Scripturosity is my vehicle for sharing the beautiful compatibility of world discovery and experience with the ancient record preserved in the Bible (reference “About” tab). My wife has used her savvy in the communication medium of Facebook to serve up my articles to her growing community of “friends” as well as various “pages” whose name suggests a potential interest in or objection to my newly published topic. From time to time, a “comment” dialogue will be generated from an article that is so profound that it is worth reviving for the benefit of the readers. Such is the case now.
After promoting my recent article, “Evidence of God,” to her friends and usual list of pages-with-a-cause, Sheila decided to post it on a couple of pages identified as atheistic. A remarkable dialogue erupted that aptly represents the shameful information deficit left by our esteemed institutions of learning and worship.
The first to respond was Brandon. Brandon is what I would regard as a true seeker – a seeker that is the product of respected, academic influences and a painfully anemic church. As you will see from his testimony, he was drawn away from the church and converted to atheism.
Brandon – “The problem with the arguments being made by people like the good pastor (he assumed that I was a member of the clergy) in the article is that they rely heavily on scripture from the bible to underline their premise. That presents a problem because the bible is the claim of god (sic), not the evidence of god. In other words, the pastor’s argument presumes the existence of an entity that has not been proven to exist at all. The argument is based on faith and personal incredulity, not any type of evidence that can be observed, tested, and verified by anyone that wishes to see such evidence.
The pastor makes reference to other works as well, but those works are also heavily faith-based and presume an existence that hasn’t been proven to exist in reality. It would be a good argument if it didn’t rely so heavily on disputed claims and presumptions.
I was a devout Christian for over 20 years. You will find that most people that are atheist have similar stories to mine. Many of us grew up with the church, worshipped God, followed the teachings of Jesus, and lived our lives in service to him (sic). I was that way for a long time. There was a time when anyone that had the audacity to question the existence of God was considered a ‘malignant fool’ by me, because nothing could be possible without God.
But, then I began looking at the world around me and all over and questions started sneaking into my head. I looked to the bible for answers, but mostly what I found was either obsolete or extremely vague. So, I started asking my pastor and other pastors and various other people of the cloth my questions. And the answers I received were either also vague or left me more confused than I was before I asked the questions. So, I decided to do research myself.
The more I researched my questions, the more doubt crept into my mind. I went, in a matter of weeks, from being rock solid in my faith, to incredibly shaky in my faith. With continued research and reflection, I came to the realization that god wasn’t an actual entity, but a manifestation of something that had been drilled into me from the time I was born. I realized that god didn’t create man; man created God. Man created God to be a catchall for explanations that weren’t understood at the time. God didn’t center around eternal life, but mortal death.
It’s all an illusion. It’s all a fairy tale. It’s complete and total fiction. And I bought it hook, line, and sinker for years. Christianity is just as big of a hoax as every other religion.
That being said, if I were asked if I thought there could be some powerful entity somewhere that could possess qualities that humans would consider “god-like,” I would have to say, I don’t know. I think it’s likely there are other species in the universe and some of them may be more advanced than us, I don’t know. But, I do not believe that the Christian God exists, the Muslim God exists, the Jewish God exists, or any other man-made construction of religion has merit to propose the existence of any God of scripture from a position of faith.”
The next contributor was Kyle. Kyle was converted to Christianity from a churchless upbringing. The following is his response and testimony to Brandon.
Kyle – “Brandon, I respect your experience. I think what is a shame is when there are people of faith who criticize those who don’t have faith in what they believe. That, to me, is the biggest crime or falling-out of our generation. You and I have had two different experiences on this soil. You mentioned that you were brought up in the church and were brainwashed. I didn’t go to a church service until I was 19 years old. I didn’t meet God in church. I actually met him (sic) or had my first interaction with God right after my 6th brain surgery in my early teens. I understand that it’s hard to believe what I am saying is true since it was my experience and from my view. If anyone has reason to second-guess the existence of God, I think I would be one of those people.
I have witnessed so many make statements like, ‘If God exists, why does he allow bad things to happen to good people?’ I was one of those good people that bad things were happening to. I even grew bitter for a time. I didn’t understand why God would allow such suffering to come to me like he did. I can tell you that I fully understand your statement about being shaky in your faith. I questioned a lot of things much like Job did. In fact, I often feel like Job from the old testament (sic). Now, as far as my experience, I felt God was pursuing me through my trials. He was using my challenges to gain my attention. For me, it wasn’t the afterlife; it was more about this life. The future I had wanted couldn’t be accomplished now. My plans were changing and I never asked them to change. If he really cared, he would have kept me from going through what I was going through (15 brain surgeries in 3 years and subsequent PTSD).
The only reason, when the storms of life hit me, I was able to stand and not fall away or give up was because of the engagement I had with Jesus, the Christ – “this Christian God.”
But, let me tell you something that I do respect about you. Many people are so determined to make you see things their way; they don’t care about their approach. So, my hat is off to you. Thank you for sharing your story and I wish you the best, my friend.”
