possible question atheists have, nor do I claim my answers will completely satisfy. I'm not an apologist, at least, not in the way you are thinking.

    Rather, The Thomas Society is a place where these discussions can take place openly without setting the rules at the begining of the conversation. I tell people that I'm a Christian and I think Christianity is the truth. I have no wish to lie about that. However, if you look at the site, you will also see that most of the people who post are atheists. And, there atheists who are guest posters on the blog.

    All that to say, I don't expect to fully answer atheist questions, but to have a forum where they can be expressed without the usual apologetic crap.

  9. Mr Weyer,

    What I was trying to say was that everything I've read at the Thomas Society blog (which admittedly isn't much, I didn't see much value in reading so I chose not to continue) came across precisely as "apologetic crap" (to use your phrase). Perhaps I was simply unlucky and read the wrong couple of posts, but I read enough to suggest that this is unlikely.

    Of course, I'm not one of those "nice" atheists who thinks that dialogue with Christians is a worthwhile pursuit, nor do I think you can "answer atheist questions" (I think that very framing betrays an apologetic approach, incidentally). Perhaps that explains my distaste.

    I don't intend any insult by saying these things (you've already called yourself a Christian and therefore I can offer you no further insult than you've done to yourself); I am merely being honest.

    -M. C. Bender

  10. MC,
    First, You can call me Jonathan. I dont insist on the Mister.

    In seriousness, I would rather have you be honest. Saves time for both of us. I appreciate it, seriously.

    If you are close to Purdue, would like to meet you in person.

  11. Unfortunately, I'm not; I'm a distance of about 300-400 miles away and it would be inconvenient for me to get there. If it weren't so far I might consider a meeting, but as it stands it wouldn't really be practical...

  12. Interesting comments. I, too, look forward to reading Jen's review of Jonathan's talk.

    I am a bit more in line with M.C. Bender's position in that often dialogues between Christians and non-Christians (specifically atheists) are not fruitful. I also consider myself somewhat of an anti-theist as I think spirituality is best left as an individual pursuit and that much harm, coercion, manipulation, and violence can come from institutionalized religion.


  13. MC,
    Completely understand.

    I think the work of the Students for Free Thought at Ohio State and The Thomas Society is a good argument against both of you, no offense. We haven't changed each others minds, of course, but we have done some really good things in the process.