What Would that Carpenter Do?
by Noah Mann-Engel
Have you ever had an argument with a Christian?
Don’t worry! This essay is not about specific opinions held by believers and nonbelievers, but an examination of how believers choose to view and argue matters with the latter. I, unfortunately, have and let me tell you it is not a fun experience. First of all one needs to understand that for the Christian (or Jew, or Muslim, or Hindu or Satanist, etc.) an argument with a nonbeliever is in actuality not an argument at all, but a TEACHING opportunity. Their thought process is as follows; if, a nonbeliever, [you] have the temerity to approach [me] a Christian then you must be seeking the truth of [our] Lord. Why would they want anything else from [me]? This is the first, or, “Jesus be praised a soul to save!” stage.
They have already disregarded and ignored your actually intentions and views before you even share them. They now move on to the “sharing the truth of our Lord” stage where they let you talk for a bit while they stare, smile, and nod pleasantly. This is the second, or, “I am your Christian friend and I listen” stage of the argument. This is where you quote Nietzsche, talk about the logical loopholes in Pascal’s Wager, wield Occam’s Razor like a katana, and just generally use your reasoning skills. You start to feel a little good yourself for holding up so well against this Christian fellow. I mean come one! The guy is even smiling in response to your argument! Little do you know that you are now entering the third stage of the Christian argument process: the “that is nice, but why are you so deluded?” stage.
You see, while he/she was standing there nodding like a hula dancer bobble-head doll, your Christian was actually puzzling over the strange noises you were making about something or another… Why isn’t the nonbeliever shutting up and getting excited about hearing the word of our Lord? Your Christian friend begins his/her argument by praising your intellect.. Example, he/she might try to disarm you with kindness by saying something like this: “Wow! You sure are a smart fellow. I wasn’t quite prepared for THAT (chuckles in a self deprecating way). But (and THIS is where the fun really begins), why don’t you believe in god?” This is where you sit in stunned silence for a moment or two. Did this whack-job really just ask you that? YOU JUST TOLD HIM WHY you didn’t believe, you think to yourself. You politely remind the Christian of this fact, and he/she chuckles again before suddenly entering the fourth stage, the “I would be a hooker/drug addict/homeless person without Christ” stage.
This stage is rather boring, and consists of the Christian telling you how he thinks his belief in a dead carpenter saved him from his raging meth addiction. After relating this riveting story to you the Christian poses a question that he/she thinks will really get you in a bind! He/she asks “So, how would I get over all of these terrible problems if their wasn’t a god? eh, eh, EH?” This is when you smile and say to yourself “oh I’ve got him/her now”. But, sadly, your optimism is grossly misplaced. You begin by saying that all the good things that happened to the Christian could also be explained by personal strength, the help of friends and family, and perseverance. God need not enter the equation at all! Now feeling very good about yourself you unwittingly enter the deadly fifth stage of the Christian’s argument: the “But the Love and the Heart” stage.
It starts when you ask your Christian friend “isn’t it true what I said? You DID get through your troubles by yourself. You only added god because you WANTED him to be involved”. But alas, you have just sprung the trap. Your Christian friend grins and replies with a question of his/her own; “But, what about the Love and the Heart?” You pause. You think that maybe you misheard your Christian friend. So ask them to repeat him/herself. He/she gladly complies. “All I meant was there has to be a god because of the Love, and the HEART! (chuckles)” This is the point where you realized that you just wasted 15 minutes of your precious time. You feign a smile and say “we just have to agree to disagree” and that it was nice talking. Your Christian friend thus enters the sixth and final stage of the argument: the “That’s great! Hey! I have an idea! Why don’t you come down to our church sometime?” stage. The Christian gives you some colorful literature on their church, their beliefs, and of course an anti-abortion pamphlet. The Christian then shakes your hand, and walks away to find his/her next soul to save. You are left feeling a little used, a little amused, and very hungry. You get up, and head over to the vending machine to get a Milky Way bar.
(this essay is based on a real conversation I had with a evangelical Christian in my sophomore year at Northern Illinois University)
(Noah Mann-Engel is a poet and writer from Dekalb Illinois. He is a life long atheist who with aspergers, an autistic spectrum disorder. You can see some of his writing in the upcoming summer editions of Fighting Chance magazine, Love’s Chance magazine, and in the American Scholastic Press Association honored spring 2007 edition of The Prairie Light Review. He is also in the process of writing his first novel.)
