John Christy, a devout Christian filmmaker and student of religion, and David Smalley, an atheist activist and radio host, have released a new documentary film they made together, "My Week in Atheism," about their friendship caught between the two opposing worldviews.
The film premiered over the weekend at the Crest Theater in Sacramento, Calif., showing the two traveling together to secular conventions, university campuses, and a live talk show, and how they maintain a close friendship while protecting their worldviews and activism.
"The way the world is today, people too often view others with different beliefs as their enemies. But David and I have developed a deep friendship – even though we talk, and argue about religious differences all the time," said Christy in a statement.
"As I've gotten to know David more, I appreciate his challenge to my faith. Rather than digging in my heels to defend myself, I've tried to take an honest, intellectual look at what motivates atheism and why I believe what I believe," added Christy, who has a B.S. in Religion and Theological Studies and plans to get an M.A. in Christian and Classical Studies in 2015.
The film, which is neutral, features theological and philosophical conversations about modern culture, as well as the Christian filmmaker's exploratory discussions with other prominent atheists, including David Silverman, J. T. Eberhard, David Fitzgerald, Matt Dillahunty, Aron Ra and Dr. Anthony Pinn.
Smalley, the founder of Dogma Debate, LLC, which runs AtheistAudiobooks.com, AtheistHangouts.com and the Dogma Debate radio podcast, calls John "an amazing guy."
"He's a great friend, and he's a critical thinker. I look at him in awe, because he asks the same questions I did, and sees many of the same problems I found, yet he still believes. That challenges me to reexamine my position, and I'm certainly open to doing that," said Smalley, former editor-in-chief of Secular World and American Atheist magazines.
Sacramento's KTKZ 1380AM interviewed Christy and Smalley about their film.
Christy explained how he became friends with Smalley.
The Christian said he became a listener of Smalley's radio show about two years ago. "As a Christian, I just wanted to broaden my understanding of atheism ... David really struck me as someone I could talk to," he said. "He wasn't really in your face, yelling at you all the time."
Christy said he then contacted Smalley by email, and also began to come on his show. "We get along so well, except for just this point: it's a big point," Christy said, to which David agreed, saying, "It's kinda large."
Christy and Smalley told the host they initially planned on spending just one week making the film, but it took one year.
Asked if he also thinks that most atheists are "horribly" confrontational," Smalley said, "Absolutely not. I think the problem is just the loudest, most popular atheists have that sort of mentality ... That's why they get the most attention."
The atheists that have decent conversations, respecting the importance of someone's religion to them, do not get hits on social media, he added. "We're trying to change that."
Atheism is simply a lack of belief in God; it's not satanic or monstrous, Smalley said. There are many atheists also in churches but they don't want to disappoint their family, he claimed.
Christy said his goal with this film is "to encourage viewers to examine the foundation of their beliefs whether Christian, atheist, or undecided."
"Being pushed to explain my Christian faith has led me to a deeper understanding of the Bible and its applicability to everyday life situations," he noted.
Smalley said he wants discussions to happen and "people to know that atheists aren't necessarily anti-Christian."
"We can talk with our loved ones who have a differing worldview or interpretation, and explain ourselves assertively without dividing families or friendships." Smalley added, "These discussions need to happen, and this film will start many."