April 19, 2006
The eBay Atheist: musings about the Christian media
Are you looking for new people to attend your church? Try eBay. In January, DePaul University graduate student, and committed atheist, Hemant Mehta listed his services on the auction site. Mehta promised to attend one hour of church for every ten dollars of the final bid.
Off the Map.org purchased the atheist's services for $504 and sent Mehta on his assignment to attend churches throughout the Chicago area. With an open mind, an outsider's perspective, and a dose of humor, Hemant has been reporting his findings on Off the Map's "Atheist Blog."
In a recent post, Mehta explained why he's addicted to Christian media. He began with his musings about TV preacher and megachurch pastor Joel Osteen:
I enjoy watching Joel [Osteen] for the same reason many Christians don't watch him? it's Christian-lite!
He's not solely dependent on the Bible to make a point. Instead of using the Bible to write a sermon, it always seems to me that he wrote the sermon with a life lesson in mind, and then consulted the Bible to back up his points. And I walk away from watching him thinking, "I do need to make better use of my time!" instead of "I should read Mark because Chapter 2 (or whatever) said some interesting things about Jesus." Obviously, the former sits better with Atheists.
Reflecting on the print media, Mehta noticed the many conferences marketed in Christian magazines:
I enjoy the advertising of the (approximately) 23128937182 conferences going on each month, hosted by the same pastor husbands with their big-blonde-haired wives. I'm not ripping on them at all (I'm sure Atheist conventions wish they had just a fraction of the attendees of any of these Christian conventions)?it all just seems so homogenous. Even the ads for the conventions are all the same. The inset Glamour-Shot poses of the hosts, the globe in the background, and the Photoshopped image of all the speakers together in a row.
The eBay atheist summarizes his observations:
Moral of the story: Christianity works best for non-believers when we hear stories that sound like something we would see or do. Joel tells me to not be dishonest by telling a story from his college days (Hey, I went to college, too!) and then supports his message with a story from the Bible. Dobson tells me I shouldn't be dishonest because Proverbs 6:16-19 says so (as he does in the April issue of Charisma). Period. Who would I be more inclined to listen to?