While millions and millions of Christians across the globe celebrated the resurrection of Jesus this past Easter, a group of about 850 atheists gathered in Oklahoma City to celebrate…I’m not sure what. It was the American Atheist National Convention. This is not a new event, but I discovered something new this year—American Atheist may not be as confident as they often claim to be. On a Fox News network in Oklahoma City, the President of American Atheist, David Silverman said, “These are the sorts of conversations that we should be having as often as possible. Challenging our assumptions, defending our positions, and having a genuine debate about complicated topics is the best way to broaden our horizons.” But something happened that made me wonder if that is really the sentiment of the group. Let me explain…
Back in December I had the idea of approaching American Atheist and asking to purchase a booth in their exhibit area where a select group of apologists would spend the three days willing to answer any questions conference attendees may have about theism. The booth would be named, “Ask a Theist.”
I wrote an email to the event coordinator, as per the instructions on the event website, with copies to Mr. Silverman presenting the idea and asking for the price of a booth at the event. I assured them that we would not antagonize anyone, we would not chase anyone down, or engage anyone that was not interested in speaking with us. We would only respond to questions asked of us at our booth. I was sure I would get a response—even if it was a denial—but the response never came. Over the next few months I sent two more emails requesting a response and to this day, the response never came.
Now, please understand, I respect their right to decide who they want to rent space to and who they don’t want to have there. It’s their conference and they can do as they please. However, one would imagine that a simple email response denying the request would be the courteous thing to do. Furthermore, if one is confident of one’s position, what’s the harm in allowing for opportunities to test the survivability of one’s beliefs by engaging with those that see things differently. I would have to agree with Mr. Silverman that we should be having conversations that challenge our assumptions and encourage us to defend our position—these are excellent ways to broaden our horizons. Maybe next year these will me more than just words.