AN ATHEIST’S GUIDE TO BECOMING RELIGIOUS
by Troy Conrad
Lately, I’ve had many atheists write to me, asking if now is a good time to become religious again. It seems that the departure of the Bush Administration has awoken the vast majority of the atheist community to the simple fact that theocracy is no longer a threat here or abroad. It is high time to embrace what we once called superstition, dust off that Bible lifted in protest from the Holiday Inn, and delve once more into the church, dear friends.
For some, a conversion or reconversion to reverence seems a daunting task. As freethinkers, we’ve gotten a bit rusty in the worship department. When working out the faith muscle, we must start slowly so it doesn’t get overtaxed. Start out at the Joel Osteen level, before you consider going full Falwell. If you’re one of the 5% still on the fence about taking this sacred surge, ponder the inarguable, massive benefit of taking the faith train to Godville.
Huge time savings. Take into account how much time you spend thinking. Now cut that in half. Now cut that in half, and repeat until you reach zero, because you now have a handy-dandy book that makes your decisions for you. As Ted Haggard said: “We don’t have to have a debate about what we should think about homosexuality. It’s written in the Bible.” Add up the time it would have taken you to mentally debate this, and use it to go golfing. It is estimated that by eliminating thinking by 95%, the average American would save 14 hours per week. Based on the new U.S. minimum wage increase, that translates to $5,278 per American each year. That’s almost enough to purchase a Smart Car.
It should be quite clear that there has never been a better time to stop and smell the rosary. Though there are obstacles ahead for the skeptical mind, here are some simple, tested guidelines to help you go from “infidel” to just plain “fidel” in just a few short weeks.
Make meaning out of small things, so that you can be trusted to make meaning out of large things. Before you can calm your inquisitive mind and embrace the idea of a loving, caring, and jealous God, you’ll need to start with baby steps. Reading tea leaves and taking fortune cookies literally is a good start toward making meaning out of everyday situations. Is a tearful image of God’s only Son right there in your bag of Funyons? Has an outline of the savior shown up on your shower curtain? Did your lawnmower leak lubricant, only to leave a loving image of God’s only Son on the garage floor? Course through all snack foods, pre-made burger patties, tortillas (both corn and flour), breakfast flakes, nut mixes, or hastily topped frozen pizzas. If the image of Christ or Mary appears, remind yourself that it is not simply coincidence.
Re-read The God Delusion with a more critical eye. Maybe Richard Dawkins himself was sent to test your faith. Have you considered that maybe the only reason Dawkins even writes books is because he thinks he’s better than you?
Develop your ability to follow orders. For freethinkers who have not been in the military, you have a problem with obedience to authority. This can be remedied by wearing a rubber band around your wrist. Simply snap it against your flesh each time you become inquisitive. Do this every day for 21 days, and obedience will become your second best friend. The virtue of obedience will also prepare you quite well for the workforce should something open up.
Watch The Flintstones. Seeing humans and dinosaurs co-exist again will help free the mind from any previous knowledge of anthropology, paleontology, or history. Likewise, shows like Two and a Half Men will leave you with no compulsion to watch documentaries and other shows that contain information.
Be stingy with your new virginity. Since virginity is restored when you become a Christian, don’t just go and give it away now. You need to save it for marriage or Senior Prom. Post a pledge to Bristol Palin’s abstinence organization, and join Promise Keepers right away to build a solid, iron-clad moral and ethical foundation. Additionally, the purchase of a Smart Car is a great way to keep from losing your virginity in the backseat this time around.
Invent a new controversy. If it’s possible to revive a formerly settled debate such as creation vs. evolution, surely there are scores of other settled controversies to renew. These new debates will bring more validity to your newfound belief system, and balance out all the science that’s stuck in your head. Next time you hear people arguing about abortion, say something like: “Whoa! This is almost as heated as the ‘prayer vs. single payer health care’ debate!”
Use the “caps lock” on your keyboard. Many atheists are prone to using a lower case “g” when typing the word “God.” This habit, left unchecked, is an embarrassing mistake for the newly anointed. Using the caps lock is a foolproof solution, making it impossible to mess up a phrase such as: “MAY GOD BLESS E. E. CUMMINGS.”
White-out the violent parts of the Bible. Let’s be honest. Any book that condones rape, murder, genocide, and incest can be a real bummer. Just memorize the parts with the word “love” if you want to really make a difference.
Put “under God” back in the Pledge. You may have loudly objected to the addition of those two words added to the Pledge of Allegiance during the McCarthy era. Noble at the time, but you’re a believer now. Besides, why not prepare yourself for a visit to Ireland? They’ve just passed a bold new Anti-blasphemy Law. It would be rude and illegal to omit “under God” when saying the Pledge in the Emerald Isle.
