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.)
Q-What is Metro State Atheists (MSA)?
A- The Metro State Atheists student organization is dedicated to working for the civil rights of Atheists, promoting separation of state and church, educating the public and changing their perception about Atheists/Atheism. Furthermore, we are committed to; erasing the social taboo of challenging any theistic belief, encouraging the application of reason, logic and responsibility in all circumstances, and coupled with the promotion of the scientific method, we are advocating the aforementioned ideas in an effort to better the society in which we inhabit, including but not limited to the Auraria Campus. We are compelled to pursue these ideals with the utmost professionalism, respect and assiduousness. The faculties’ endowed upon us by Natural Selection, and the application thereof, have inclined us to promote the advancement of reason in all facets of life for every human being.
Q- What if you’re wrong?
A- This is likely one of the most often used arguments to entice someone
to believe in a particular god and it is likely the worst argument imaginable. It was originally conceived by a Christian named Blaise Pascal. He theorized that if you simply believe in the Christian god you have nothing to lose by being wrong, however his argument has so many basic fatal flaws it’s amazing that anyone could think he was a man of high intelligence. First, one must be sure they’ve picked the right god to believe in. There are thousands of gods that have been worshiped in the course of humanity and many if not all require that you believe in them above any other. So if you hold Jesus above Mohammad, you are going to hell, and vice versa. The easiest answer to the question “What if you’re wrong” is “What if you’re wrong.” Additionally any god
that is all knowing would know that we’ve chosen to believe in a god simply as an insurance plan, this god would know our belief wasn’t genuine as one can’t force himself to believe something that he doesn’t think is true. Also, Pascal’s wager suffers another major blow, as he presumes that if he’s wrong to be a Christian he has lost nothing,
however the fact is he has lost everything. He lived a life based on a lie, a myth; he never had a chance to live in reality, and likely gave up substantial portions of his income to the largest conspiracy the Earth has ever known. As a theist you don’t believe in thousands of gods, like us at Metro State Atheists you see no reason to believe in Mithras or Zeus, you are atheist towards all of those gods. When you realize why you don’t believe in all of those gods, you will realize why we don’t believe in yours.
Q- Do you hate god? Do you hate Christians?
A- Of course not. How can you hate something that doesn’t exist? You’d be hard pressed to find something we actually hate. Here Metro State Atheists we recognize that people are brainwashed and indoctrinated into religious belief at an early age and we aren’t mad at them for it. Obviously it’s upsetting to see the obvious, and to realize that our 80%
of the world doesn’t, but we don’t hate that. We dislike severely the extreme negative effects that religion has had on the world, and speak up against religious belief because it is the biggest danger in the world. We don’t hate Christians either, in fact we love Christians just as we love all humans and other animal life on this planet. If we didn’t love Christians we would selfishly devote our lives to ourselves instead of
helping you to overcome the mind disorder known as theism.
Q- You guys are going about this wrong; you need to respect other people’s beliefs!
A- If you truly believed that then how about sucking up your hypocrisy and realize you just disrespected my beliefs. I believe that when a friend or someone I care about believes in superstitious nonsense, I should speak up and help he/she overcome it. I believe that if I don’t do that, I in fact am being very disrespectful and selfish. So next time you tell someone to respect other peoples beliefs take heed to note that you are likely disrespecting theirs.
Q- Why don’t you guys focus on Islam?
A- Often Christians will threaten us and tell us to focus on Islam for several reasons.
1. They haven’t read our site enough to realize we do in fact focus on Islam.
2. They want to take an opportunity to call us cowards, threaten us, demean us, and tell us we’re picking an easy target.
3. They will do or say anything to wipe the problems with their god under the rug and divert our attention to something else.
Here’s the truth, we focus on ALL beliefs that require one to accept a claim based on faith. This includes ALL gods believed in on Earth today and a host of other claims. For example the moronic claim that this is a nation founded on Christian principle, which has bounds and bounds of evidence against it and none for it, is a claim based on faith, and one we confront as often as possible. We tend to focus on Christianity more often because it’s mostly Christians who write us and ask to come on our show, we live in a society heavily plagued by Christian superstition, and we all grew up Christian so it’s what we’re most familiar with.
Q- Do you think Christians are stupid?
A- No. Some are, but some atheists are as well. We choose our words very carefully, and believe that a better word to sum up religious belief is- irrational. While to an outsider it might seem as if you must be stupid to believe the claims in the Quran and Bible without proof, we understand that brainwashing at an early age can cause even the brightest of
individuals to believe some of the most nonsensical silliness the world has ever known.
“To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, God, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no God, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But a heresy it certainly is. Jesus told us indeed that ‘God is a spirit,’ but he has not defined what a spirit is, nor said that it is not matter. And the ancient fathers generally, if not universally, held it to be matter: light and thin indeed, an etherial gas; but still matter.” August 15, 1820 in a letter to John Adams