Conversations with other atheists….

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Richard-Dawkins-Devil

I was browsing the web the other night, looking for something to keep my brain ticking by and I stumbled across a friend’s link to, ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ Mr Richard Dawkins’ blog. There was a very interesting thread on there asking people to respond in a twitter style (hashtags and 140 character count) to the following: I’m an Atheist because. This got my creative juices flowing and I thought to myself, ‘I’d love to make a blog post about this’.

After much thinking, I feel the best way would be to share a few of the responses on his site (anonymously) and write a little bit of a thought or refutation of my own based on what has been said. There are literally thousands of these, “tweets” and I only copied about a hundred or so. So, please don’t expect me to trawl through the lot of them but, I shall answer some of the ones I find most intriguing or urgent!

Without further ado…..

@RichardDawkins u know, those RC priests worked real hard for 19 years to keep me brainwashed, & with one fell swoop u undid everything. #Imanatheistbecause

I actually find it surprising just how many people i’ve heard say pretty similar things to this. The worse thing is, I’m sort of on this guy’s side!  There are some huge underlying issues here which I could quite happily fill a fortnight’s worth of blogposts with. I will, thankfully, save you that pain. However, there are still a few important issues to adress here.

If we disregard the fact that this guy was, “enlightened” by Dawkins for the time being and focus on where this guy’s problems with faith lie….

I don’t have a problem with the Roman Catholic church per se, there are some great Christians within it but, as a religious organisation with countless wealth and power, I have some huge problems.

First, the big underlying problem that comes to the foreground all too frequently is the issues concerning child abuse and corruption in the Church. This is a very well documented controversy and I shall not elaborate too much but, it is a huge problem facing an organisation that should be glorifying God.

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Secondly, the Catholic church favour some odd practices and doctrines. I’m not the most theologically educated of Christians and, for that matter, not the most mature of Christians so I feel slightly out of place commenting on their theology. I’ll keep it brief…   There is no mediator between man and God with the exception being found only in Christ (but Christ and God are the same and you shouldn’t really see Christ as merely a mediator). Why on earth do catholics feel the need to sit themselves in a musky box and tell a priest their sins before they bring them to God?

And, thirdly, what’s with the Mary worship? I could recommend a good timothy keller book to the Mary worshipers… I agree that Mary was a fine example of a good Godly woman. I agree that she should be remembered in that sense but, let’s remember what Jesus himself said about worshipping Mary:

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28)

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Ok, it’s happening again isn’t it, I’m getting carried away to digression-land again!

Back on point, The guy is talking about being brainwashed by his Roman Catholic Priests and, I genuinely sympathise with that. I’ve heard a few Catholic preaches in my time and one thing that I can say, from my own experience, is that they have a tendency to ram doctrine down your throat.  It’s not that I disagree with all of their doctrines (It’s the opposite actually, I really do agree with a lot of their doctrines), it’s more the style of delivery. A good man once told me that you can win an argument and loose the person. This is one of my biggest issues with my own character and, as a result, it’s close to my heart. I think that the style of Catholic indoctrination this tweeter is referring to is close to abhorrent! It’s certainly not how you win people over to the glory of God’s kingdom.

So we have a dissatisfied, clearly quite passionate young tweeter who has become dissolusioned with his upbringing into a Roman Catholic form of relligious practice, along comes hyper-charismatic Dawkins with a well thought out, intelligent and rational argument and this guy is won over! My challenge to any charismatic type Christians who happen to be reading is this: What can we do to insure that those who are becoming disillusioned with their religious upbringing, meet with Christ??

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Looking back on this post, it is apparent that I have a lot to say in response to these tweets and certainly won’t be able to squeeze a hundred or so tweets into this single post. With that in mind, it’s clear that there’s room for that wonderful opportunity in the life of a blogger: the series! I shall make this, ‘conversations with other atheists’ into a series of posts responding directly to atheist questions and arguments. 

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Catching Up with God’s plans…

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I am aware that the title of this blog may come across as almost blasphemous but, bear with it, it is there for a good reason!

I was having one of my regular catch up chats with Gem’s Dad the other evening. It was a lengthy one covering all areas and aspects of each other’s daily lives.  You know the sort, the meaty kind of conversation where you really feel like you know the person more intimately afterwards. It was a great chat.

