Monday, March 05, 2007

A Conversation with an Atheist

The following is a mock converstation between an atheist and a christian.

A. How can you believe the bible? It's written by a bunch of people, many who didn't ever see what happened.

C. Have you ever read the bible?

A. Yes... I read a few chapters here and there.

C. How do you justify not believing it?

A. It is logically impossible. The things it says happen... I like to think of myself as an intelligent person. I mean, it's okay if you want to believe it, but I think it's an offense to reason to argue that "God" created everything in six days "poof" and here we are... plus science gives reasonable evidence for evolution.. all the bones found, and carbon dated have told us the hard cold facts.

C. You suggest it to be logically impossible... do you have infinite knowledge of our universe?

A. No.

C. Then how can you logically argue or prove the impossibility of that which you do not know?

A. In science we use reason and empirical data to arrive at the conclusions of life.

C. That's fair, but reason and empirical data measures the physicality of life, not the essence of it. If you have a family, a mother, father, and two children, and one of the children dies in a car accident, the data reassures the family that 4-1 is still 3. But that is not sufficient to describe the true emotion and nature of the loss.

A. So, are you suggesting that life is based on feeling?

C. No, I'm suggesting life is based in and around relationship, and the Lord I serve created us to join in a beautiful relationship with him. We broke that relationship by sin, and He came in the form of man to repair that which was broken.

A. I still don't understand how you can believe in "God" when he hasn't made himself known to man; he hasn't poked his head through the clouds... if He is real, why doesn't he just show himself?

C. That's what I was alluding to early, God's nature is to reveal himself to us... but because he created us, he knows our responses better than we do. God did more than poke his head through the clouds; he was born into the world that we might know him. He lived among us, and taught us his precepts. He is embodied by logos (greek), the spoken word, that became flesh and dwelt among us. If we cannot believe this, then we will not believe, even if he poked his "head" through the clouds.

A. Okay... whatever. I still don't see how a loving, kind God, could allow a world like this to exist. Look at all the evil in the world.... what is the evidence for God's existance?

C. It is not by reason alone that we can come to understand what God allows to happen. If we could understand that, then we would be God ourselves and have no need for him. The evidence for him is clearly seen in the miracle of creation, in our ability to think, our desire to create order, to live in a coherent universe. Science points to God, in the intricacies of snowflakes, and by the laws by which the universe opperates. The world, however, is not now how it was when God created it. Sin has entered, and all of creation groans with the weight of it. So the evil is the result of the broken relationship, the result of a rejection of the good.
God is allowing all of this for a season, that all who respond to his nearness can enter in to the joy of the Lord. It is by his mercy that he tarries.

A. Okay, you said it's not by reason alone?? What

C. Yes, faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. It is rationally believing that there is Someone in who all reason lies, and in whom Reason itself originates. It is the desire to know this One, and recognition that He is worthy to be praised. It is the ability to say that my reason is not infinite, not self-sufficient, but I know that there is a Reason beyond my reason, that can explain all that is, and can make all things new. Faith is taking my reason and using it to determine that there must be a greater Reason than that which I can determine. He tells us: lean not unto your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him... he will make our paths straight. He will take the confusion and disillusionment and bring a clarity beyond what we ever could have imagined it to be. The knowledge of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

A. Well, you've said a lot. I agree that there is a need to recognize that we cannot understand everything... but that does not mean you should be justified in making up a God, to explain everything. You're parents were christians, that's why you are.

C. What did your parents believe?

A. They didn't believe in "God" if that's what you mean... I don't know what they believe.

C. Is that why you don't believe in God?

A. No. I've had the education to know that God doesn't exist.

C. Okay... well, yes my parents are Christians. And for a long time I was a "christian" because they were. I didn't understand what it meant. Now, I've had the education, through reading God's word, to know that He is real. We cannot logically conclude that because a truth has been passed down, that it is merely tradition. Science, Math, Language are all real things that have been shared. If something is true, you want to share it with your children. That does not make it any less true.

A. Point taken, but you are still lacking in evidence.

C. Do you know everything?

A. We have been over And neither do you.

C. Correct. Can we, for arguments sake, assume that you know half of everything.

A. I guess...?

C. Is it possible that God exists in the half that you don't know?

(to be continued)


richrock said...

Interesting post, and you do cover most of the objections that many atheists come up with, but for one thing : many of them I know have read the Bible through and can even recall more of it than me! (Not that I have an impressive memory). Don't let this put you down, as this post gave me some serious food for thought & application when meeting my atheist friends! Check my blog (just restarted) at SingleManOfFaith

Lui said...

This caricature is impossible to digest:

"C. Correct. Can we, for arguments sake, assume that you know half of everything."

"A. I guess...?"

Actually, knowing half of everything is far too optimistic for ANYONE, be they atheists or Christians. And just because we don't know everything doesn't mean that "therefore" your claims about God are any closer to being true. You might be right and you might not be, but to determine whether that is at all LIKELY, you have to present actual evidence instead of resorting to special pleading. Religious claims only tell us about what people WANT to believe in; they give us no reasons to actually take them seriously as positive suppositions about the universe. And of course, there is no reason why YOUR god should be the one to worship over other gods, like Allah. The people who subscribe to them believe them no less surely than you do yours. They also have "religious experiences", where they "feel" their god's "presence". Why shouldn't those experiences be placed on an equal footing with communions with Jesus?

All throughout, you presuppose the existence of the very things you're trying to demonstrate, making EXACTLY the same appeals to emotion as people of other faiths. In this regard, there is literally nothing to distinguish between Christianity and Islam. Both claim absolute certainty; both demand respect and reverence, both of them preclude understanding of anything else, and neither of them have to be subjected to scrutiny in order for the gullible and credulous to believe them. Religion is fear, incredulity, and more fear, and it always will be. It's fear of an unfriendly universe, a lack of knowledge about that universe, and fear of what will happen to us when we are no longer conscious in this universe. It's also selfish, because why should you be worthy of God's love, while a child in Sub-Saharan Africa is hacked to pieces with a machete before even having a conception of God? That child hasn't done anything worthy of such horror. What "gift" has that child squandered? Why should you thank God for anything if you don't also "thank" him for that child's fate?

Curtis said...

Great post. I really like that last two questions. I sometimes think that God exists in the parts that I don't know and I consider myself a Christian.

Frost said...

Good words. Keep it up!

Janet Greene said...

Why don't you have a conversation with a real atheist? I am a former evanglical christian-turned atheist. I probably know the bible far, far better than most christians. This is because I SEARCHED for truth - for years. In fact, it is a continuing journey. When you read the bible with an open mind, you see that the god of the bible is a genocidal, murderous, baby-killing, rape & slavery-condoning psychopath. And if you disagree with that characterization, I can provide quotes. For me, it became impossible to be loving, tolerant, and free without discarding the myths of my youth.