As promised, here’s my review of the panel discussion from Thursday night’s screening of “Collision”. Atheist Hemant Mehta and Christian Chad Meister were our panelists and it was moderated by Pastor Mark Bergin. Apparently Mehta beat me to the punch and posted first before I could finish writing and editing (thanks for the heads up @atheistinWA). Yes, sir, I agreed with you about the Q&A. You’ll find that on page one million of my critique below.
(It’s not really one million pages. It is long detailed, though.)
The two people who shined during the panel were Bergin and Mehta. I was unimpressed by Meister. Surprise, surprise.
Before Q&A, Bergin did a good job keeping the momentum of the discussion moving forward and asking pretty good questions. He might not appreciate this, but his temperament reminded me of Sam Harris’. He was relatively straight forward and deadpan. It made for a pretty good attempt to be fair as moderator. After Q&A, he seemed tentative to cut off the blather to ask for a certain question.
Mehta’s answers during the panel were straight forward and spontaneous. He was calm and poised and at no time seemed out of control.
After the discussion, I went up to Mehta and said, “You make us [atheists] look good.” He did. He didn’t focus on proving Christianity was bad. He focused on bridging the divide between religion and non-religion. Mehta brought up examples of how he’s working with the Secular Student Alliance which sends atheists and Christians on do-good trips or mission trips. These trips and other SSA events bridge the gap, not widen it. These things do well to dispel rumors and achieve beneficial dialogue. Mehta didn’t taunt the Christians in the audience (which there were several surrounding Tina and I). He seemed genuinely most interested in dispelling myths and erroneous rumors about atheists and bridging the divide.
Meister came off as the guy who wanted Atheists to repent or burn for their evil associations. He contrasted Mehta’s calm with a temperamental moment when a veteran forensic psychologist stood and made a comment that her experience with rapists and murderers was that they justified their behavior based on biblical morals. Meister’s face went beet red and he went on a Ted Bundy tirade. (But but but, Bundy was an Atheist!)
Meister would have done well to listen to the question first, thought about it, then responded.
The Chaz Meister* … Epic Trainwreck
Meister failed, because he came to the discussion equipped with flimsy, outdated, flat-out debunked debate points. Mehta wasn’t trying to make him look poorly; why the hostility, Meister?
Meister tried and tried (and tried some more) to make atheists out to be “evil” because Ted Bundy was an admitted atheist. He accused atheists of hobnobbing with the likes of Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Pol Pot. Meister had Ted Bundy quotes, too! Surely I should cower in the corner and throw off my non-belief, because Bundy was an atheist.
Frankly, Meister’s shadiness was creeping Tina and me out.
There are stories that preachers tell. You know what I’m talking about. Little “anecdotes” that they claim happened to them that they turn into sermons.
Had. He delivered one of these anecdotal mini sermons.
To avoid telling you what to think, I happen to have video for you to watch and make your own decision (I let the video run past the story to make another point):
To quote David Cross, “ONE HUNDRED PERCENT BULLSHIT.”
Did this ever happen? Really? Or did it kind of happen and it played out better in the stories that followed? If I was that guy, I would have said, “Yeah, go ahead. You’re right. Make up your own rules. Hit me, Meister.” Once he hit me, I would have called the cops and had his dumb ass thrown in jail. Because actions have consequences and that’s the secular society we live in, thank you very much.
What was even more nauseating was how Meister wanted so badly to get a particular answer out of Mehta. You could visibly see that Meister was not listening, but waiting to talk. To atheists reading this, Christians are taught this tactic of asking for the genesis of non-Christian morality. This is rife in their culture, and I speak as a former insider.
Meister kept bringing up Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot. Not only are these cliché debate topics over-cooked and beaten to a pulp, we continue to out smart he who brings them up (Thanks, Julie!). Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, all those guys, have pulled the pin many times on these arguments. Meister was sitting on stage holding pin-less grenades in his hands saying, “See, atheism is awful!”
I particularly appreciated Mehta’s response to one of the first times Meister brought it up. He caught himself from smiling and straight-forwardly said something like, “Even if you could prove they were atheists, those were bad people who everyone agrees weren’t good for the greater good of humanity.”
Atheists are all stupid, murderous, lying rapists.
Simply put, Meister’s goal was to demonize atheism, and to make God and Christianity appear good by default. Or he tried to pull the wonderment of nature bit. Again, fail.
Meister said he talked to “creationist astrophysicist” Hugh Ross. Ross told Meister that many astrophysicists (at least 20!) have converted to Christianity after looking through telescopes and at Hubble transmissions. It doesn’t change the fact that the majority of astrophysicists and scientists are still non-believers. And it doesn’t change the FACT that creationists have consistently been outed for their deceit-filled attempts to get Christianity into secular classrooms.
