Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fighting Against Reason: A Conversation with a Christian

The following correspondence took place from February 25th to March 2nd, 2011.  A man stopped me outside of a gas station and gave me his business card so that I could "reach out" day or night, as I wasn't a Christian and he was.  Nothing has been changed, save for the color of the text, omission of his name, and some positioning of my responses to make them clearer and easier to read.  His writing will appear in black and mine in blue.  Enjoy.

*EDIT - Apologies for the bottom half being so jumbled.  Blogspot is being a cunt and refusing to let me double space between paragraphs, etc.  Dunno what the problem is, but I've tried to fix it repeatedly and gotten nothing.  I trust this won't hinder your reading experience too much.

February 25th

Mr. X:

You gave me your card this morning. I think I know why, but I'd just like some clarification. Thanks, and have a great weekend.




Thanks for reaching out brother. I first noticed your plates when I was heading to work this morning and actually pulled up along side you to see what kind of hard-ass was driving a car with the plates nogod1. I told myself that if you changed lanes and pulled in behind me at QT, I had to say something to you. I couldn't get up the nerve inside as you and your buddy were pretty intimidating. With you guys about to pull out all I could do was give you my card hoping you would at least give me a chance to reach out to you. 

So, thanks for the opportunity.

Please know that I am not judging you in any way, and I'm here to help. I just have one simple question:

If there is even the slightest possibility that you might be wrong about God, would you want to know about it?

Write me anytime day or night. I'm here.


That's funny. My friend and I are both active duty Navy. We don't try and come off as intimidating, but our lifestyles are the same and after almost a decade in the service, it's hard not to look rough. My plate is a passive aggressive response to all the folks that like to say, "There are no atheists in foxholes." There are. We make up about 23% of the military. That's why I put that tag # on an "Enduring Freedom Veteran" plate. I'm a huge supporter of the First Amendment and I'm (naively, because that's not what this war is about) glad to be fighting to support it.

In regards to your question - yes. But I'm not going to hold my breath, and I'm certainly not going to do the whole Pascal's Wager business. Life is too short for all of that. If I ever see any evidence for a deity, I'll change my tune. I've yet to find any.


February 26th

Thank you for serving. I have such reverence for you guys that put it all on the line for our country and our way of life. Though I have never served myself, I can imagine that you have seen some sh*t that would make you question, or in your case, haven't seen sh*t that could convince you. What's your religious background? Ever gone to church or read the Bible?


You're quite welcome. No need to thank me, though - it's just what I do for a living. I'm really modest about my service. I appreciate the thanks, but I always think about the Vietnam vets that didn't choose to join and were hated for what they did. Most of them are forgotten now. Those are the guys that deserve the thanks. I was just a poor kid who loved his country and needed a job after high school.

I grew up in church. I was raised Christian and was very serious about it for a long time. I've read the Bible many times, and I still continue to read it on an almost daily basis. The more I read it, the more I'm not convinced. The time I've spent in the military hasn't had much, if any, to do with my thoughts on God.


February 27th

Wow interesting. I'm surprised to hear that do spend time in the Bible. Good for you for continuing to search. I'll tell you that my search never stops as well, though I'm coming from the other side, constantly reconfirming my belief that God exists, though I have not always been as sure.    

Not that this is your stance, but I also grew up Christian, and had a time in my early twenties where I thought I was too smart to be a one. I looked at people that depended on God as weak, and felt like I could will myself to do anything I wanted. All I had to do was work hard. I didn't need help from anyone especially God. I thought the Bible was just a book teaching people to do right instead of wrong, controlling the masses, and so on...

