Yeah, Yeah, I know lots of folks are pretty sure its all a “fairy tale,” and God doesn’t exist. Although most of the people in “my bubble” are pretty convinced that there is a god, I’m well aware that many seemingly good, nice people do not believe.
In the Mayberry I grew up in, we all did. And we were all Christians. I met my first Jew when I was 12, at Camp Zoe – he was singing “If I Were a Rich Man,” from Fiddler on the roof, and I remember he had a box of candy under his pillow and was really funny, but must have been homesick, because he cried in bed every-night. A few years later Pentecostal classmate accused me of not being a Christian when she discovered I was Catholic, and I didn’t really have a reply. I was pretty dumbfounded that she could think such a thing. But it urged me to do some research so I did have a reply when a similar remark was made at an Amy Grant Concert ten years later. Only in a college “comparative religion” class was I really forced to consider other world religions, and even atheism.
I got an “A” in the oral argument/debate/logic half of the class, but barely passed the assignment effectively requiring us to “admit” the absence of any proof of god, and that all religions are effectively absurd. (In fact he used that word). I spent my thousand words explaining very logically how “absurd” it was to consider such a complicated world as this could exist without a creator directing the very beginning, and the course of nature – evolution, if you like. I got a C on the thesis, with only a comment that it was a shame that I hadn’t paid any attention to him all year long. (That kind of arrogance smacks of the recent movie, God’s Not Dead.
Anyway, I’m a big boy, and I realize lots of smart people think they have everything figured out, and so they have no proof for “God.” I’ve sparred online lots of times, cause although I HATE big confrontations, I still like a well thought out and reasoned dialogue. But I continue to be floored when someone looks me in the face, and tells me, in person, that they don’t believe in the existence of God.
So there I was last week, in surgery, where I solve most of the world’s problems, when someone (I’ll call her Sara) walks into the conversation I was having with someone else about theology (imagine that!), and matter-of-factly says she doesn’t believe in God. Nope, she and her brother decided it – they were convinced that there is no God.
So, of course, I was more than a little surprised, and the room was eerily quiet sans life monitoring beeps from three machines. Finally, my gay technician broke the silence, with an astonished, “REALLY???” “So you consider yourself an atheist???!!!” She puffed her chest out and reiterated that she was quite sure. He just stood there shaking his head, saying he wasn’t convinced we had all of Christ’s teachings just right, but he was positive there is a God, and that He helps him constantly.
The best I could come up with was, “So the fact that the existence of God hasn’t been objectively proven to you, is proof enough that there is NOT a god?” Afraid that I was setting a trap, she hesitatingly said, “Yeah, I guess.” My mind and my heart wanted to take her a hundred places, with a thousand experiences, seemingly revelations for me. But in a right-brain/left-brain flash of a second, I realized these were personal revelations, and there would be no possible way any of this information could be useful, or convincing for her. Pascal’s wager came to mind, but I realized that souls are never saved by winning an argument. No, besides it was probably also inappropriate banter for an employee/employer type relationship.
She said lots of people have tried to show her the error in her thinking, but this apparently just seem to strengthen her resolve. “Yeah, ha ha, I’ll probably get sent to hell, but I just don’t believe it. When you die, its over. That’s it. Nothing after.” I was horrified at the thought. Really? Nothing after? Then what’s the point? Indeed, there would be no point.
I told her, my own leanings were closer to, “we choose” to be in God’s presence, or to be away from Him, based on our beliefs and how we live our lives. It seemed like a good starting place to begin, and end this conversation. To plant a few seeds, and do my best to “act” like a Christian. Isn’t that the best evangelizing? So they’ll “know we are Christians by our love.”
But then Sara continued, “But why does everyone have to shove their religion down my throat?” Glad that I, in fact, had elected not to do that, I mused. But then I replied to her question.
“Suppose you and some others you really care about, your family, were all exposed to Ebola, and the cure had been discovered, and was available in Sikeston, MO, and free to anyone who got there in time. Well you know where Sikeston is, because you have a map. You’re convinced the map is accurate, and so, again, you are positive that you know how to get to Sikeston. Isn’t it loving to tell your family how to get there? In fact, wouldn’t you be a selfish jerk if you saw someone headed on the wrong road, towards Dallas, or New York? They might be able to get to Sikeston via these other places, but isn’t it most loving and compassionate to share your knowledge with people you care about?”
Before she could doubt the accuracy of the map, I quickly added, “Whether or not it can be proven that the map is correct is irrelevant; you asked why someone might be compelled to ‘shove their religion down someone else’s throat.’ Even if they’re wrong, they’re doing it out of love. They want to save someone else’s life, and they personally are positive they know where the cure is. They might have even taken the same road, and even “gone to Dallas,” only to realize they were so fortunate to get a “do-over.” Many don’t. So it makes it a bit easier to “swallow” when we realize it’s really out of love that this is done, and that you’d be a bit of a jerk if you didn’t care enough to share.
Why not “live and let live,” and “coexist?” Suppose you see your neighbor pull out of his driveway with his coffee-cup or phone on the roof of his car. Don’t you care enough about him to wave and yell at him?
This conversation was “about a week ago,” and clearly I’m still thinking about it. What exactly is our level of responsibility to our “neighbors?” Do we let them head towards Dallas, when they may die of “the virus” before they realize there’s nothing there to save them? Do we let the coffee cup smash to the ground? And who, exactly is my neighbor?
I read a FB post a few days ago condemning “imposing our religions” on our children. “Let them wait until they’re adults, and can decide for themselves.” I’m so thankful my parents did such a horrible thing to us, so I could in turn do so to my own. I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that “imposing my parent’s religion” saved my son Cullen’s eternal life. Indeed, at the end of the day, at the end of our days, nothing else matters. That’s the point.
But what makes me squirm, and probably why I’m sitting down on a Friday night with a couple of IPAs in front of the keyboard, is another question. It’s nothing new, and I’ve read much more intelligent people than myself discourse about it. What if someone could and did prove that there is no god. How would that affect life? Clearly I have no idea how others would respond, but how would I respond?
I mean, really – do I try my hardest to be a good person and to live a loving life only because Jesus of Nazareth was killed for telling me to do so? Is His staying on the cross to bleedout and suffocate the epitome of self-sacrifice as an example that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s own life for those who hate? Or what if the Discovery Channel’s special a few years ago really had opened a tomb and found Jesus’ bones? Would this be “proof” that He did not resurrect and ascend? Or what if Paulkovich is right and Jesus never even existed as a historical figure?
Clearly I’m convinced these are absurd assertions. Paulkovich is an engineer, and probably reasonably intelligent, but from what I’ve read, no smarter than me, and definitely dwarfed by two thousand years of theologians who have devoted lifetimes to prove, and many attempted to disprove, this very thing. And what of the thousands of early Christians, especially the apostles who were killed because they refused to recant the story. Don’t you think even one would have if it had all just been a big lie? And if even one did admit to the big lie, wouldn’t other religions of that day (and this day) have held them up as “proof?”
But again, let’s just, for argument sake, query this. What if someone could and did prove that there is no god. Is it a coincidence that every civilization and every culture has an idea of god? Why is this so important to humans? Is there this “space” inside each of us that only God can fill, and so we do our best to do so? Is it relevant that Christianity is the only world religion based on a real historical person?
How would I respond? How would you? Is it even possible for someone of deep faith to imagine their world without? And what is our responsibility to others? Are we truly “in it alone?” Or are we our brother’s keepers?
I always post all comments, but please be civil and respectful.