Atheists LOVE science and it only reinforces our views.
From where do you get your morality?
There’s this other cliché debate topic that Meister kept trying to make. It’s something I was taught to do at my Christian high school, too. It’s demanding that everyone respect the supernatural gift of godly morality! Christians think (and they are taught) that this is the greatest point they can make, because when they ask it they rattle their fists back and forth and almost squeal with girlish glee. They want you to say “nowhere” or from “evolution” or from sociological and anthropological evidence. Meister was aching, chomping at the bit to say, “That’s relativism! And you are SOOO wrong.”
He kept trying to make the correlation that atheist morality couldn’t exist without Christian morality, because Christians called dibs first. I don’t remember being welcomed onto a playground, but things were getting pretty juvenile.
I was taught in my Christian high school to call out relativism every chance I got. That was 15 years ago. This card is still being used? Really?
Despite every time we say it comes from excellent sources of secular judgement, they scoff and say, “Nope, that’s not as good as transcendental biblical values and morality. Because our god of morals is awesome! And because he’s awesome and we’re not, we’re in awe of his awesome morals!” You should have heard the contrived mini sermon Meister made on this point when he talked about a magic trick he did as a boy in which he was the hand making a ball appear to move by itself. He tried to say something like, Everyone might know right from wrong, but it’s the Christian who knows the source of the magic trick.
Laudy freakin dah. Meister proved our point. It’s MAN that made up the rules. It’s MAN behind the magic trick. And it’s children who are in awe of such inanity.
Christian morality is delicious, here taste it. Eat it. Take my word for it. I know it stinks. Eat it.
Meister repeated this point so much that atheists in the room finally screamed out, “The old testament is moral? Hell is moral?” (that atheist was me). The Christian man beside me let out a belchy belly-achy whine: “We have a new covenant. A new covenant!”
Christians continue to base “morality” on the bible, “The New Covenant with Jesus,” they exclaim! This is the same covenant that says disbelief in Jesus will result in eternal life in hell.
How is the thought crime of disbelief so heinously immoral that eternal hell is even remotely possible in the vocabulary of a supreme, loving and transcendent being?
Trancendent love that includes torture for unbelief IS the ultimate example of immorality. This is the major thought crime (not the only one) that Hitchens brings up a lot. And it’s high time Christians became fully aware that this is our dissent.
Q&A, failure second to none, I mean second to Meister.
Ahh, the failure of Q&As. I can’t say that I’m proud of anything that happened in the Q&A. Both sides made shining examples of appearing unintelligent. And by both sides, there was only one obvious Christian questioner who asked about the 2500-year old Israeli “accurate” prophecy of Isaiah. Yawn. Mehta responded to him by saying something like, “I don’t know much about biblical prophecy, but I imagine it’s much like astrology predictions today; you pull from them what you want” (not an accurate quote).
There were three atheist guys that stood up to “ask” questions who were shooed away, because they weren’t asking questions. They were using the microphone as their personal platform to spout less-than genius versions of atheism.
To atheists, please stop making the rest of us look ridiculous. It was my biggest complaint as a Christian, and I don’t want it to be my biggest complaint now. Seriously.
If I wanted to read Sam Harris’ or Richard Dawkin’s views, I can read their books. I was there to hear from the panel, and I appreciate if people show a decent enough amount of intelligence to ask a question preceded by a minimal amount of exposition. Show some empathy and respect, if nothing else, for the panelist you’re there to see.
Don’t purposefully try to taunt every Christian in the room by spouting every retort ever recorded by a lame-ass sitting in his dark bedroom with a webcam fighting the bold fight against Christianity. It’s not becoming. It really pisses the rest of us off, so, please, with sugar on top, stop the idiocy.
What would have been my question?
Glad you asked. I didn’t get a chance to stand up, because time ran out (thanks, batshit crazies!) If I were to ask my question before time ran out, it would be this: “If God is transcendent love without condition and you, Dr. Meister, have brought up the monsters of atheism quite redundantly (thanks again), how is it that you give God carte blanche to be the ultimate monster, the ultimate Pol Pot times Stalin times Hitler plus Ted Bundy to the one millionth power, and still consider Him/Her/It to be the ultimate love giver, when he’s incapable of true forgiveness for people brought up in non-Christian homes that are just as psychologically binding as Christianity? (And please don’t say God will deal with them on judgement day, because that’s just a pile of your own excrement.)”
I’ll take my answer over by the stove, because I’m making four pizzas today for a dinner party tonight.
*Yeah, I said “chaz meister”. At least I didn’t say “chaz meister, makin’ copies