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Free Thought Exchange brings atheists to church for dialogue

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posted on Nov, 16 2013 @ 10:00 PM
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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

From their website.



OUR GOAL

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.

MEETING FORMATS

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.
Freethought Exchange


Please take some time and go to their FAQ page because they answer many questions as to why they are doing this. Honestly I can’t think of a reason why anyone would be opposed to this happening. They are trying to bridge a gap and bring people together it seems this is beneficial for everyone.




posted on Nov, 16 2013 @ 10:11 PM
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reply to post by Grimpachi
 


Why do I picture the Middle East situation when I read this? People with entrenched ideas on either side and harboring disdain for the other has risks when the parties meet. While it's a lofty goal, I can't see many people attending from the church side unless they are prodded to participate, imho. Perhaps I am being a tad pessimistic, however I do wish them well.
edit on 16-11-2013 by aboutface because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 16 2013 @ 11:13 PM
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S&F Grim... Interesting topic.

I can see this going somewhere, to be honest. Sure, you'll have the more fundamentalist and evangelical sects of Christianity up in arms, and turning a cold shoulder, but I can see the more liberal sects willing to meet atheists in the middle for some dialogue.

That also means those atheists that are a part of this group, are going to have the same outlook and mindset. A willingness to live and let live, and a willingness to understand each others perspective, and give due respect.

This is a lot better than atheist churches, and books on how to convert Christians to atheism.
edit on 11/16/2013 by Klassified because: grammar



posted on Nov, 16 2013 @ 11:39 PM
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I love the state of Colorado! I may be slightly biased since I am from here though. Colorado is one of the most open minded states I have had the pleasure of living in.

I really hope this idea of open discussion between the atheist and Christians, takes off.



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 10:51 AM
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So a Nazi and a Libertarian walk into a bar...

Need I say more?



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 12:55 PM
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reply to post by Klassified
 


Thanks. Many topics on ATS concerning atheists and theists generally get a comment or two about dividing people so I was real happy to find something on the subject to bring people together. Positive topics don't seem to generate much attention though.



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 01:22 PM
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reply to post by Grimpachi
 


Bring people together with the express intent of discussing the very things that drove them apart in the first place. The sort of things that can't be reconciled. I'm not sure how positive an exchange that's supposed to be...



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 01:29 PM
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If the "conversations" dont just devolve into each side trying to convert the other (I have serious doubts), then I think this is a good step towards living with people of differing ideologies. I mean, we all have our individual "picture," and we can learn a lot by learning how others construct theirs.

Getting people to learn about other peoples perspectives is a good thing. However, I remain unsure of most peoples willingness for others to remain sovereign on their own thoughts.

I cant see this going any other way than the plethora of atheist vs theist interactions we see everywhere. "Im right! You convert!" "No, IM right, YOU convert!" ad nauseam..

I want to be wrong on that, so I wish them the best of luck!



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 01:29 PM
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reply to post by AfterInfinity
 


Well as I said in the OP if you read the FAQ at their site it should answer that question. It seems to be pretty successful for both the religious an not religious. It isn't about converting people.



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 01:31 PM
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reply to post by AfterInfinity
 

Your point is valid AI, but a little Socrates could go a long way in getting them to focus on the values they agree on. Rather than focus on everything they don't agree on.

ETA: At least they're doing something most people aren't. Trying.


edit on 11/17/2013 by Klassified because: eta



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 01:44 PM
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Grimpachi
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.



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 01:45 PM
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All we can do is wait and watch. But honestly, if it was possible, why did it take so long?



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 02:22 PM
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Serdgiam

Grimpachi
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.


I am confused if you are agreeing or disagreeing with me.

You mean this stated intent from their website?



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.



edit on 17-11-2013 by Grimpachi because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 02:25 PM
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reply to post by Grimpachi
 


If it succeeds, it will be a triumph for everyone concerned.



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 02:30 PM
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AfterInfinity
All we can do is wait and watch. But honestly, if it was possible, why did it take so long?


That's like asking why did it take so long for the Catholic Church to find a likeable Pope.

I remember growing up and if you didn’t at least say you were Christian then people equated you as a Satanist. Times have changed.



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 02:40 PM
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Grimpachi
 


I am confused if you are agreeing or disagreeing with me.


I am saying that actions differ from words. And that an ideal can be morphed over time to action that conflicts with the ideal entirely.


AfterInfinity
 


If it succeeds, it will be a triumph for everyone concerned.


We most certainly agree on that! Only thing left at that point will be to move the framework onto other topics.

Maybe, at some point, people will give true value to others perspectives as unique and not something which must be torn down or unnecessarily built up. Where we would explore each others perspectives as uncharted territory, but with universal data.



posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 11:28 PM
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"Hey you're all right, man. You're going to burn in Hell for eternity, but you're pretty cool."

"Thanks, dude. You're a delusional hypocrite and a little on the stupid side, but it was nice chatting with you."

"You too. Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" *wink*

"LOL! Good one! See ya later!"



posted on Nov, 18 2013 @ 08:14 AM
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reply to post by NthOther
 


I was under the impression these meetings would be hosted and attended by adults capable of disagreeing without throwing poop at each other, or, more to the point, finding common ground by which to reach a productive understanding.

Or so one would hope.



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