• Polite Conversation With A Christian

    I get a fair amount of e-mails from religious believers warning me that I am headed for Hell, but sometimes I actually get a polite e-mail. That was the case earlier this week.

    The e-mail came about through a larger conversation on social media and in the comments of my most recent HuffPo article. So there is some context missing but I believe the Christian who sent it is well intentioned and willing to have a genuine conversation. In fact, we are having quite an interesting conversation through multiple e-mail exchanges. I am just going to share our first exchange to give you an idea of what this conversation looks like. I am addressing multiple points politely while still being critical. That isn’t always the way to go, but if someone is polite to me, I will respond in that same tone whenever possible.

    Here is the e-mail:

    We know Him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most beautiful book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many letters leading us to perceive clearly the invisible things of God, namely, His eternal power and deity, as the apostle Paul says (Rom 1:20). All these things are sufficient to convict men and leave them without excuse.

    Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word as far as is necessary for us in this life, to His glory and our salvation.

    Couldn’t word it more perfectly than this so I quoted ;)… “(C) While Christ Himself holds perhaps the highest honor as the supreme revelation of God, the bible’s special revelation is unique because it alone gives us the divine plan of salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15).

    Scripture tells us that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead.  Jesus Himself taught that one must hear His words, which today are found in God’s Word, and trust the One Who sent Him in order to receive eternal life and forgiveness of sins (John 5:24).  Thus, while natural revelation was sufficient to leave all men without excuse for their sins, the special revelation of God’s Word gives the necessary gospel of eternal life for the salvation of men.  Sinners cannot come to Christ unless they hear the special revelation of the Word of God.  They cannot hear the Word of God unless we believers take it to them (Romans 10:14-17).  God is not hiding from sinners, and neither should believers.”
    Thanks for conversating with me on this! I don’t get the opportunity near enough 🙂

    I tried to address many issues in a short amount of space… shortish amount of space, anyway. Here is my response:

    Let me try to address some of your points and let you know my concerns. We know the universe exists. But I don’t see any evidence that suggests that it was created by a perfect deity. Our current understanding of Cosmology suggests that the universe was formed from the Big Bang some 13.7 Billion years ago. Long before any people. So I have a hard time believing that the universe was created for our benefit. This is particularly questionable give the size of the universe.

    Second, the Bible is a pretty flawed series of books and it is hard for me to accept that an all-powerful deity had anything whatsoever to do with it. Surely a God could have produced a better book series. We don’t know who wrote the Old Testament or the Gospels. We do know that the New Testament has changed a great deal over time and we don’t have the originals. Morally, the Bible has issues to put it mildly.

    I don’t need salvation and I object to any religion which creates a problem and then claims to have the only solution. It just seems like a con to me. I also object to vicarious redemption for wrong doing. If someone killed your child, do you think the Judge should put the killer in prison or accept the killer’s son’s sacrifice of prison time instead and allow the actual killer to go free? That doesn’t seem like justice to me. Plus, the evidence for a historical Jesus isn’t very good and it is doubtful that even if he did exist that he was crucified at all. The Biblical account talks about zombies walking the streets after the crucifixion. I have a hard time taking that seriously. Jesus turning into a zombie after three days just doesn’t seem realistic either.

    As for eternal life, no thanks. I don’t really want to live forever. That’s a pretty long time and I get bored easily. Plus, how can I be happy knowing that so many people I care about are being tortured for all eternity. I don’t even like when our government tortures people for a few months and eternity is much longer. That’s a God I couldn’t follow let alone worship.

    I’ve read the Bible cover to cover at least twice. I highly recommend doing so. Most religious believers don’t realize just how violent, immoral, and boring it is. So I heard the “special revelation” and I wasn’t convinced. But it does seem odd to me that an all-powerful deity needs the help of believers to communicate. God would know what evidence would convince me of his existence. He could present that evidence directly to me. And he should desire to convince me of his existence. So why am I not convinced? Either God isn’t all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving, or he doesn’t exist.

    Mark Twain once said that he “didn’t know if God existed or not, but that it would be better for his reputation id he didn’t.”

    I understand that you probably haven’t heard these criticisms before, so I would like you to really think about them. Take some time to really examine why you believe what you believe. Even if you stick to your current opinion, self-examination is always a good thing. You seem like a really nice person and I would hate for you to waste your life believing in some ancient superstition instead of living your life. We don’t have an eternity. We only have what we have and it is best to use that time wisely and spend it loving our family and friends instead of imaginary deities.

    In reason,

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    Category: AtheismBibleChristianityReligion


    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.


    1. Back in the 30’s someone said there was no point in saying anything witty and clever because everyone would just attribute it to Dorothy Parker. Now DP is virtually forgotten and everything is attributed to the more enduring Mark Twain. But “I don’t know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn’t” comes from the obscure Jules Renard, who also said,”If you are afraid of being lonely, don’t try to be right.”

      1. We have already exchanged several long back and forth e-mails. All have been polite, but I don’t know if I will post them or not since they are all pretty long and she doesn’t really address any of my comments. But I might post more conversations down the road. What I wanted to show with this email is that we can be polite and still get our points across. When a Christian puts a lot on the table, we have to learn how to address those points tersely. I could probably write long blog posts on each issue that was raised, but you can’t have a conversation like that.

    2. I used to try to be patient and kind with true believers, but eventually I realized they were all delusional and that talking to them was a frustrating waste of time. I decided if I wanted to have an argument I would argue with my refrigerator, which never gave me canned apologetics for replies that I am aware of. Plus, and this is a big one, when I get thirsty I can open the door, reach in and get a nice cold beer. Arguing always makes be thirsty.

      But to get serious, for the last six years I have turned my attention to the problem of bigoted true believers, trying to understand bigotry, how it might be circumvented, and tracing out where bigotry is learned. Bigotry is a habit of mind and all such habits are learned, either haphazardly or deliberately. Because religious bigotry is such a widespread and well known phenomenon, there must be a systemic origin. I suspect the common thread is the religious grooming of children in their Sunday schools and homes. Children form rigid habits of mind at the time they are most vulnerable to mind control techniques. Once a child is convinced it is proper and even noble to believe without evidence, that habit of mind carries over into all their life activities. Including politics as adults, unfortunately for the rest of us. Psychologists discovered children as young as five can form blatantly wrong ideas about themselves and the world and cannot be argued out of these ideas. They will not admit they could possibly be wrong.

      I have an Ex-JW atheist friend who was very much against my international protest against hereditary religion. He fell into the category of people who adamantly support the libertarian idea that parents must have unfettered control over their children. People with this frame of mind, and they seem to be the majority, are willing to accept any harm that befalls children as a price to pay for their noble ideals. You want to raise a Nazi, fine with them. This is the price we must pay to maintain our ideal. I say no. Children should never suffer for someone’s noble ideals. Because, if an ideal is truly noble it will not cause suffering.

      Two positive notes to end on. My ex-JW atheist friend told me this week that he finally gets why religious grooming of children is an abuse and why my project to end hereditary religion is the correct approach. My argument is simple: attack the problem and not the problem symptom. But it took a lot of time to convince my friend and he had already undergone prolonged deconversion steps and declared himself an avowed atheist. Some atheists label such people Uncle Toms.

      Bigotry is actually a natural feature of the human mind and it usually serves a functional purpose. The problem arises when people refuse to see when it is a problem. My observations convince me that many people are totally unaware of all the traps and pitfalls our minds are loaded with.

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