What I wish I had learned earlier is that living life according to what the Bible teaches, is not a burden. It is the only way to live a truly meaningful and worth while life. To me, God is like the sun. You can't look at it, but without it, you can't look at anything else. I need not look any anywhere but up at the night sky, or at a beautiful sunset, or at my own body to know that God exists. To say that it is all happenstance, would be like a warehouse in Switzerland exploding and creating the first Rolex... And to take it an inappropriate step further, that Rolex could have sex with other Rolex's and produce baby Rolexes... :)

The laws of physics tell me that when I burn the Bible, it will turn to ash. But what the laws of physics don't tell me, is why i would feel wrong doing it.
Please know that I enjoy these discussions, and I encourage you to keep writing back.
I would also encourage you to do the following: 

Before the next time that you go to bed, get down on your knees, and sincerely, humbly pray to God as if he is in the room with you, and as if you believe He exists. Ask Him to reveal himself to you. Tell Him that you are struggling with unbelief, and need for Him to touch you or speak to you, whether it be in a dream or through someone else. And then wait. If God feels you reach for Him, He will reach right back. He will answer you on His time though, when the time is most right for you. And if he doesn't exist, then you only wasted about 1 minute of your time. You have nothing to loose. Please do this. For 1 minute just assume that you have a direct line to the creator of the universe. I'll let him know to expect your call.


I'm not continuing any search by reading the Bible.  I find that being knowledgeable about a book that people want to tell me I should live my life by is the smart thing to do.  I don't buy a word of it.  It's not historically accurate, and it's filled with inconsistencies and atrocities that even a five year old can spot.  Using the Bible to prove God's existence is like using a comic book to prove the existence of Superman.
Very nicely done with the CS Lewis paraphrasing.  He's my favorite Christian apologist.  As for your Rolex comparison, that's a very common apologist argument.  Next, you'll be telling me about the wonders of the eye, etc.  This watch maker argument has been debunked long ago.   Anyone with even a basic knowledge of evolution and biology knows that it doesn't work the way you described with the factory and such.

It seems that along with not paying attention in science class, you haven't been paying attention to the Bible either.  I'm guessing that you're a young earther, so I'll let you confirm or deny that before I press on.  Concerning the prayer suggestion, I'm going to decline.  I had MORE faith than a mustard seed for a very long time and not one prayer has ever been answered.  Maybe I've never really been a True Believer and that's why the prayers weren't answered, but I find it hard to believe that there isn't one out there that hasn't prayed for something completely selfless and actually had it granted.


February 28th

I would have to respectfully disagree with the claim that the Bible is filled with inconsistencies and historical inaccuracies.  And as far as my theory on Earth, I believe that just as God created Adam with age (he wasn't an infant), he could also created the universe with age.  For instance, if He created the Heavens and Earth, day and night, in order to see stars in the sky, He would have to create the universe to be billions of years old, giving light the time to travel from the most distant galaxies.  If he created Adam as a grown man, I don't have a problem believing that he created a grown universe too.    
I would be interested to know your theory on how we got here.  Unless it just the big bang + evolution = now theory, as I was taught that in school.  However, I don't have a problem accepting this as part of God's creation either.  Just as I can start a story in medias res, God could create the universe/earth/life in the same way.  In my opinion these two theories do not have to be mutually exclusive.  Your thoughts...    

Also, in my experience, I find it extremely hard to find something, unless I search for it...


