Last night I shook hands with the author of The God Delusion in a church, of all places. The Master of Ceremonies was Herb Silverman, known as The Unflappable Atheist. The event took place in a most cordial environment. No otherworldly brimstone rained on him and no angry masses lynched him.

You might know about Richard Dawkins and maybe even have a rock-hard opinion regarding his scientific approach. But for those who have never heard of Silverman,The Florida Dispatch briefly explains that this witty man ran for governor of South Carolina just to challenge the state’s religious test requirement to hold public office (he admits he didn’t stand a prayer of winning the race in what is considered to be “the buckle of the Bible Belt”, and adds that had he been elected he might have started to believe in God… it would have been that miraculous).

Dawkins presented his book A Brief Candle in the Wind. Given that today’s average attention span has been said to be 8.5 seconds, I will also be brief and just say that the talk was wonderful (I am very enthusiastic and love hyperbole).

Just allow me to underscore two things:

First, Dawkins’ British accent seemed to me so charming that it should win any argument just on the strength of its phonetics (how is that for logical reasoning, eh?). He read aloud a couple of hate mails he received and did so in a voice so b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l. they almost seemed like praise. Here are a couple, but it’s up to you to imagine the accent:

“I hope you get run over by a church truck.”

And brace yourself for a most fierce one:

“I hope you lose your watch and are late to a very important meeting.”

Second, the venue itself. We gathered at the church of the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater (www.uuc.org), who do not ask their members to subscribe to a creed, and where you can find Christian, Buddhist, agnostic, Hindu, Jewish, atheist or Shinto members. Here is a church where you could show up in a T-shirt with the word “SKEPTIC” printed large on it and no one would challenge you.

Even Pastafarians would be welcome, that is, those who belong to the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I would have stayed so much longer in all that all-embracing company, but the event took just a couple of hours and ended with a book signing session. I couldn’t help myself and also shook hands with Dr. Dawkins, behaving thus like the idol-worshipping fetishist that I am.

Dawkings and I