Theists and Atheists – an overheard Dialogue

Pastor Don Prange, St. James UCC, Lovettsville

Pastor Don Prange, St. James UCC, Lovettsville

Recently, Pastor Don Prange hosted atheists at St. James Church in Lovettsville for a dialogue with his congregation on “evolution weekend.”

You may fairly ask how one can reconcile an atheist who does not believe in God attending a church where the congregation does believe in God.

Pastor Don explained where he thought there was common ground.

He preached, “Jesus and his followers were among the first A-Theists, challenging the Theistic claims of Caesar and religious collaborators … affirming a way of life built around the principles of compassion, justice mercy and peace.”

“Collusions,” Pastor Don said, “between religious and political forces have too often created oppressive realities that abound in the world of today … sometimes contributing to a contemporary spirit of Atheism we acknowledge today.”

Stephanie Ragusky, from the Beltway Atheists, explained she “lost religion at 13” and she tried to find faith but she could not get any clear answers as to “which was literal and which was metaphor in the Bible.”  When she studied biology, Christians were “discounting what we were learning in school.” Stephanie needed another way to talk about these things. She found Nobel prize winner Bertrand Russell’s philosophy instructive. Among other things, Russell found that religion impeded knowledge and fostered fear and dependency. Stephanie said now, “I’m responsible for everything I do.”

“Atheists have been misunderstood,” Pastor Don said, “and have faced hostility in society including right here in Loudoun County, just as Darwin and the science of evolution have been misunderstood and maligned by reactionary religious forces.”

Rick Wingrove, the founder of the Beltway Atheists, said, “Some of you may have heard of me. Because of the religious displays on the court house lawn in Leesburg, I am either the most evil or most hated man in Loudoun County.”

Rick criticized those “special rights and privileged access granted to religious displays on the court house lawn in Leesburg.”  He said, it was “granting special privileges to adherents of a specific religion, but denying those privileges to non-adherents” and “is fundamentally unfair and patently unconstitutional.” He made it clear that there must be a separation of State from Church. The congregation appeared to agree when Rick said, “no one likes having someone else’s religion shoved down his throat.”

Finding a welcome for his sentiments, Rick said, “So this is a great honor for me and a new personal best for irony.”

Pastor Don said, “Science and religion ask and answer completely different questions about the natural world.  There is no reason for them to be in conflict … and we have no reason to be in conflict with those who publicly call themselves atheists.”

Rick said there was a “concerted attack on the science of evolution.” He was talking about “the most adamant of biblical literalists.”  He was quick to add, talking to the congregation, “Not you guys, you guys are awesome.” He asked, “if Genesis is taken literally, and if you do, ask yourself where Cain got a wife.”  Rick also underscored how to reconcile these matters: “Many people of faith do recognize that Genesis is allegory and not a Science book.”

Stephanie told how one Loudoun County Biology Teacher was told by a student that “only atheists believe in evolution.” The teacher explained that was not true, that there was a clergy letter project in support of evolution, and, otherwise, that the student was attending “a science class not church.”

Larry Mendoza, of the Beltway Atheists, explained he “never felt a spiritual or supernatural connection.”  Larry read a lot about reptiles and brought lizards home, he got interested in biology, had a passion for it, thought everyone accepted evolution, and then he realized “there was a movement to discredit what didn’t fit with the theology.”

“I found not every Christian was the same,” Larry said, “and, if every church was like this one, there wouldn’t be any need for an atheistic movement.”

“I’m told I’m immoral because I have no belief in God,” Larry said, “but morality doesn’t require a belief in God. “

Rick charged, “There is an ongoing and determined effort in this country to remove all teaching of the science of Evolution from the public schools, calling Evolution myth, calling science ‘lies from the pits of hell,’ and replacing it with the biblical creationism story …”

When Rick finished these last remarks, he asked if he could get an Amen – and he did.

The ground common to those of belief and unbelief was that the State shouldn’t impose itself on either by establishing a belief system, and that any legitimate belief system had to accommodate science or it was suspect.

3 thoughts on “Theists and Atheists – an overheard Dialogue

  1. Pariahdog


    The tag “liberal anthropologist” refers to an anthropologist who studies “liberals.” As you can see from his comment, he’s simply looking for a foothold to bash this blog and engage in personal attacks.


    Thanks for visiting. Did you have a comment on the content of the post, or did you come over to blow off steam? How’s your blog going? Let me know when you start reporting local news, or when you have something original or insightful to say. I’ll come back and read TC if you produce content that’s worth reading.

  2. John Flannery

    It appears our so-called liberal anthropologist is not very liberal and does not do much homework before he opines on high in his slandering barrage. I did represent the boe and from the first day I tried to work a compromise. The case turned into something like war and peace as litigants are entitled to have not just a day in court but sometimes days and weeks. The foia complainant insisted on complaints that were not legally or factually supported. I also expect to be paid unless i volunteer my time – and there was a statute that said i should be paid. The board of supervisors spent more funds opposing my fee than the cost of my fee. This is what we do instead of violence, we argue peacefully in court. And the complainant was entitled to her day in court and the people she argued about had a right to a defense. The “man” in this case was a board of supervisors who don’t want the boe reducing the taxes assessed by the former assessor, since fired. Anyhow you might do well to read the balanced opinion of district judge cannon who fairly described how frivolous were the claims and how everyone could have acted better –

  3. liberal anthropologist

    Is this the same John Flannery involved in attacking the little guy and defendieasng the indefensible in court? The BOE photograph case? Taking money from the people of Loudoun County that could have been used to help the poor or educate the children?

    If so.

    Shame on you and shame on this blog for embracing those who defend the “man”. In a movie, he would be the bad guys lawyer.

    I just checked in here after a long time. And found him here. All the more reason not to check in here for yet a longer time. You childishly boycott tc and then add to the reasons for people NOT to consider this blog progressive.

    Get it together folks. I used to enjoy coming on here.

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