In summarizing his thoughts about religion at the end of the movie Religulous, Bill Maher said something that is seconded by the so-called New Atheists. Namely, that to support any theistic religion is to support all theistic religions. Well, there’s quite a gulf between pacifistic Quakerism and fundamentalist terrorism, but the point of the New Atheists is that to support theism is to give intellectual respectability to theism. According to this theory, the more religion is rejected, the less it will appear as a viable worldview.
I wrote the following dialogue some weeks ago. When I later re-read it, I was shocked by its harshness, yet it fairly represents my viewpoint. If you disliked my previous posts on the subject of religion, you will loathe this one. I publish it for no better reason than that it’s true for me, and that I wasn’t done with the subject even though many of you were past being done with it. If no one who is religious reads it, I won’t care. In fact, I had just as soon you not read it because I hate to disappoint people. But, if you do read it, and you feel inclined to respond, would you please respond to the actual issues I raised rather than simply criticizing me for raising them? I just told you why I raise them, and if you’re not satisfied with that, I have nothing more to say to you on the subject. If you were more inclined to address my issues with religion, I might be more inclined to address your issues with me. As it is, I’ve written a great deal that I put a lot of thought into, yet the only person who bothered to address any of my points only did so by saying that they demonstrate my ignorance and naiveté. Great. Thanks a lot.
What are you doing? You said you weren’t going to write about religion again.
I said I wasn’t going to write about it for the foreseeable future. Well, that ended about 10:30 this morning when I started reading your responses to my last post about religion.
Okay, what do you want?
I want to talk to you about two things. One is your self-satisfied ignorance, and the second is your announcement that you’re going to pray for me. I’ll start by saying that I was shocked to discover that I know a hundred times more about your religion than you do—or at least about the arguments for and against it. If you agree, could you tell me why this might be so?
Jesus died for my sins—right? So, all I have to do is to accept him as my Lord and Savior and ask forgiveness for my mistakes every now and then. That is unless I’m a Catholic in which case I have to ask forgiveness of a priest and do an occasional good deed.
Well, I sorta knew that, but does this mean you don’t care if you’re ignorant?
If we’re saved by faith and not knowledge, ignorance isn’t an obstacle. No one ever went to hell because of something he didn’t know; he only went to hell because of something he didn’t believe.
But doesn’t the Bible saying you’re supposed to study so that you might give an answer for your belief?
Yes, that’s why we go to Sunday School. We study a different chapter a week—except that we take summers and special Sundays off. This way, we make it through the entire Bible every few years. As for why we Christians don’t want to talk more to you about our beliefs, you’re a special case. You accepted the Good News and then turned your back on it, so there’s not much we can say that you don’t already know and haven’t already rejected. You’re an infidel, an apostate. “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
Still, other people read this blog, and, besides, I should think you would WANT to know about the intellectual basis for your faith, and that’s not something you’re likely to learn in church. I mean, your faith is WHAT YOU LIVE FOR, right?
I probably know more than you think, and I did say I would pray for you. What more do you want?
Isn’t telling an atheist you’re going to pray for him a little empty, maybe even passive aggressive? Jesus instructed his followers to PRAY IN SECRET, after all.
You really need to lighten up. If I’m happy with my relationship with God, then why should you give me a hard time?
Because I don’t understand how you can, in theory, be ready to die for your faith when you don’t know squat about it. I want to respect you, and this is a real problem for me. You act like you don’t even have a brain.
Look at where all your learning got you. I’m ignorant but saved, whereas you seem to think that you know enough to write a book, yet you’re going to hell. What IS your problem?
Let me put it this way. When you consider unsubstantiated faith to be a path to knowledge, you move yourself out of the realm of rationality. If you’re born in Saudi Arabia, you’re going to believe in Allah. If you’re born in Arkansas, your faith is going to be in Jesus. This means that if you and a Muslim debate religion, what are you going to tell him—that he should abandon his own brand of unsubstantiated belief and come over to yours? He’s going to ask you why he should do that, and all you’re going to be able to say is to quote from a book he doesn’t believe in. And he’s going to be saying the same thing to you. And what if he’s thinking about becoming a suicide bomber—what are you going to tell him, that Jesus wouldn’t approve?
Except that my faith isn’t unsubstantiated. I know that Jesus is real because he lives within my heart. Sometimes when I pray, I feel him beside me, telling me what I should do, and assuring me that he will make everything okay in the world to come.
Exactly my point. Your feelings are the ONLY evidence any of you Christians have offered in defense of your religion. Beyond that and Psalms 14:1 (The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God) you’re speechless. A Muslim is going to say the same thing though, and whereas you don’t know for sure that you would die for Jesus, those guys are dying for Allah everyday. It’s going to come down to what you feel in your heart versus what he feels in his heart, and no one is going to win because no one gives a flip about the actual evidence.
You know, of course, that I’ve never even met a Muslim.
That doesn’t matter. You and those guys on 9/11 are alike in that you both hold faith not just as one source of knowledge about God and morality but as the supreme source of knowledge about God and morality. This makes you irrational in those areas of your lives, and THAT SCARES ME. When you take public stands on important issues, NO ONE CAN REACH YOU because you don’t care about reason or evidence. I have the feeling that if Pat Robinson’s crowd took over the government and started killing off everyone who wasn’t a Christian, that you would keep quiet when they came for me. They would read this blog, and they would murder me, and when you were forced to side with either them or me, you would side with them. You would keep your mouth shut, and I would die. Later, you would pray for me. That’s what you would do, and it wouldn’t mean squat.
No one is going to kill you. You are going completely off the deep end here.
You’re right. Unless I start performing abortions or criticizing Jesus—or Allah—too publicly, I am probably more likely to be killed by lightning than by someone who is acting in the name of the savior of his choice. I will be oppressed in other ways, but I won’t be killed.
I will be praying for you, that you might know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior the way I know Jesus.
If you must pray for me, I had really rather you KEEP IT TO YOURSELF.
It’s just my way of telling you that I care.
Then how about saying, “I care,” or, “I think of you with affection”? “I love you,” also works.
I can’t promise.
Because Jesus said, “Whosoever denies me on earth, I will deny him in heaven.”
What is it with Christians? They think they’re being discriminated against if they aren’t allowed to talk about Jesus whenever and wherever they please no matter whose wishes are violated. I’ll tell you what. THIS IS MY BLOG. If you want to pray for me, do it on your own blog, and I’ll still visit you, and I won’t give you a hard time about it. You can even put it in a sidebar: “Please pray for that stupid lowlife atheist bastard, Snowbrush.”
Just don’t pray for me here because it’s like praying for me in my own home. If you are unwilling to allow me even this small space without your religion, how intolerant does that make you? I mean, really, if you refuse to honor my request here, then there’s no way I can trust you to not do everything in your power to force your religion down my throat in the larger world. When you knew less about how I felt, I could excuse your prayers, but now you know, and that changes things.