Anyway, during the conversation, we began to look at what sort of stuff had been happening in each of our lives over the last three or so years. As we began to dissect, we soon realised just how linked everything was, like stuff that had happened to me was directly related by stuff he had experienced. It honestly felt like I had been woven in to the family and the family story now included myself.

The huge upshot to all of this is it allowed us to work out where God was in all of this. It rapidly became apparent that the answer was everywhere. It really feels, without going into too much detail of the conversation, that God was so much part of the fabric of every major decision, twist and turn in our recent lives.

This brought us to the realisation that we had stumbled across a snippet of God’s plan for us. We had glimpsed the path we were walking on. I would argue, quite within reason I think, that God’s entire plan can never be fully known by anyone other than God himself. I mean, there will be parts that come to us via revelation (both general and specific) but we will never fully cotton on to the entirety of it.

This of course is a great thing, it certainly keeps me feeling sane and grounded! But, it was really fantastic to catch a glimpse of part of the bigger picture. It was one of those moments when you suddenly realise everything, including hardships (of which there have been many for both of us) all point in the same direction.

What I feel comes from this kind of experience, more than anything else, is this overwhelming sense of reassurance. I mean, we have both been through some pretty tough stuff and, when we realised that this fit into what looked like God’s plan just as precisely as the nice stuff, well, you can’t help but feel confident that God knows best.

I know we are expected to feel like this, I know it is something a Christian society values quite highly but, trust in God doesn’t always come so easily.

I was away last week with a bunch of Christians at a very charismatic  spirit lead, conference. It was great. One thing I didn’t expect to encounter was people like me. People who love and want to follow God but, despite this, still have fear-lead doubts. People who, despite of their continued efforts to follow Christ’s example, still valued self-reliance higher than a pure trust in God.

The implications of this for me, when me and Gem’s dad stumbled upon a tiny bit of God’s plan, were monumental. It meant, that I had no other alternative than to be entirely humbled by God. I had to come to terms with my lack of trust up until this moment and learn, in an instant, that God’s power is way beyond my comprehension. I had to learn to trust God.

Since this experience it has been a rocky road. As most Christians that have had such a revelation come upon them will tell you, adjusting your course because of said revelation is never a smooth ride. God has this cleverly quirky ways of putting you through your paces when you make a revelation induced vow to him. Now that I have vowed to trust God more than ever before God has smiled and answered by putting that trust to the test.

This is all very fresh having only happened this weekend and I shall not fill this post with examples of the tests of trust I have, thus far, faced. However, expect a post in the near future detailing some of the obstacles and ways I have overcome them.

In Love,

Joe x

Conversations with an Atheist.

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I mentioned in my last post that I used to be an atheist right??? Well, recently I was digging around my old atheist internet presence and discovered a number of forum posts I made that I thought might be interesting to share in the context of this blog.

I post regularly on an off-topic, sub-forum of  Dubstep Forum , a website dedicated to discussing bassy underground music, and it is in this sub forum that, as an atheist, I used to enjoy engaging in debate on the subject of God.

Reading through some of these old debates got me thinking about how interesting it would be to converse with my dead-in-sin self. Therefore, I bring you: Conversations with an Atheist, a series of refutations engaging with my old self.

 The non-existent paradox. 

In the early days of my relationship with Gemma I came up with this, “paradox” that I thought would crush her faith in God.

Here is the original, unedited post I put up on Dubstep  forum, explaining this paradox

my girlfriend and I are very much in love! We both differ in several ways but there is one big,
universal difference: I am, entirely, Atheist (I denounce the holy spirit and reject god). 
She, on the other hand, is entirely faithful to the "word" of jesus Christ. 
She insists that she loves me beyond anything I can ever imagine, 
so i presented her with an idea that spiralled towards the paradox I am about to mention.

I said to her: you love me on this earthly experience, for me; that is all you get, 
there is no eternity beyond. However, your earthly experience is only a tiny percentage of your 
eternal existence (based on her Biblical beliefs). As she accepts god and prays for forgiveness, 
it is wise to assume that (in her eyes) she will be granted eternity in heaven. 
Heaven is the paradox! If she loves me and feels her life is joyful and indeed, 
as she has said, her existence is joyful with me in it, yet I won't spend eternity in heaven with her
 as I reject the holy spirit, thus committing the only unforgivable sin. 
If heaven is meant to be perfect, god grants your soul with everything it longs for and desires, 
yet I won't be there to complete her heaven. How can heaven, and beyond that; God, even begin to exist??

