When I was writing Is the Atheist My Neighbor? I wanted to have a chapter devoted to dialogue with an atheist. After all, the best way to gain perspective and nuance regarding the views of another belief community is to invite a representative of that community into conversation.
However, not just any member of the community will do. Indeed, choosing the wrong representative could have the exact opposite effect. Can you imagine an atheist group wanting to have a genuine conversation with Christians who invited Fred Phelps, the (now deceased) pastor of the infamous Westboro Baptist, to be the Christian representative? If the goal was a more charitable and nuanced understanding of Christians, Phelps would achieve precisely the opposite of the intended effect.
You might call this common sense principle the Diplomat Dictum. Suffice it to say, when you want to pursue exploratory dialogue with another belief community, the goal should be to seek an exemplar from that community in terms of knowledge and character to serve as a diplomat for that community.
With that in mind, it made sense to invite Jeff Lowder into the conversation. Jeff has been a leader in the online secular community for twenty years as one of the leading defenders of atheism and naturalism. He has also been a model of cool civil exchange in a field of discourse that is known for frequently generating more heat than light. (You can learn more about Jeff’s bona fides at the Secular Outpost blog.)
And so I devoted one of the chapters to a conversation with Jeff in which he provides an eloquent and concise summary of his commitment to naturalism and atheism. In addition, Jeff offers his own reaction to the Rebellion Thesis that is the subject of criticism in the book. All in all it is an outstanding and illuminating exchange which may go some modest distance toward healing the rift between these two belief communities.
Now that the book is out Jeff offers his comments at his Secular Outpost blog. You can read them here.