Last Friday night I traveled to Pittsburgh to give a talk on Was America Founded as a Christian Nation to the Center for Inquiry, a group of atheists with the mission of “fostering a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.”
I had dinner with the leadership of the organization at Jerome “The Bus” Bettis’s restaurant near Heinz Field and then headed off to the Carnegie Science Center for the talk. (We shared the venue with a bunch of elementary schools students who were having a “sleepover” in the Center).
I did not change my talk in any significant way because I was speaking to atheists (after all, I was there to present historical evidence, not to convert them to Christianity), although I did have some fun with them. In the middle of my talk a large screen began to lower on the stage behind me. I told them that I did not have any images to project that evening so the only explanation for the lowering of the screen was God or some other supernatural force. (It got a good laugh).
The question and answer session was the longest I have experienced thus far on this tour. They grilled me for about forty-five minutes with questions about deism, the Treaty of Tripoli, the Enlightenment beliefs of the founders, and the Christian Right. I told them that if there was one thing they could take away from my book it was the fact that atheism has always been a counter-cultural movement in a nation that has been predominantly Christian and has, for the most part, always seen itself as a Christian nation.
Thanks to Bill Kaszycki and the rest of the leadership of the Center for Inquiry for the invitation to speak and for the gracious hospitality that they showed me (including the brief stop at the Mr. Rogers statue!) during my visit to Pittsburgh last weekend.
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