Hemant Mehta, chair of the board of the Secular Student Alliance, offered himself on Ebay. Well not himself, per se, but his beliefs. He had an auction offering to the highest bidder, Mehta’s time to visit a church of the winner’s choice. Mehta is an Atheist and he found out that there are many Christians looking to convert anyone who offers them a chance. The winning bid was $504 and led Mehta to visit several churches in the Chicago area. The money bid went to the SSA as a donation.
His efforts also received a good deal of media attention including making the front page of the venerable Wall Street Journal on March 9th.
His auction leaves me conflicted. While on one hand I liked the media attention he got, I was also bothered by the whole concept. It reminded me a “sucker’s bet” because Mehta never considered converting to Christianity and his auction played on the one major flaw of someone with sincere religious beliefs – that they can convert others even Atheists.
Committed believers will grasp on any bit, no matter how small, to “prove” that those who hold differing beliefs can 1. change on a dime and 2. A simple visit to a church or quoting Bible verses will do it.
Does everybody remember recently when respected Atheist, Anthony Flew, commented he did think some unknown force was behind our universe making things work. Christians had field day, reporting that an Atheist now believed in God. Of course a closer reading of what he did say had nothing to do with the God of Christians.
Then there is the constant myth that there are no Atheists in foxholes. No matter how many examples we provide that such a myth is false it still endures in the Christian community.
It isn’t the first and probably not the last time Christians would pay to try to convert people. When I was a teen and still a believer I use to get invited to my friends church on many occasions for a pizza party. The price I had to pay was to listen to my friend give his testimony to me. I had no intention of joining his church. It was an evangelical Baptist church where it was a good thing to rise during a service and speak in tongues. That goofy scene caused me to cross that church off my list.
I think some caution should be exercised about the point of the auction. Mehta himself has said he didn’t intend for the auction to become what it did. He said he didn’t think anyone would bid. His comments suggest that it was started as a joke and that is what most Atheists would think as well if you really think about it.
It may have shed a bit of light in our theistcentric media about Atheists but at the end of the day nothing would have changed and may have reinforced the believer’s idea that Atheists are just smug and arrogant.