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.)
This blog will be different for me since this one won’t be loaded with facts, figures, cites and other drab blather that I normally write. This blog is about respecting religious views. Faith. An illogical belief that is devoid of proof. Where else in our discourse do we actually use this word properly? I don’t mean the colloquial meaning, in sentences such as “I have faith in him/her”. For instance, when has anybody (that isn’t completely deranged) actually had faith in any material object? For those that do, society tends to pluck up out and have them reside in a special rooms with padded walls. Why? Because it is obvious that any unjustified and illogical belief in material objects is absurd. So then, why do we tolerate it when the faith is in something that we can not see and is not material? It seems to be that this is far more absurd of the two choices because in the first, at the very least, the material object’s existence can be objectively verified. This is not so with the later case. Back to the original question. If we can lock people away in loony bins for believing illogical and wholly unjustified beliefs about reality and material objects why can’t we lock away or merely question these people and make them defend their claims. Here’s where the problem of respect rears it’s ugly head. The reason is, society has deemed faith a virtue, for reasons that baffle and confuse me. If there is one sociological question I want conclusively answered, it is why this obviously failed way of thinking has gained the attribute of being a virtue. Patience is a virtue, and honestly, when it comes to this topic, I’m out of it. Faith isn’t a virtue anymore than Tinker Bell is. Having faith is something we grow out of as children once we attain more concrete knowledge for ourselves about the world around us. Much like we grow out of having constant temper tantrums for all manner of reasons and crying when our mother leaves to go the store. We should not, under any circumstances, be required to respect this view anymore than we respect peoples views and beliefs about anything else in our discourse. Imagine a world in which you’d be admonished for questioning someone’s opinion that the Holocaust never took place or about their political views. That’s the road to fascism and theocracy, paved with the assault on our freedom of speech. Faith isn’t worthy of respect because it has no attributes worth respecting. Religion, all religion, in the same breath is lacking in components that deserve our respect at all. People will respect others out of empathy for one another. However, views are part of who the person is, and thus, contrary to popular belief, if you don’t respect someone’s views, beliefs or faith that doesn’t mean you don’t respect them as people. All the proof you need for this is the scientific community. Pick up any peer-review journal and you’ll be inundated with humbleness and criticism. And yet their aren’t radical groups of scientists roaming about threatening people with death for blaspheming the Theory of Evolution. The goal should be for humans to understand one another and respect each other, NOT our views and beliefs about reality. Let all those that feel it isn’t ok or “right” to question and criticize the religions beliefs of other people, what are you scared of? That we might convince others, and quite rightly, that religion may in fact be outdated and no longer serves our species a purpose? Atheists/agnostics/humanists/freethinkers, don’t be afraid to question or criticize the beliefs of others, especially religious beliefs because it’s socially taboo. You have the right of free speech, for now. Use it. It make be the very thing that guarantees you that right in the future.
Metro State Atheists