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Jason Testerman is a pastor’s kid. He grew up in church. His wife is a Christian. He worked as a missionary in India. But when people started asking him difficult questions about God and the Bible, he started struggling — there were some questions he couldn’t fully answer.
“I won’t say I felt guilty,” he said. “But I felt like I wasn’t giving sufficient answers. ”Soon, he just couldn’t handle it anymore. “It was a rapid ascent — I won’t say decline — to my atheism from that point on.”
Now, he’s on a different mission: Get atheists into church. But it’s not what you might think. Testerman is the founder of Free Thought Exchange, a Denver-based organization created within the past two years to foster dialogue and understanding between Christians and atheists.
Here’s how it works: Through Free Thought Exchange, atheists go into churches — typically those with fundamentalist or evangelical leanings — in search of dialogue with Christians. Often, he said, people think of atheists as immoral, unethical or lacking direction. These sessions allow people a chance to talk about those misconceptions and shed light on what atheists are really like.
But, why would a pastor even want to let a group of atheists speak in church? Testerman said building a relationship with the pastor is key. “It’s important to work as partners with the pastor,” he said. “We are always co-moderating the meetings.” The discussions happened in a controlled environment — in the churches — so they’re on the Christians’ home turf. It’s a safe environment for asking and answering questions.
Read More at RNS
Free Thought Exchange is about learning how to work and live agreeably and peacefully along side those with different beliefs.
We are not advocating compromise or blending beliefs, but rather we are creating an environment of mutual respect for one another where we can address the common misconceptions we have about one another.
We excited to bring believers and nonbelievers together for an open respectful dialog on issues of life, beliefs, and world-views. The goal is to change the negative way we often perceive one another; the goal is to tear down common misconceptions people of opposing beliefs have about each other.
We represent a cross-section of thoughtful and easy-going non-believers who are looking to open a friendly dialog between Christians and non-Christians.
Often in our world those “with” and “without” religion sorely misunderstand each other, and that’s why we started Free Thought Exchange. We believe that most people are normal caring people who live, love and care about those around them. We are NOT here to change anyone’s mind, but simply to demonstrate that we have more in common than not.
This can be a “one-time-only” event or an engaging ongoing weekly or monthly dialog hosted at your local church.
Consider using us as a filler for a Wednesday-night bible-sudy, a small-group, a Sunday-night fellowship-hall gathering, a home-group discussion, or an adult Sunday-school lesson.
Option 1. We will come to your church with one spokesperson OR a panel from “An Evening with an Atheist”, and after a simple introduction you can open it up for a friendly non-confrontational Q&A time.
Option 2. We will bring in a panel from our group that can interact respectfully with a panel from your church in front of a group of nonparticipants.
Option 3. A small focus-group discussion around coffee or at house-church, where we can engage in specific topics.
Option 4. We can give a longer speech presentation adressing common misconceptions between believers and nonbelievers and our desire for better understanding of one another.
Option 5. You tell us what format you would like to see and we will accommodate.
reply to post by AfterInfinity
It isn't about converting people.
Thats what their stated intent is, its right there in text on their site.
Regardless, it remains to be seen whether the actions taken on that intent have the same result.
Our goal is never to debate or convert anyone to our way of thinking but to simply demonstrate to each-other that although we have different world-views, we are good moral individuals, who share many core values. There are many misconceptions we have about one another so we believe it’s time to open a respectful friendly dialog.
All we can do is wait and watch. But honestly, if it was possible, why did it take so long?
I am confused if you are agreeing or disagreeing with me.
If it succeeds, it will be a triumph for everyone concerned.