Today was another beautify day in the park, with lots of tourists strolling by enjoying the 70-ish weather. A perfect day to Ask An Atheist!
Dante brought his… I don’t know what you call it, the “Japanese thing” that makes the very Japanese sound when you play it. He’s quite good, although he tells me he’s randomly strumming it instead of playing an actual known piece of music. Lots of tourists stop to listen and a few even dropped some money into his guitar case.
Unfortunately I arrived later than usual today so I expected to the Ask-an-Atheist Booth to be in full swing, but when I arrived it was so swamped that I couldn’t even see it! There was a large crowd (about 40) people around the booth, most of them in the same blue t-shirts, which usually means we’ve been visited by a church group! Yay!
Sure enough, as I approached, I could see that the group was from Pepperdine University, a very religious college in the hills above Malibu, California. Church groups sometimes visit the booth to shout some nonsense and run away (“Jesus lives!”), but others have come to the booth for honest discussion and dialogue… and that’s something we very much welcome. From the smiles on everyone’s faces, it was easy to conclude that this was the latter.
While I didn’t get a chance to get involved in the discussion, I’m told it was very positive and they were genuinely interested in hearing what we had to say. This large group spent at least 1/2 hour at our booth, and before they departed I asked if I could take a couple of pictures of them with their new atheists friends. They agreed and I took the photos you see below.
I’ve had the chance to speak to a surprising number of young missionaries from the bible belt over the past year, and I am very encouraged by their willingness to come over and talk to us. Usually it’s a young couple, and they start with the basic questions about what we think happens after death, how we decided we were atheists, have we read the bible, etc. But after the basics, I’ve seen a pattern – the questions get better and more logical, as you would expect from someone who is forced to sell a product they think might be bogus, and are looking at the concepts that actually make sense. Usually the interactions are about 30 minutes (again, a LONG time for an unscheduled visit to a park where you only have a few hours), and usually one of them gets uncomfortable that the other seems to be “believing” what the atheist is saying. In one case the guy was becoming so enthusiastic that his finance physically pulled him away from the table and the bodily language as they walked away suggest he was getting a scolding for thinking.