This post is a continuation of the Unitarian Universalist re-framing of the discussion questions at the end of Hemant Mehta's I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith through an Atheist's Eyes. Hemant is also the author of the Friendly Atheist blog.
The discussion questions for the book's Introduction can be found here:
UU Discussion Questions For "I Sold My Soul on eBay" (Part I)
Here are the re-framed questions for Chapter 1.
Chapter 1: Selling My Soul on eBay
(1) The author explains that after he became an atheist he continued to practice the core teachings of Jainism, his childhood religion. Would you expect an atheist to maintain any religious practices? Why or why not? Many Unitarian Universalists are adult converts coming from other faith traditions. Would you expect these folks coming to Unitarian Universalism from another tradition to maintain religious practices from their earlier faith traditions? Why or why not?
(2) Hemant writes, "I have noticed that as people grow older, they become much more reluctant to change ... Overall it seems that people fail to question beliefs that have become safe and comfortable." What impact does this tendency have on Unitarian Universalist faith communities?
(3) Hemant reports that Christian friends had cautioned him regarding prominent Christians who are often quoted in the news. His friends maintain that those spokespersons don't necessarily represent the views of most Christians. If you wanted to learn more about Christianity or another faith tradition, how would you find a reliable spokesperson for that tradition? What characteristics would you look for in this spokesperson? For folks exploring Unitarian Universalism, who would you recommend as a reliable spokesperson? Why would you make this recommendation?
(4) Hemant's first church experience was attending Mass at a historic Catholic church in Chicago. After observing the rituals, he was "convinced some of [the worshippers] had repeated the same motions their entire lives without really thinking about what they were doing." Do you feel that Hemant was assuming too much about the worshipers? Have you ever questioned the value of rituals or the genuineness of people as they are repeating worship rituals week after week? Why or why not? How do you think Unitarian Universalist rituals used in your faith community look and feel to newcomers?
(5) Think about a time when you were a newcomer in a social setting, a religious setting, or a cross-cultural setting. Describe some of the rituals that were unfamiliar to you. How did you feel in these settings?
(6) What are the rituals and traditions in your Unitarian Universalist community that could be confusing to a visitor? How would you explain the meaning behind these practices to a newcomer?
(7) When word of his eBay auction got out, Hemant was invited to be a guest on Kirk Cameron's radio program (Cameron is a TV actor who is now a Christian evangelist). Before the show was over, Hemant concluded that Cameron simply wanted to use his story to criticize nonbelievers. Why would a person use an antagonistic approach when talking with a person who holds different beliefs? Have you ever personally received this antagonism as a Unitarian Universalist? Have you ever seen Unitarian Universalists express this antagonism towards others?