I have a few questions for you before I respond:
1) Why create a "grown" universe?
2) Doesn't God exist outside of time?  Not to mention that the light from the stars still had to travel for those billions of years to reach us.  So your "universe that is grown" theory still doesn't pan out.
3) Where is the evidence for God?
I ask the third question because there isn't any.  And yes, the Bible is chock full of inconsistencies and historical inaccuracies.  I don't have time to write you a novel with all of them, but I would like to point out a few things that have always troubled me about the Good Book.
-The Bible suggests a flat earth in almost two dozen places.  I can send you the specific verses if you like, but I'm on a tight schedule this afternoon.  My favorite flat earth verse is in Job when it talks about God becoming angry and lifting the earth off of its pillars and shaking it. 
-Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus contain some of the most hideous tales and commandments in all of literature.  In fact, most of the Old Testament is ripe with things that disgust me.  God orders (sometimes himself, other times through his "prophets") genocide, rape, and abuse.  Hosea 13:16 comes to mind, as well as when Moses ordered all of the Midianites to be slaughtered, women and male children included.  But that wasn't the worst part.  All women who hadn't yet "known" a man were to be kept by the Israelites "for themselves".  And don't forget about how you're supposed to kill your children if they curse you.  Also, I'm afraid that you did the wrong thing by reaching out to me - you're supposed to stone me to death.  That one's in Deuteronomy.  Jesus also makes mention of a similar punishment in the Gospel of Luke.  Before you discount the Old Testament as being erased by the New Covenant, I'd like to refer you to Matthew 5:18.
-Predestiny is rampant throughout the Bible as well.  Ephesians 1:4-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:11-13, Romans 9:11-22, Acts 13:48, and 2 Timothy 1:9 all claim that God already wrote everything before it happened, and there's nothing we can do to change it.  So, in effect, God made me an atheist and like the cute little bumper sticker says, "Who are you to question his judgment?"
-Slavery is completely cool with God and is never once regarded as a bad thing throughout both testaments.
-Jesus said that all of the events he spoke of on the Sermon on the Mount would come to pass before anyone alive at the time had died.  Well, that was 2000 years ago, give or take a few, and he's still not back yet.
-The anti-semitic nonsense in the Passion Narrative and in Revelation makes hatred for Jews seem reasonable.  After all, they killed the son of God.  The line in Revelation takes the cake though: "I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." ~Revelation 2:9
-There is no evidence of a global flood.  On top of that, how on God's green earth (pardon the expression) did Noah manage to fit 12 million species of animal on a 450 foot long boat?  I was on an aircraft carrier four times the size of the Ark, and we had trouble fitting 5,000 people on it comfortably.
I have a million more if you'd like, but I'm pretty positive none of this will slow you down in trying to rationalize all of this stuff.  I'm gonna go hang out with my daughter who, by the way, is only worth three shekels if I decide to sell her.  You have a nice Monday evening.
March 1st
Lookout!  I had to duck before that email!  You are obviously just as convinced as I, only in the opposite direction.  Here are my thoughts.  They may or may not work for you.
Duck, or close your eyes?  I'd like to keep this thing going, mostly because it amuses me, but remember that it was you who approached me.
1. I can only speculate when it comes to "why and God," as I was not there, nor do I claim to have the cognitive capacity, but maybe the laws He set in motion (gravity, etc) require a grown universe?  For instance, your example of the time required for light to travel across the universe.  If it takes billions of light-years for light to travel across the universe, then it would have to be at least that old, in order to see stars in the sky.  I don't see why this is a contradiction.  In addition, there had to be vegetation for Adam and Eve to eat as well, so the Earth had to be created with age too, in order for the laws of physics and biology to remain constant. 
Why would the laws of physics have parameters that God had to meet if he was the one who created them?  You're talking in circles here.  Not to mention that he created vegetation before he created the sun.  Plants need the sun to survive, so I don't know how that was supposed to work out.  And the fact that God would go to all these elaborate measures to create things "with age" to make sure that we would be convinced of physics and biology being constant is laughable. He's God!  He can do whatever he wants.  This argument is doubly absurd, seeing as how Adam and Eve were simpletons until they were duped BY A TALKING SNAKE into eating from the Tree of Knowledge.  And oh, boy - here's another thing that gets me....
