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)
Chapter 6: The View From a Midsized Pew
(1) Did the author point out anything about these churches that surprised you, concerned you, or challenged you? If so, which observations elicited such a response -- and why? The churches described in this chapter are comparable with the largest churches in the Unitarian Universalist Association.
(2) Is there anything in these church critiques that gave you insight or a new perspective in how your Unitarian Universalist congregation might come across to newcomers and visitors? If so, what were those insights?
(3) Did you feel any of his criticisms were unwarranted? If so, which ones and why?
(4) "It seems that pastors in general just assume that everyone in the audience agrees with them," Hemant writes. "They don't often provide reasons or explanations to back up what they say." Do you agree that pastors should do more to give a larger context and to explain the reasons behind their assertions for the benefit of those visiting the worship service. Why or why not?
(5) Hemant objects to using the word "lost" to describe those outside the kingdom of God. "I don't feel lost," he writes. "In fact I've felt found ever since I've become an atheist. So I'd like to hear a pastor tell me why he's convinced I am lost." Why do you think such terminology feels problematic to non-believers? Unitarian Universalists probably wouldn't call someone "lost"; however, what words do you think we use that our newcomers and visitors would find problematic?
(6) At a church in Chicago, the pastor admitted "that even he had doubts about God sometimes," Hemant reports. "It was humbling and important to hear that." It's clear that Hemant was impressed by Pastor Clarence's honesty and transparency. Do you hear this candor and transparency in your Unitarian Universalist congregation? Why or why not? Do you think that doubt is an important part of one's faith journey?
(7) Pastor Clarence tells the story of Doubting Thomas from John 20. Here is how Hemant reflects on this story: "Thomas said he wouldn't believe in the resurrection of Christ unless he saw and touched Jesus' hands where the nails had been driven in at the crucifixion ... He was asking for the same thing I was looking for: evidence ... Why are atheists so despised for thinking like Thomas did?" Do you understand Hemant's desire for tangible proof in a religious search? Do you think that Unitarian Universalism offers enough "tangible proof" for any claims that it makes? Why or why not?
(8) At a church in Houston, an announcement was made that a member of the congregation had died. Hemant comments "The people had prayed that he would get better ... How was it possible to keep praying for other things when it was clear in this instance prayer wasn't working?" What do you think is the place for prayer in Unitarian Universalism?
(9) Hemant was frustrated when he heard a speaker say homosexuality was a problem. He continues, "In my view, you are born either heterosexual or homosexual, so why consider an innate predisposition to be a problem?" Do you think that Hemant would be troubled by Unitarian Universalist views on homosexuality that he would hear in most pulpits? Why or why not?
(10) Hemant reports, "The speaker [at a church] asked us to recite the following words to begin the process of forgiveness ... 'God, I love you more than my car, my home, my family ... ' I couldn't imagine a person prioritizing God before his wife or their children or their parents ... Faith might be important, but is it so important that if we had to choose between family and faith, someone would tell her family they came in second place?" How would you respond to the author's questions? Do you think that there are Unitarian Universalists who value their religious faith over their families? If so, how do they show this? Do you think this is a positive, negative, or neutral thing?