This paradox alone is not what I base my Atheism on, far from it!
 But I feel it makes a strong argument in support of my side of the argument.
 I'm posting this for several reasons:

I enjoy writing about these things.

I want to hear as many varying opinions on the matter as I can.

I would like to try and puzzle out this paradox, with the input and wisdom of others.

I'm obsessed with weird s**t like this and until I have rectified the situation I can't rest.

With the last point I know I am being slightly contradictory in the sense that;
 I am attempting to solve a paradox and, as we all know, a paradox
 (by its very nature) is unsolvable. The trouble is I always want to try and solve the bloody things
 and this leads to this kind of obsessive ranting. 
On a side note, perhaps studying English literature really isn't the subject for me
 (Literature is full to the brim with paradoxes)

I would be really interested to see some decent responses to this. 

As it is plain to see, I was a little bit deluded back then but, let’s not jump to assumptions about my personality without first having a thorough look at what I was getting at.

I was saying in essence that heaven for Gem would not have been complete without myself in it! That was the big point in my argument!

I don’t know about you but, I find that really really arrogant.  I was assuming that, without wonderful old me, my girlfriend’s eternity would be incomplete! I see this a lot in  Atheist arguments, a complete misunderstanding of the eternity that we believe in as Christians. I also didn’t really get the concept of grace either did I?

So, the easy way to refute this fella is from the standpoint of eternity. If  I were to argue against this paradox today I would likely say something along these lines:

I do not believe that this is a paradox at all. First let me point out that this argument is only paradoxical if you make several assumptions about an unknown. One of those assumptions is that your presence would be the deciding factor on weather or not heaven was a good experience.  If heaven’s greatness depended on your presence then it wouldn’t be heaven seeing as you are a mortal human being unlike any other mortal human being.  You also define, ‘perfect’ subjectively. The OED would define it as:

 a. spec. Of, marked, or characterized by supreme moral or spiritual excellence or virtue; righteous, holy; immaculate; spiritually pure or blameless.

Notice how none of those points requires myself to be there. As Christians, we believe that humans have been entirely corrupted due to sin. Sin is anything that falls short of God’s standards (perfect). So, from where I am standing, your girlfriend is not perfect and neither are you. Heaven is about enjoying eternity in God’s presence and not in the company of your boyfriend/girlfriend. That isn’t to say there won’t be loved one’s in heaven, just that earthly relationships don’t compare to heavenly ones!

Also, as an atheist, you cannot reject the Holy spirit. You can block it but, until you have experienced it how can you reject it?

Sounds like you are worried about this, ‘unforgivable sin’. I would like to reassure you by pointing you in the directions of Romans:9-13

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of alland richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

You will be just fine, there’s nothing Christ won’t die for, there’s nothing God won’t forgive if that’s what you so desire… 

As this was posted (by, ‘this’ I mean the original paradox) on an internet forum, many people responded. Unfortunately, they all agreed that I had smashed the concept of God which hugely inflated my ego. A few posts later and I added the following:

 I understand that the transcendant nature of Heaven implies a level of
 joy unparralelled in the human domain, but still find this issue with the Christian God
 in which she bases her faith. 
 I can, as a real atheist accept that there is a possibility of God, 
 we don't know and can never prove it, but this God is not the God of the Bible 
 and that is where my issues lie.

 I have a major problem with all (at least all that I am aware of) monotheistic relligions.
 I feel very strongly and confidently that, without these relligions the world would be a better place. 
 There would be no acts of devestating violence commited in the name of "God"
 (the vast majority of "worldwide impact" violence is commited under the guise of relligion) 
 and yes there will be unspeakable acts commited and things will not be "peachy" but I think, 
 without that contributing factor, there would be a significant fall in worldwide violence.

He he he, I was a little bit misguided wasn’t I?!

Let’s jump straight in to another response…..

If you accept that there could be a God, why can you not accept the God of the Bible? A, God would be a supreme being capable of doing anything right? Why couldn’t that God be the Christian God then?