So, Adam and Eve had no knowledge of good and evil.  God didn't give them the ability to reason, yet he ordered them not to eat from the tree.  He tells them that they will die if they eat the fruit.  So, they eat from the tree and they're fine.  Magically, they have the ability to reason and know right from wrong.  They are then punished for disobeying God.  They didn't know any better, but they got punished.  How does this make any sense at all?  Especially from a "just" God?  And why didn't they die like he said they would?  I know you're going to say that they died eventually and they were banished from Eden etc. etc. etc., but if you read it in context, God made it sound like one bite of the fruit would instantaneously kill them.  Not only that, but Satan was honest with them about it.  The whole thing is laughable.  Especially considering modern science and evolution.
2. I do believe God does exist outside of time, which makes it even less of a leap for me that he could create something with age.  A human (who exist in time) cannot create age or time.  Age is a function of time.  Time would have to be governed in a higher dimension.  Since we live in a 3-D world with time being the 4th dimension, we would have to be able to conceive in 5-D to understand our path with respect to time, which we cannot, or I cannot.  Therefore God would have to exist outside time in order to create it.  I don't keep up with the latest, but I believe String Theory states that there are actually 10 or 11 dimensions...
7 days.  That's what the Bible says.  7 days.  Days and years in the Bible lasted just as long as they last now.  God created the earth in 7 days.  And why create the entire universe and not just our planet?  Why go to the trouble?  And why, did God have to rest on the 7th day?  Does an all-powerful being really need to rest?  Man's ego is the reason for the Bible promoting anthropocentrism and being dead wrong about all of it.  Again, remember that it says the world is flat and stands on pillars.  Getting back to days and years though, I also laugh every time I see the Bible mention people living to be 900 years old.  Forget 12 million species of animal on the ark, the fact that the Bible claims that Noah was 600 years old when he built it is just ridiculous.
*Bringing M theory into this is irrelevant, since it has no need for God in its hypothesis.
3. I don't think there is anything I can tell or show you that will prove the existence of God or prove that the Bible is His Word.  What is proof enough for me, may not be good enough for you.  I do believe that our universe, surroundings, and bodies are proof enough.  Whether that works for you or someone else is a different story.  It may not be enough to convince you, but it is unfortunately enough to condemn you (Romans 1:20). 
So, you're reaffirming the Bible and saying that God is as petty as humans are?  That if I don't accept his unconditional love, I'm condemned to an eternity of pain and torture?  The Bible also says that only 144,000 souls will enter the kingdom.  12,000 from each of the 12 Tribes of Israel.
The Bible may have some apparent contradictions, but I believe they are all reconcilable, and aren't anything new to Christians.  I think critics care more about these than we do.  Though I do believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, it was written by real men, in the context of the history they lived, and I don't think that any of the authors were writers before they were commissioned by God. 
A divinely inspired text should transcend time and its context should fit any part of history that it exists in.  Inerrancy is a joke.  If it was inerrant and perfect, there would be no contradictions. 
In regards to predestiny, this is a very complex issue.  One that many people struggle with.  I like to look at it like this: Say your daughter's favorite food is pizza.  If you ask her, "Sweetheart, what do you want to eat for dinner, pizza or hamburgers?"  Because you know her so well, you know before you even ask the question, she is going to choose pizza, but does that mean you predestined it? 
That's not the same thing.  A majority of the world hasn't and isn't being given a choice.  What happens to people who never hear the Gospels?  There are billions, past and present that haven't and never will.  Do they get sent to hell for not giving their lives to Christ when they never had an opportunity?  You apologists are excellent in your ability to deflect and throw up straw men.  Circular reasoning won't work with me at all. 
I see you struggle with many things in the Bible, but I didn't see anything on the life of Jesus.  What are your thoughts there?  When was it that you began to change you mind about Christianity. 
There is no secular historical evidence of the life and death of Jesus.  Don't even try to bring up Josephus, because he's not a credible source.  And even then, just one?  One source?  The Romans kept incredible records of EVERYTHING and not one shred of anything on Jesus.  Not one.  
I was raised in Christianity, so, much like Santa Claus, I thought it was the real deal.  All I had to do was read the Bible and actually pay attention and boom - I couldn't rationally accept something so irrational.  I was 12 when I first had doubts and I fought hard for the next ten years or so.  I fought so hard, but unlike most people, I couldn't succumb to willful ignorance.
March 2nd
I'll start numbering so we can reply easier.
1. There are many folks who lived in the 1st century to which there is no physical evidence of them either.  People still existed even though there is no secular historical evidence of them 2,000 years later.  Proof from Silence?
