The Atheist Who Went to Church

April 13, 2007

Author: Harold Henderson

Source: Chicago Reader

HEMANT MEHTA HASN’T believed in God since he was 14. Richard Dawkins, best-selling author of The God Delusion, is one of his heroes. He chairs the board of the Secular Student Alliance, a national umbrella group for nonbelieving high school and college students.

He’s disturbed by the biblical verse “Every knee shall bow” and flabbergasted by Christians who maintain silence while extreme fundamentalists say God visits disasters upon unbelievers.

But Mehta, a 24-year-old high school math teacher, uses a beatitudes bookmark. He blogs as the “Friendly Atheist” at, and the Christian blog includes him on its blogroll. When he met prosperity-gospel preacher Joel Osteen (Your Best Life Now) at a church* he gushed, “Joel, I’m an atheist, and my mom, well, she’s not a Christian, but we’re huge fans!” His own first book, I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith through an Atheist's Eyes, is being published by Waterbrook, an evangelical Christian division of Random House.

Some militant commentators on his blog have accused him of “cozy[ing] up with the delusional.” Mehta says they should think more strategically: “The best way to convince the majority of people that living without religion is even possible,” he replies, “is to show them that atheists are kind, happy, and approachable--we’re not the bogeymen we’ve been made out to be for so long. If that happens, the logical reasoning behind atheism will follow.”