So Richard Dawkins and Laurence Krauss visited Phoenix, AZ this week and had a lively discussion.
For anyone who hasn’t had a chance to see it there are videos YouTube.
Though I won’t spend a lot of time speaking about the talk I did want to mention one thing that happened. After the initial talk we had a brake and came back for a short Q.A. time. The first person to ask a question turned out to be a Christian, I gather that he was a fundamentalist but that was not entirely made clear by what he said.
In any case, this Christian started out by giving us a litany of his degrees in religion, which well all patiently listened too and then he proceeded to speak for well over a minute without asking a question, then he ended with an attempt to evangelize in the form of a thinly veiled question about proving god’s non existence.
Up to this point Dawkins and Krauss as well as the crowd had been polite, then the Christian decided to up the ante by reading a bible verse. I don’t know which verse it was, beyond it coming from Hebrews because once he started he was quickly drowned out by the crowed booing him. He also tried to interrupt Krauss at one point in the exchange while Kraus was answering the question he tried to add an addendum on to it and Krauss shut him down by explaining that the great thing about being on stage was when he is talking the audience has to listen.
The interesting thing to me about this exchange is that afterwards I could distinctly imagine this Christian going back to his fellow believers and talking to them about how he stood up to the evil atheists in the face of our persecution of him for his religion. I can see him talking about how we wouldn’t let him read a bible verse due to the fear of it touching our heart magically somehow. I can also see his Christian friends agreeing with him without the slightest sense that maybe our problem was not that he was a Christian but that he behaved badly.
Of course none of this may have happened afterwards, but I can see it happening precisely because I spent years as a fundamentalist Christian and saw this same scenario play out many times. Often it seems that the Christian’s need to disseminate their view takes precedent over couth social behavior. In this particular instance this was meant to be a chance to ask Dawkins or Krauss questions, but the Christian used that opportunity to essentially preach a small sermon at us and only barely disguise it as a question. The booing started when we realized this was what he was doing.
I can’t speak for every atheist there, of course, but I was not afraid of the bible or anything he might say. I’ve read Hebrews and indeed the entire bible, and found it insulting to suggest that a simple quotation from the bible would make me or anyone else there question our thoughts on the matter.
So, to the nameless Christian who stood up and asked that question, we weren’t objecting to you being a Christian, we weren’t objecting you asking a question, we were objecting to you being a jackass.