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Atheist group plans hotline for doubters

Atheist group plans hotline for doubters

Atheists seem to be getting downright evangelical, eager to preach the not-so-good news that religion is a sham. From CNN:

A group that helps people “recover” from religion says it’s ready to pick up the phone.

Recovering from Religion, which has about 40 support groups in the U.S. and Britain, plans to launch a hotline that will offer doubters an anonymous place to ask difficult questions and find communities of like-minded nonbelievers.

The group plans to staff the help line 24 hours a day and is modeling it after services like suicide prevention hotlines.

Sarah Morehead, executive director of Recovering from Religion, told CNN that the mission is to help people, not convert them to atheism.

“A lot of the times they just need someone to talk to,” Morehead said.

The 1-800 number has yet to be named. Recovering from Religion is trying to raise $30,000 by June 30 to fund “The Hotline Project” with up to 40 counselors.

Read full story here. Seems kind of retro, doesn’t it? (Remember Dial-a-Prayer?) I imagine those staffing the phone lines may get calls not just from doubters, but from those looking to argue and do some converting themselves.

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Erik Campano

Hey JC,

"I've travelled in a few of these circles, and can tell you that the intellectual and spiritual rigor of people in these traditions matches, if not exceeds, what I've seen among U.S. Anglicans."

- I really don't know what you mean.

Some of the most nuanced and conscientious spiritual thought comes from reformed and Roman Catholic traditions. I don't agree with them, but I have great respect for them. Michael Horton, Mark Noll, and (I might get pummeled for this) John Paul II all write with great intellectual respectability. At a more personal level, two of my closest friends are both public religious intellectuals, one Evangelical and the other Catholic, and both are pro-life and oppose same-sex marriage. I can testify that they are also both very deeply committed to Christian spirituality and discernment. (They also both seem quite worried for my soul.)

-Um, are you actually familiar w/ the CofE, Erik?

Never heard of it.

- "Liberal mainline Anglicanism" is way more prevalent in TEC, than in the Mother Country.

Yikes, it gives me the willies when Episcopalians call England the Mother Country. Didn't we have that little revolution for a reason? Just because we're "Anglicans" doesn't make England our mother, any more than an English person in 1500 could call Rome their Mother Country. I frankly would like a mother who cooks better than the English.

Actually, when I was first writing this I was thinking about examples like the Church of Sweden or German EKD, both of which are, in my experience, more socially progressive than Episcopalians (impossible!). Socially liberal young people in those countries would be warmly welcomed in these churches, but they don't go. In fact, those nations are becoming among the most apatheistic on our planet.

"by fundy-like rigidity of their claims&categories"

There is sloppy theology on every side. Look for the best in your opponents. For some fun and smart anti-theist blogging I refer you to my colleage Bob Seidensticker.

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tgflux

"If liberal mainline Anglicanism was the solution to people's spiritual questions, then all of England would be showing up to church on Sundays."

Um, are you actually familiar w/ the CofE, Erik? "Liberal mainline Anglicanism" is way more prevalent in TEC, than in the Mother Country.

"I've travelled in a few of these circles, and can tell you that the intellectual and spiritual rigor of people in these traditions matches, if not exceeds, what I've seen among U.S. Anglicans."

I really don't know what you mean.

"if you actually got on that hotline, you might find some people coming from pretty respectable theological and doctrinal stances that are way, way divorced from what Episcopalians think"

On the hotline to give religion up? I don't doubt that for a moment! O_o

When I saw this story over at (the atheist) site Joe.My.God., I was stunned not so much by the "evangelical" quality of the a(nti)theists (that's very common among them today), but by fundy-like rigidity of their claims&categories (Did you know there was a linear progression from Polytheism, to Monotheism, to Pluralism, to Agnosticism, to Atheism? Feh. I'd like to see a Hindu go all Vishnu "Destroyer of Worlds" on their ignorant behinds...)

JC Fisher

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Erik Campano

Jon, You're assuming that Episcopalians offer a more meaningful religious expression than fundamentalists. I can't argue that point either way. But it does seem like something that one doesn't really have the right to make a definite claim about.

In order to preserve a stance of real tolerance and objecivty, we can't say that fundamentalists, pietists (Roman Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, whatever) have a less "meaningful religious expression" than Episcoplians do.

I've travelled in a few of these circles, and can tell you that the intellectual and spiritual rigor of people in these traditions matches, if not exceeds, what I've seen among U.S. Anglicans. I'm not saying that there aren't great, devout, thoughtful Episcopalians. I'm just saying that if you actually got on that hotline, you might find some people coming from pretty respectable theological and doctrinal stances that are way, way divorced from what Episcopalians think (which, by the way, nobody really seems to have clarified very systematically anyway, which is what we're famous for/proud of, right?)

BTW, youth may be our "mission field" but we're not really pulling them in, in droves. Just to illustrate, I refer you to Tim Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian Church here in NYC. Look at his youth recruitment figures, versus those of of the Diocese of New York. I'm not saying that I agree with Keller or his methods... But on the "mission field" front, conservative Presbyterians are rallying armies that dwarf ours. It's like China versus Switzerland. We may be the rich ones, but they've got the masses. If liberal mainline Anglicanism was the solution to people's spiritual questions, then all of England would be showing up to church on Sundays.

People are becoming atheists (among other reasons) because Christianity doesn't carry the economic and social power it used to, its practice and fundamental beliefs are kinda strange when you look at it from the outside, and various clergy scandals are chipping away at its image. Among other reasons.

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jon white

I wonder though, for people whose faith rests on adherence to a fundamental scriptural and pietistic foundation; that kind of belief is easily debunked. But once that faith is shattered, is it possible to reconvert them to a faith such as that practiced in the Episcopal Church. It seems one of our best "mission fields" in recent generations has been people disaffected with other faith traditions. Does this represent a shift where rather than looking for a more meaningful religious expression, people just chuck the whole bag?

Jon White

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