Your argument about Religion and violence is another one I here a lot. I agree with you too! Religion most certainly does come hand in hand with both fundamentalists and power hungry violent types but, a true follower of Christ is neither religious nor is he power hungry.  Christ actively sought to end religious practices.  It is true, lots of atrocious things have been carried out in the name of religion and the world would most likely be a better place if religious fundamentalism was eradicated but, in your argument, you are failing to make the distinction between God and those fanatical few humans who do things in the name of God. All you are doing is adding further evidence to the Christian perspective that humanity is thoroughly corrupted. 

I then posted this a little later:

 A Christian God is about forgiveness. In fact, according to them, he wanted to forgive us so much
 for our 'original sin' that he sent his only begotten son down to us to physically redeem humanity 
 via the ultimate sacrifice.

 Christians believe that we are all born of sin and throughout our lives we 
 commit more and more of these sins. Our sins are not automatically forgiven by God, far from it. 
 The only way we can be forgiven is to put our faith in humanity's redeemer, Jesus Christ
 and (because he died for our ((yours and mine)) sins) we gain redemption and admittance to the kingdom
 of heaven.

 Having said all this, there is one sin that not even the son of God can forgive us from.
 The sin I am refferring to is denial of the Holy spirit and thus denial and rejection of the trinity. 
 In commiting this sin, you are creating a Godless eternity and will suffer in hell.
 You cannot be forgiven for having doubt!!

 This is one of my main issues with Christianity, it forces people to believe in God with the threat of Hell.
 Just like a masked gunman might force you to empty the cash register/ your wallet/ 
 insert whatever may seem applicable here...
 God is the gunman and, if you reject him and ignore his prescence, he pulls the trigger and the bullet
 of Hell enters your body. If you accept on the other hand, you are granted permission to heaven and the 
 whole gun issue is forgotten. 

 God really is a bit mean, don't you think??

What was I on back then?!

Again, lets jump straight in with my new response:

It is clear you are worried about this unforgivable sin as you keep bringing it up so, lets take a look at that in a little more detail.

This sin appears in the Gospels twice, the most familiar example is this one:

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 

23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul,by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Ok so, in context we can see that Jesus had just performed a miracle in driving out a demon. This was witnessed by several people who were astonished but, the cynical Pharisees, in their desire to dismiss Jesus as just another man, claimed that Jesus was performing miracles in the power of Satan. 

Without going into a huge, long winded, analysis of this passage, when Jesus talks about an unforgivable sin, he is referring to this kind of act. An act where someone witnesses the power of Christ and denies it in favour of something else. The upshot of all of this is that, it would be impossible to come to Christ as a repentant sinner if you had committed this sin. 

(Of course, I am now saved so it is absolutely obvious I had not committed that sin at the time) 

Christianity doesn’t force people to believe at gunpoint! The bible says that the wages of sin is death. It says that, if you so desire to live a life in sin then you are free to do so but, there is a huge consequence. It offers a better solution to this problem in Christ but, it does not, at any point, insist that you have to do this. There is no force, God wants us to make our own minds up! 

The thread sort of died down after a while but, I went there recently and made a post about my coming to Jesus and my salvation. There were lots of retorts mocking but one reply really intrigued me:

I’m kind of realising that a lot of Atheists don’t really seem to know why they are atheist and they are just going along with peer consensus or whatever, and that there is such a thing as ‘atheist dogma’.

I like this, the guy that posted that is an Atheist. I hope I have sowed a seed of doubt there.

Well, that was fun. I think, next post, I’ll do something a bit different to keep it nice and varied.

Hope you enjoyed reading.

Hello world, and so it begins.

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HELLO,

I have spent many hours in the recent past contributing to the endless hum of internet traffic via the blogosphere and, have rather enjoyed it. There were (unfortunately) several hiccups during my  last foray. I call them hiccups however, the sad truth is, I had commitment issues.  I have been mulling over in my mind, these last few months, rekindling my love for musing aloud in the form of a literary mess and, have decided that the time is now well and truly here!

Jesus loves you more than you will ever know.

YO!

   

      I think that the intention with this blog is to engage with my thoughts as a young (ish) Immature Christian, coming to know more fully and (indeed!) grow in my understanding of God.

