This Friday, I have the unique opportunity of interviewing an influential young atheist YouTuber named Drew, aka “The Genetically Modified Skeptic.”
Why would I give an atheist a platform on my YouTube channel? The answer is easy: Because we Christians have much to learn about how to better love our atheist neighbors.
For the past few years, I have been role-playing an atheist on stage at Christian schools, camps, conferences, universities, and churches. Along with aiming to give Christians a sense of urgency in being prepared to defend their faith (i.e., 1 Peter 3:15), an essential goal is to motivate Christians to consider how they treat non-believers.
How Christians Treat Atheists
Once I step out of my “atheist” character, I start by asking audiences a simple question: “How did you treat me, your atheist guest?” Typically, audiences recognize that they were more concerned with winning an argument, and proving me wrong, than listening to me and loving me as a fellow human being (and for the record, I do think there is a way of respectfully asking tough questions on issues that matter)
When I ask audiences for individual words that describe how they treated me, the most common responses are “hostile,” “aggressive,” “uncaring,” and “defensive.”
Bring in a Real Atheist, Sean!
Recently, Drew (and Paulogia, another atheist YouTuber) posted a critique of my “atheist encounter” at a Christian school in Florida. Even though they were respectful and recognized that I was trying to improve relations between atheists and Christians, they felt I misrepresented atheism. At the end of the video, Drew offered me a suggestion: Rather than role-play an atheist, bring in an actual atheist.
This is a great suggestion, which I appreciate. In my response video, I pointed out that I have been doing this for over 15 years. I have been in Christian-atheist dialogues at various churches, classrooms, free-thinking clubs, homes, and more. I have brought in leading atheists to speak to my high school students dozens of times. Most of the responses I gave while role-playing an atheist came from atheists themselves who presented these ideas to my own students. I admittedly fell short on a few answers, but none were meant to misrepresent atheism.
An Invitation for Drew
At the end of my response video, I offered a suggestion to Drew: Come on my YouTube channel and share your story, experience, and ideas for how you think Christians can improve their interaction with skeptics. This is an issue I am very passionate about and have addressed in an article for the Christian Research Journal.
Drew has graciously accepted my invitation, and we are set for a LIVE conversation this Friday at 12 PST on my YouTube channel. I plan to ask him questions such as these:
- What are some helpful ways Christians responded when you began questioning your faith?
- What were some hurtful ways Christians have treated you as an atheist?
- After becoming one of the most popular atheist YouTubers over the past four years, how would you assess the state of the interaction between Christians and atheists?
- Do you really think it’s possible for Christians and atheists to differ substantively on important issues, yet still treat each other with kindness respect? If so, what would this look like?
- What blind spots do you think many Christians have about atheists?
I have tons more questions for Drew, but I hope this will motivate you to join us this Friday. More importantly, I hope it will motivate you to consider how you interact with skeptics, atheists, and other non-believers.
Drew is taking a risk by coming on my YouTube channel. If you are a Christian and decide to join us for the discussion, let’s model kindness and civility in our comments.
Please join us this Friday, 12 noon PST: “Breaking Down Walls: A Christian and an Atheist in Conversation.”