Write down what you would like your City of Gold to look like. You’re going to get one when you die (Revelation 21:18), so sit down and design your city intelligently. Gold is currently near an all-time high, so guess who just picked a great time to be a Christian?
Purchase a firearm. God loves you now, and you’ve taken an oath to “treat your body as a temple.” If someone is loitering near your temple, you better have the stopping power to keep it looking good. A .50 caliber Smith & Wesson will clear out anyone’s temple. Though Christianity is a religion of peace, there’s a nugget of wisdom in the phrase: “Kill ‘em all, and let God sort ‘em out.”
Try a night of gay sex. If you end up liking it, you will meet more people to share your faith with. If you end up disliking it, then your repentance and faith will just get stronger. Either way, God wins.
(Note: Though it’s our responsibility to vote against same-sex marriage, same sex-one-night-hookups are not specifically forbidden by name in the Book of Leviticus.)
It is my hope that these steps to religiosity can help spark a return to the peacefulness of the Middle Ages. I am currently compiling some tips for nonbelievers with a background in Islam, so that they, too, can enjoy the massive benefits of a religious society. So, my fellow former-faithless friends… I am glad that we can all be a part of this new “beginning of faith” together, and I look forward to seeing you all at the Sunday meetups. I’ll be the guy in the Smart Car.
Troy Conrad is a comic, writer, and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He is the creator of The Comedy Jesus Show, which toured internationally, and has just received distribution on DVD. He is featured in the upcoming Paul Provenza book “Satiristas” with Janeane Garafalo, Stephen Colbert, and George Carlin. To see videos from The Comedy Jesus Show, go to www.atheistcomedy.com or subscribe to “comedyjesus” on Youtube.
If you have a twitter account, check us out http://twitter.com/metroatheists.
Someone sent us this link to a forum, on Godlike Productions web page, about the “LIGHT CHANNELS WORLD MOVEMENT.” Its capitalized, so you know they mean business. The informative link begins with the following:
“On 26 FEB 2009 a Mega Event is arranged at Bangalore…
This is a Movement in Conscience. A Movement to make this world a beautiful place to live in Peace and Love. This is a Movement of Light without any sermons, banners or boundaries. Everyone and anyone is invited to join to make this the greatest Movement ever built.”
Not much to complain about here. I don’t see anything wrong with trying to bring about a paradigm shift for peace and love. If your not sure what a “Movement of Light” means, just wait, they do get to that a little later. In the next few lines, though, things start to get a little weird.
“Let us spread this to millions and millions of beautiful people who are waiting for a World Leader to lead the humanity away from wars and conflicts at all levels, away from the darkness in thoughts and emotions to the New Age of Light. This Movement is backed by the World Leader who will appear to all of us at an appropriate time and is now actively working at the Astral plane.”
A world leader? I think that’s the last thing me need. Appointing a supreme ruler generally doesn’t bode well for the masses, at least according to history. Although, not many dictators, emperors, and monarchs had experience on the Astral plane. Perhaps I should put that on my resume. This is starting to sound very…cultish. I get the distinct feeling this mysterious World Leader is a chubby white guy from Oklahoma with no college education and loads of charisma (why is it never a women leading these nutty cults?). I could be wrong though. Perhaps our supreme leader will bring peace on Earth in the near future. However, I doubt it. The only way to ensure world peace for humanity would be to eliminate all of most of our species, either through extermination or artificial selection, or perhaps mandatory lobotomies. But hey, I could be wrong. How do we convince this brilliant astral entity to grace humanity with his/her/its wisdom?
“All that we have to do is to just channel and spread the Light which is above us in a subtler realm daily for seven minutes when we wake up and go to bed.”
Well it sounds easy, but how do channel this magnificent realm?
“Do not worry about any technique. A plain request is enough. The Light will flow through us. The Light has Intelligence, Power and the Future. The Light has everything.”
Well, before I invite this Light to flow through my innards, maybe you could tell me more about it. I mean, what is the Light, anyway?
“Light is the Creative Intelligence behind the Creation. Light is the formless God. Light carries within it Love, Wisdom and Energies. This Light is not the physical light. It is very subtle and pervades the higher subtler realms. It can be accessed by thought, Meditation and by extending our Awareness.”
Ah, so Light=God. Well lets just call it what it is then. Go back and read the quotes, but this time replace Light with God. How does it sound? Sounds like plain old theism to me, mixed with a hint of New Age western gibberish. There is nothing unique or special about the message here. The message is nothing more than “Believe in Light God, it will solve all our problems.” Face it folks, there is no quick and easy answer to world peace.
Well, if I don’t exist, then I hardly see why I should be held accountable for my actions.