 **I intend to engage with decent theological source material right here and also generate my own conversation. **

Once upon a time…

I would like to share first, my story. I learnt, just today, that one of the most effective methods of  conveying important information is to tell a story.

For the biggest part of my life I have been somewhat heathenish in my inclinations! I grew up as a self appointed, ‘adamant’ atheist. I aspired to the religious teachings of great (and they are great) evolutionary biologists, theoretical physicists and, philosophical type thinkers. The likes of Hawkins, Hitchens, Feinman and others had a huge impact on my world view.

Most encounters with Christians were brief, uncomfortable and, I ALWAYS left feeling justified in my world-view by their inability to form a coherent argument.1  It is safe to say I was unwilling to shift my perspective.

I carried on this way in absolute ignorance of the truth for many years until, in 2009 I carried myself off to university.  During my very first proper lecture I sat down on the front row, head down, ready to take an impressive array of notes. A girl whom I hardly paid any attention to, strolled in and sat down beside me. I kept my head down, minding my own business and, to be quite frank, looking forward to getting out of there so I could go back to my accommodation, experiment with recreational drugs and play x-box with my flatmates. This girl tapped me on the shoulder and I turned dutifully out of a social obligation to face her. She was smiling at me  with a bright enthusiasm I doubt I was able to match. She introduced herself and her new friend Laura. We talked together about our experiences so far until the lecturer coughed the morning into order!

Gemma and I (that was her name by the way) spent more and more time together during my first few weeks of university.  we quickly became great friends and very suddenly realised that there was a real spark there! It wasn’t long before we became, ‘an item’. I have had many relationships in the past and feel confident saying that, until Gemma, I had never been in love. Things quickly changed with Gem. I was totally and utterly in love with her.

After a few weeks it became obvious that there was a glaring difference in our world-views. Something that David Devenish would argue, is at the very core of one’s person.  She was a Christian and, well, you know how I felt.

We spent evening after evening getting to know each other and, surprisingly, I wasn’t discouraged by her faith (although, at the time I rejected such a notion myself). We did manage to find ourselves in many rather heated debates during the fledging period of our relationship and, looking back somewhat reflectively, I was a bit cruel back then.

I remember a specific argument in which I was well and truly on my high horse shouting down judgements on her for what I used to assume was a dumb, narrow and deluded faith. I talked and talked at her giving her no time to breathe let alone refute! After about 20 minutes of this continuous rant, my girlfriend looked at me in sheer exasperation, drew in a deep breath, closed her eyes and went to sleep. I literally talked at her till’ she blacked out.

After about a year and a half of arguing continually about our belief systems I began to realise that I was, perhaps, being a little naive in my arguments and was not really looking at the argument from a fair vantage point. I decided to start researching her belief system a little more thoroughly.  God, at that moment, had begun to chisel away at the rocky barricades I had thrown up around my heart.

A couple of weeks or so after this decision to expand my horizons, I was in a van with Gemma’s father, Trevor.  He asked me if I believed in Jesus Christ. I lied to him and said that I did. At that exact moment, I began to feel a huge, painful, pang of guilt. Because of that guilt 2, I decided to start reading the bible. God had broken through!

The more I read, the more I found my objections were addressed (sometimes directly!) in the Bible. The Genesis account, backed with a few great books, in particular this one, really opened me up to the possibility of a living,  God. I was won over!

Admittedly at that point, I still had some pretty big questions racing around my mind. To cut an incredibly long story short, I came to realise that the time had come to accept Jesus.  Gemma’s dad and I were upstairs chatting one day and he asked me straight up, ‘have you accepted Jesus?’. I replied with a sheepish, whimpering, ‘no’.  He talked me through the process of confessing to God and we did so together! I had been saved! (<——–big moment right there).

This happened in October 2011, I was baptised the following Easter. Life has been incredible since.

God has taken me on a massive journey and I look forward to sharing some of those moments with you here.

1 Obviously, in recent years and since coming to faith in the living Jesus Christ, I realise that it was not their inability to argue coherently and more so, MY inability to comprehend an alternative position to my own (I will add, ‘arrogant’ to the aforementioned, self appointment)

2  I later came to see this guilt as a conviction that God had put on my heart.