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A group of seminary students recently completed a project on how to effectively counsel an atheist. They are studying in a Masters program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Chicago’s Moody Theological Seminary, and yep, that’s the very same school that I had attended. And one of the students working on this group project had grown up attending Bethel Community Church, where I had served on part-time pastoral staff for seven years.
Now, this project of theirs didn’t have to be on atheism. As I understand it, the goal was to explore what it would be like to provide therapy for someone unlike yourself. It worked to try and eliminate assumptions and straw men, to increase empathy for clients you may have a hard time identifying with, and to honestly help clients without bias — even when the counselor works from an explicitly Christian perspective. The professor had given them the option of picking their subject, and this group of students decided to tackle atheism. What would it be like for a Christian therapist to counsel an atheist?
It’s hard for me to envision an atheist seeking counsel from a Christian, but that’s beside the point. I think it’s encouraging and incredibly refreshing to know that some young seminarians would even want to get inside the head of an atheist for explicitly constructive purposes — and as I was told, with no agenda to convert. Pretty noble, if you ask me. Certainly good steps in the right direction.
So as this group started putting together their project plan, of course an interview with a former student from their very own Moody Seminary, one who was now an open atheist, seemed like a perfect fit. And since one project member had known me personally from my ministry at Bethel, the interview was an easy go. He contacted me March 6 to see if I was interested, and we sat down together in the Moody student center on the afternoon of March 26. This was only my second interview since becoming an atheist, and he and I spent nearly two hours together.
During the interview, I found one moment more striking than any other. And it wasn’t anything I had said. After being asked about the influences that led to my atheism, my interviewer turned his camera off and responded in a moment of disbelief:
“Wow, this disproves everything we normally believe about atheism.”
Yes. Yes, it does, my friend. Yes, it most certainly does…
So what results is the video below. It had to be chopped into shorter segments for the class presentation. But nearly the full video with just enough editing to keep it under an hour is available below. Enjoy and feel free to leave your comments below!