I’m sure everyone has heard about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Having heard a thousand times that Atheism preempts one from having any kind of moral or ethical framework. Such a supposition also seems to go hand in hand with the idea that, without God watching over us, we have no reason to be good people.
Well, my heart is heavy for the lives lost in Mumbai. I don’t need any kind of deity or bad consequences to make me empathetic. I care because I’m human.
So, we have never had hate mail before. One article in CNN seemed to be enough to prompt the over dramatic frenzied mob of angry evangelicals. Actually, its not that bad. We didn’t get to much hate mail. In fact, a good deal of it was positive. Here are some excerpts from some of the more entertaing hate mails.
Here’s one from Mary Tilley
In regards to the recent article I just read about your ridiculous billboards. First of all, I’m a Christian and I don’t go around
Ostracizing those who are not so you’re way off base when you state that we as Christians ostrasize anyone who is not.
I have lots of friends who are muslim, jewish and hindu. I respect them and their way of worship and belief. I may not
Believe what they believe but I do respect them…at the very least…they believe in SOMETHING. You are a fool if you do
Not believe in anything because to believe in NOTHING is to believe in SOMETHING! I think most atheists (although
Not all of them), are lacking some kind of attention they didn’t receive as children and are trying to get it through any
Means possible. So really, the opposite it really the truth regarding what you state about atheists being “afraid” to come
Out…as if we’re all going to circle them and pounce them over the head with a bible and crucifix (give me a break okay).
I believe that there are those so called “atheists” who claim they don’t believe in God because they are too afraid to
Admit that there is something greater then themselves. In fact, there are those atheists too that actually DO believe but
Are too afraid to say they believe out of fear of being ostracized by other atheists.
2nd of all, you contradict your way of thinking and your way of belief by saying that you would have to “see to believe”.
I suppose that air your breathing isn’t really air, it’s just a figment of your imagination (or in fact there is no imaginiation, just
A irrational thought or perhaps a bad dream?). No common sense whatsoever.
3rdly, Christians have much more evidence that Christ existed than atheists have that he didn’t. If that weren’t even true,
We’d have something you don’t have…faith which is evidence of the unseen. Look around you and you will see that you were
Made by something bigger than your ego. The fact that you don’t believe doesn’t make it any less of a fact that He exists
And He made you and He IS going to have HIS WAY. You may think you are celebrating the “good life” but deep down inside
Of you and y ou know what I’m talking about…is that nagging question. This isn’t the movies mr. Goreman or whatever your
Name is…it’s reality and you’re in it…living it and God is watching everything you do and we as Christians are not going to
Run into the streets screaming like a bunch of idiots, please mr. goreman put down those billboards. We as Christians don’t need
Billboards to shout out to the rest of the world what we believe in. We are sound in our beliefs. We have HIM, we don’t need
A billboard. But, if that indeed is what it takes for you to feel like you are needed, loved and accepted by the rest of us…have
At it…you’re wasting your time…precious time. Instead, you could be helping the needy in your area by giving that money
Your using for those ridiculous billboards to puff up your already bloated egos, to those who are less fortunate than you.
Oh, but I forgot you’re an atheist…
I read the story on Cnn.com. It’s amazing that their are groups such as yours. I can imagine. A bunch of brainy geeks sitting around a table saying “You don’t believe, I don’t either, Isn’t that great.” Then what the heck do you people do ? After you acknowledge to each other and confirm you are believers of nothing other than yourselves.
I guess you sit around and knock anyone that believes that their is a higher power other than the three people sitting at your table.
Please spend your time productively and positively. If you just did that it would make the world a much better place.
What saddens me that you cannot see – is that your group is only doing this to instigate emotion from Christians and others who believe in God. You are not doing this for any real, positive reason – it is just unbridled evil and hatred. YOU are the person without tolerance – YOU are ther person who is whining – YOU are the bigot. Unless you are quicker than us – we are starting a movement to make .01 cent contributions to your groups through your paypal links – that is one penny you receive for every charge paypal will charge you. We are about to do this all week long – you and yours will have quite the bill to pay with paypal. Best of luck…Oly
You are quite the despicable group of folks, are you not? To filth the countryside with billboards against God is an offense against those of us who believe in Him. Your arrogance and your lack of humanness is atrocious. You’ve a right to believe what you will – but to make mockery of beliefs that founded our nation – your freedoms – is blatantly un-American. You obviously feel no shame for your actions – but perhaps we can do a little something about advertising your members, boycotting their homes and businesses? Would you be so kind as to send us your membership list please? You’ve nothing to fear, of course, since you have no fear of God.
Well thats all for now. Enjoy your weekend.