When Sheila told me that there was some chatter on one of the atheist, Facebook pages in response to my article, I asked her to copy and email the dialogue to me (I don’t have a Fb page). After reading in amazement, I sent her a response to post back. The following is that reply and the subsequent volley.
Marc @ Scripturosity – “Kyle and Brandon, this is the kind of civility that is often lacking in the debate of worldviews. I want to commend both of you for an intellectual and productive exchange of ideas and experience.
Brandon, keep in mind that Scripturosity makes no apologies for its philosophical axiom (hence the name). You may also be interested to know that I am not a pastor, but an executive at an oil and gas exploration company. We have to rely heavily on science, particularly geology, in our various exploration and production endeavors. Approaching the evidence from an historical perspective that aligns with the ancient narrative of Genesis has no effect on our observational conclusions or practical successes. There is no intellectual deficit or practical disadvantage to a biblical worldview.
Sure, I am a man of faith. But so are you. Predisposition biases both of us. If you take my article to the conclusion, you will see my explanation of this claim (see Scripturosity article “Evidence of God”).
Your testimony is quite profound, but not uncommon. The difficulty that many good people have reconciling the world around us with the preserved Revelation is primarily because of a misinterpretation of the early chapters of Genesis. Because of your background, let me challenge you re-evaluate your worldview in light of an historical Genesis rather than the allegorical designation often assigned to its detail of early earth events. Take some time to read my 5 part article series entitled “Where Did the Billions of Years Come From” (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
My only point is there may be another way to look at this thing and it just happens to reconcile beautifully with purpose and redemption.
Kyle, your journey has been remarkable. I appreciate your candor regarding thoughts of innocent suffering and a good God. I have a 3 part article series in Scripturosity entitled “Innocent Suffering and a Loving God.” Let me encourage you to check it out and feel free to share with me your thoughts in the blog comments (Part 1, 2, 3).”
Brandon – “Marc, I read your article on the “billions of years.” Let me say that I respect your position and that your article is well written and certainly thought provoking to be sure. Thank you for showing it to me.
I still remain unconvinced. However, I will give your position additional consideration, particularly as it pertains to Genesis as I find that aspect of your premise fascinating. I have not considered Genesis from that perspective and in the course of due diligence, I should attempt to understand where you are coming from instead of just dismissing your position out of hand.
I shall give you another opinion soon.”
Marc – “Thanks Brandon. I admire your spirit of honest inquiry.
Kyle – “Brandon, in regards to seeing things through your point of view (even though I haven’t walked in your shoes), I have been on the other side or on the side of believing, at one point, some things that I can no longer validate to be true. Again, my experience and research led me to change my point of view and adopt faith in my life. I, like Marc, am a logical thinker. So, that is why I have respect for others who use logic.”
At this point another atheist entered the conversation. But unlike Brandon, Josh was an unreserved scoffer.
Josh – “Kyle, I’d like to ask what non-ad hawk (sic) logic do you use to believe in god. It’s simple. If you erased your memory (and this is impossible) to try on the world with a blank, logical approach, without any argument, you would more likely be an atheist. Unless you can somehow say logically how you can come to the conclusion of god, I find it hard to believe that you are being logical. Marc, why are people allowed to have different interpretations of the bible? Why would god make people who have the freewill to interpret the bible as they deem fitting? It’s an illusion because of preference.”
Kyle – “Josh, you have no idea what you say. It appears to me that you are more interested in arguing than you are in a real debate where two people come together to share their opinions and show mutual respect. As for memory (after 18 brain surgeries), in some aspects of my working memory or short-term memory, it is a blank slate for me each day. Josh, you are young and engaged and for that I commend you. However, if you are really seeking the truth, do it with respect for others.”
Marc – “Josh, interestingly, you accuse Kyle of ad hoc logic and then make an ad hoc claim yourself regarding the worldview tendency of a blank cultural and moral slate. In fact, I make the point in the Scripturosity article that kicked off this discussion (“Evidence of God”), that there is a “candle” inherent to humanity that gives everyone a nudge toward the Divine. One must suppress or snuff this light to peacefully coexist with a conscience apart from God. The proof is there. Only you can settle this with yourself. If you are satisfied, in the quiet of your pillow-pondering, that your intellect has honestly and adequately reconciled with your conscience, then stay on your present path. But if the spark still flickers, seek on.
Concerning your observation of biblical interpretation, sadly there is a lot of truth to that. Some seekers approach Scripture for the purpose of rationalizing a philosophical or practical predisposition. We should all leave our biases at the binding. Just as science is dependent on sound methodological principle, so is literary interpretation based on a sound hermeneutic.”
I know this piece was longer than is recommended for the blogosphere, but I thought it was important to demonstrate the real-world importance of coming to grips with an historical Genesis (see Scripturosity article series “An Historical Genesis – Why Does It Matter” Parts 1, 2, 3). Brandon promised to reconsider the faith of his youth because of it; Kyle can assign context to his suffering from it; and with it Josh can be reasonably challenged that he may have settled too quickly.