2. I must say, I did not expect this when I approached you the other day.  From my perspective, I just can't understand how someone with such Bible knowledge and recall would take the stance you do.  Just as you cannot understand my stance of "rationalization" as you call it.  When I read the Bible, it speaks to me, it helps me, it comforts me, in a way that is hard to describe to someone who feels the complete opposite.  Do you ever have doubts on your stance?  Surely you do?  When wagering eternity, it would seem likely... with no conclusive evidence to suggest God doesn't exist... please be honest.
3. Here's a wild thought I had last night while praying for you.  As you are well versed in the Bible, I'm sure you are aware of what it predicts about the end of days.  I believe the Bible hints at a Pre-Trib Rapture whereas all the believers will be caught up before the final 7 years of judgment.  I'm sure you do not believe in this, but what if it happens?  You could be our guy on the inside.  With your knowledge of the scriptures, you will be well aware as to what has happened, and be able to spread the word and save many people during the tribulation.  You can think it's stupid now, but when the time comes you can be on the front lines again.  This time for Christianity.  Maybe being an atheist right now is your calling, to be bypassed by the rapture, so you can enter into the tribulation and save many folks.  As you are brave enough to die for your country, I know you will be brave enough to die for your dormant faith.  Your thoughts on this possibility? 
1) Again, that's a straw man.  You're comparing apples and oranges.  The folks you mentioned don't have almost two billion people ready to die for them all these years later.
2) Why didn't you expect this?  Doesn't it make sense to research something before you discount it?  That being said, you should think about why you don't believe in the Norse gods, Greco-Roman gods, Hindu gods, or why Christianity is superior to the other Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism).  
I'm glad that it comforts you and helps the prospect of non-existence not so rough, but what works for you doesn't work for other people.  I'm all about freedom of religion, so long as it doesn't encroach upon others.  That's where we differ.  You feel the need to push your beliefs on people.  I don't blame you, that's what you're taught, but it's very inconsiderate to run around being judgmental and have that false air of superiority about you. 
No, I don't have doubts on my stance.  Do you have doubts on whether or not leprechauns exist?  How about invisible pink unicorns?  It's a non-belief, plain and simple.  I haven't had to research a unicorn doctrine to solidify my disbelief because it's a non-issue.  No one is trying to get me to join a unicorn church, or give my life to Pete's Dragon.  God is an unfalsifiable hypothesis.  There's no way to prove or disprove his existence, BUT - The Bible gives us something to test, which in turn disproves the Christian god.  If it was truth, it would be called FACT and not a belief.  It was Mark Twain that said, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so."  
I'm not wagering eternity with this.  There is no possible way that I will maintain consciousness after my body dies.  I will just cease to exist, the same as every living thing eventually will.  The matter that makes up my body will be recycled and go back into the earth, and when the earth is gone, we (atoms) will eventually find our home in some other celestial body, be it a planet or a star.  We're all made of stars, Xxxx.  That's the beauty of the universe.  The atoms that bind together to make you, the Carbon in your body, they're all byproducts of a supernova billions of years ago.  Death is easy; it's life that's hard.
3) This is the most idiotic thing I've ever heard.  If you said something like this in a non-religious context, you'd surely be committed - and I mean institutionalized, not dedicated.  There will be no rapture of any sort in our lifetimes, or anyone's lifetime for that matter.  It's all a farce.  Nothing is going to happen on May 21st, or December 21st, 2012, or any other date.  Nothing.  People have been ranting about the "End Times" for forever and here we are, drinking coffee and emailing each other back and forth about Bronze Age mythology that should have been dismissed as foolery generations ago.  
--I'm going to end our correspondence now.  I answered everything you've asked, and I've addressed every point you've made.  You, on the other hand, have not given me the same courtesy.  You skirt around everything (as all apologists do), and ignore the hard questions and points that I've presented.  You've thrown up straw men and circularly reasoned yourself into a tornado of delusion that has wiped away any credibility you had when we first met. Before I go, I'll leave you with this:
Think about why you don't believe in Islam, Judaism, or any other faith?  Why is it so easy to dismiss them and not yours?  Not believing in a god doesn't detract from your life, it adds to it.  It frees you to live life to the fullest.  I'm not talking about amorality, I'm talking about productivity.  This is it.  Our one shot.  Don't waste it on superstition.  Also, as you mentioned, you've never been in the military.  I have.  I still am.  I've fought in two wars to preserve the freedom of and from religion here in this country.  Most people could be so lucky.  I'm thankful I wasn't born in a place like Iran where people like me are executed for blasphemy.  Whereas I respect your right to believe, you need to respect other people's right to not believe.  
I sincerely hope you give the things I've said some thought.  It's been fun.
Agreed.  It's been fun.  Take care and maybe our atoms will meet again someday.  Thanks again for serving our country.