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***Update***: Stand to Reason, the ministry whose material was used at this Bible camp, has responded to this post here. They say that they have invited actual atheists to events in the past, which is good, though they don’t really address my concerns below: Why was it okay to lie to these kids about bringing in an atheist, and why not bring in an actual one (when many in the area would’ve gladly done it)?

It wasn’t their event, so it’s unfair to blame them for how someone else ran it, but judging from the email below, they seemed fine with it. If the guy running the event had just told the kids they’re role-playing for practice, I feel this would’ve all been a non-issue…

There’s an apologetics ministry called Stand to Reason that claims to train Christians to defend their faith. And in a recent email sent to supporters, founder Greg Koukl celebrated STR’s work in action.

He explained that one of his books had been used at a middle school Bible camp, and the camp counselor told him the teens left camp “better equipped than in any prior year.” Okay. Fine. How did they know that?

According to the email, which was forwarded to me by a reader, they knew the curriculum worked because they brought in an atheist to debate the kids, and the kids won!

Or rather: They brought in an “atheist” to debate the kids.

Here’s the relevant portion of the letter, with my emphasis below:

Nick even staged a “Stump the Atheist” event to conclude the five-day camp. He brought in an “atheist” (really a BIOLA student and STR listener) and the kids peppered him with questions, “with many of them asking some amazing follow-up questions,” even pointing out his inconsistencies. “I was a bit nervous,” Nick admitted. “I wasn’t sure anyone would rise to the occasion.” But when the time came — after a week of training — the kids were armed and ready.

“During the atheist role play, I was tearing up,” Nick added. “The material in your book proved to be an incredibly effective tool in equipping our youth this summer.”

You made that possible, my friend.

They brought in an evangelical Christian to role-play as an atheist — and wouldn’t you know it, the Christian kids stumped him!

I imagine the conversation went like this:

“Atheist”: Evolution is real!
Kids: Then why are there still monkeys?
“Atheist”: Oh man! You got me! But at least I’m a good person!
Kids: You can’t be good without God!
“Atheist”: Oh no… this is hard. Uh… uh… Jesus is a myth!
Kids: No He’s not! The Bible says so!
“Atheist”: Damn! You win again! I’m gonna go eat lunch now.
Kids: Here’s a banana.
“Atheist”: AHHHHHHHHH!

You don’t learn how good of a team you have through practice scrimmages. You only learn it through actual games when there’s something on the line for both sides. There are plenty of atheists who would have eagerly accepted that challenge and responded to the kids’ questions. Instead, this counselor avoided an actual discussion about religious differences and made the kids think they had a firm grasp on their side of the debate.

It’s not just patronizing, it’s a sign of defeat. These people are so afraid to put their beliefs under actual scrutiny that they had to bring in someone who could easily be “beaten” just for the sake of show. What does that accomplish? And why avoid an actual atheist?

These kids are in for a rude awakening if and when they ever meet a real atheist, only to find out everything they’ve been taught can be debunked or refuted.

(Featured image via Shutterstock)

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.