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)
The discussion questions for Chapter 1 can be found here:
UU Discussion Questions For "I Sold My Soul on eBay" (Part II)
The discussion questions for Chapter 2 can be found here:
UU Discussion Questions For "I Sold My Soul on eBay" (Part III)
The discussion questions for Chapter 3 can be found here:
UU Discussion Questions For "I Sold My Soul on eBay" (Part IV)
The discussion questions for Chapter 4 can be found here:
UU Discussion Questions For "I Sold My Soul on eBay" (Part V)
The discussion questions for Chapter 5 can be found here:
UU Discussion Questions For "I Sold My Soul on eBay" (Part VI)
The discussion questions for Chapter 6 can be found here:
UU Discussion Questions For "I Sold My Soul on eBay" (Part VII)
The discussion questions for Chapter 7 can be found here:
UU Discussion Questions For "I Sold My Soul on eBay" (Part VIII)
Chapter 8: Churches That Deserve Special Mention
(1) Did the author point out anything about these megachurches that surprised you, challenged you, or raised concerns? If so, which observations elicited such a response -- and why? Can you imagine seeing these things in a Unitarian Universalist megachurch or a smaller Unitarian Universalist congregation?
(2) Is there anything in these critiques that gave you a new perspective on how your congregation and Unitarian Universalism comes across to newcomers? If so, what were those insights?
(3) At Mars Hill Bible Church, one of the pastors pointed out that the local newspaper had reported that the population of those living in poverty in Grand Rapids numbers one in five. "However," Hemant says, "he didn't say anything at that time about actions the church would take to help remedy the situation, which was disappointing." Do you understand the author's disappointment? Why do you think Hemant keeps returning to the idea that churches should do more to meet the physical needs of people in the community? Does your Unitarian Universalist congregation do anything to meet the physical needs of others in the community?
(4) As Pastor Rob Bell read from John 20, the author reports that Rob "reminded us as we read that we must constantly ask: can we see ourselves in these stories?" Do you think this method for examing the Bible would be useful for non-Christian and non-Jewish Unitarian Universalists in engaging the Jewish and Christian Bible heritage that gave rise to modern-day Unitarian Universalism?
(5) Hemant comments, "[Rob Bell's] quirks make him a compelling person to watch. It's the way he talks to everyone as if he were face to face with you in a coffee shop, not as if he's delivering a lecture." This is the second time the author has commented favorably on a pastor who speaks to a huge congregation as if he's carrying on a personal conversation. Why do you feel this stood out to Hemant? How else can speakers convey this sense of intimacy? Have you ever experienced this intimacy in Unitarian Universalist worship?
(6) Hemant acknowledges that his favorite preacher is Joel Osteen. "I can't recall hearing any other pastor talk so much about his or her private life," Hemant writes, "As Joel spoke in front of an arena full of people, I felt like I knew him, at least a little bit." Does it surprise you that a speaker's vulnerability stands out so powerfully? Why or why not? Do you think a Unitarian Universalist congregation could model this type of ministry? Why or why not?
(7) Hemant says he left Lakewood Church in Houston knowing that "thousands of people were going to have a better day, and maybe even a better life, after hearing [Osteen] speak ... Everyone is looking for a better life, whether they believe in God or not." The author says addressing this felt need could be a key to attracting nonbelievers to the church. How do you respond to his observation? Do you think Unitarian Universalist congregations could adapt this suggestion?
(8) Hemant suggests that churches would provide a tremendous public service if they hosted debates between a Christian spokesperson and a recognized spokesperson presenting a secular view on the same topic. If churches sponsored such debates, what might they gain and what might they stand to lose? What sorts of debates should Unitarian Universalist congregations host? What would Unitarian Universalist congregations gain or lose from these debates?
(9) The author concludes, "If any church were to convert me, I felt it would be a place such as Willow Creek [Community Church]. It wasn't a fire-and-brimstone service. It wasn't a worship-God-out-of-fear-of-hell service. It was a place where I could think about the message after I left." What do you think of his assessment? What can Unitarian Universalist congregations do to give our potential members something to think about after they leave the service?
(10) What do you think of the idea of Unitarian Universalist megachurches? What are the pluses and minuses of megachurches for Unitarian Universalists?