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Religious Tolerance logo

A discussion donated by a site visitor

An Atheist and a Christian have
a theological discussion. Part 1

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Letter 1 from Eric, a Christian to Ben, an Atheist:

Just checked out your album, "ah atheism."

My first reaction to this album (yes I just saw it today) was fear. Then I wanted to reject you. But that would not be correct behavior and I am not sure if you would even care. You are my friend and I can accept your beliefs and anger even though much of it is misplaced and wrong. Understand I do not scoff at your beliefs as I know there are many sound arguments for them made by many intelligent people.

I have struggled with many of the topics brought up in this album. For example, "if there is a god why is there evil in the world." There are just as many compelling arguments by intelligent people that refute these same topics. Unfortunately man's ill-conceived reactions to Christianity have manifested themselves in such unspeakable atrocities that the arguments are often overlooked. I know this Ben and I still believe. Man is the problem. Not god.

I am a fool and I have made many mistakes that I will not admit aloud. I try everyday to keep god's word as it was intended to be kept. Millions of Christians world wide do the same thing. So many of the atrocities that we see are perpetrated by a very small portion of christendom. Yet it is all that is heard and irresponsibly pushed as the norm. Example: I grew up catholic. I was never molested by a priest. In fact many priests had a profound impact on how I approach some very important things like parenting, marriage, and even military service. Understand that I know much of Catholicism is not biblically based. Understand that the priests who have molested kids did so in contrast to the behavior that was expected of them and they should have been punished accordingly.

In the end, Ben, all I am really getting at is that I am your friend. You know that I am not stupid and that I generally am a compassionate man. I am asking you to perhaps concede this as an example of the truth of christianity. I know many christians have blown it but that in itself does not make it false.

One of the photos in this album stated that there was 0% chance that an atheist would believe in god based on an argument. I am asking for an opportunity to present arguments to you in support of Christianity, not to have an argument. You can reject every word I say. Many of the refutations are in the book I gave you several years ago. Do you still have it?

I am sorry if this angers you. If you are interested just let me know.

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Letter 2: Response by Ben, an Atheist:

Being able to have an intelligent conversation, albeit via "print", with a devout Christian who, rather than berating me asks me to understand their position is heart warming. And welcome.

Many, if not all to some people, of the pictures, posters, and comics in that album are disturbing, even to me. The minority of every major religion gets all the press as they usually do the most harm to their religion's image. This is true in cross religion "battles" as well as in intra-religions battles (Catholics versus Protestants, Shiites versus Sunnis, and I include African tribes in this category). The posters, pictures, and comics in that album are the minority of Atheists getting the majority of the press through shocking images, statements, and stories. Major religions do the same thing.

I have no problem with God. I have no problem with a person's belief in their God or Gods. I do have a major problem with, as I believe everyone should, of someone (group or individual) claiming their God is the only, best, real, true, etc.. God and then ACTING on it through brainwashing (inadquate education, restricting reading to the Koran, the Bible, or the Torah, etc...referring to one's child as a "[Insert parent's religion here] child") or, as we have all seen everyday throughout the world, violence. Religion, and to a significantly lesser extent, money, are the only two things I can think of in this world which cause people to blow themselves up at a Catholic Mass in Egypt. I have no problem with God, it is his fan club I am worried about. All of them.

Eric writes: "I know this Ben and I still believe. Man is the problem. Not God."

I believe man created God in our infinitely powerful (and as yet not fully understood) brain to answer the questions which needed answering at the time. The world was once flat, the Earth was once the center of the universe, bloodletting was once a prescribed medical procedure, and germs didn't exist; one got sick because God wanted it that way. The list goes on and on. The book you gave me, which I still have and read in earnest, brought to light interesting points. Two I remember are our planet's "Goldilocks location" in relation to our sun, our galaxy, our solar system, and our ever expanding, infinite, universe; and irreducible complexity. The "Goldilocks Location" appears to be (a science is still searching...) defeated as recently a planet was found in a similar, spiral galaxy (such as the Milky Way) with a central sun and with similar numbers of planets orbiting around said sun. It is a mirror image of our galaxy. Irreducible complexity has been defeated by the decoding of the genome. The human eye cannot be too complex to evolve as the owl eye is superior. The question isn't "What good is half an eye?" The statement is "50% of an eye is better than 49% of an eye." And when spread out of 6.5 billion years, it is easy to see how there is no creator.

If God beget the universe, what beget God? But on the flip side, what was there before nothing? How does a "Big Bang" happen out of nowhere? I struggle with the beginning of it all, but do not dismiss evolution, natural selection, or science. To inject Creationism into education (and flatly deny science) is, in my opinion, idiotic and ignorant. To even teach them side by side is reprehensible, backwards thinking.

The many contradictions in all major religion's "Good Books" (Bible, Torah, Koran), to me are not the fault of misinterpretations through out ancient history. They are the result of human error on a massive scale. Do the major religion's "Good Books" provide man with good, and in some instances even awesome, examples of how to live one's life? Absolutely, as your life, and the lives of the vast majority of all followers of major religions can attest. But I only, as do all of my fellow Atheists, ask that organized religion not pick and choose which verses to follow. If the "Good Book" is the unyielding, unwavering, absolute truth then why does man get to pick and choose which parts to follow?

My firm belief there is no God, no Creator, and no afterlife (heaven, hell, reincarnation as a higher (or lower) caste, etc...) has not led me down an immoral path. Too many people who follow major religions default to "Oh, he's an Atheist, he has no morals." I take great offense to that, and usually reply with something along the lines of "Well, in Christianity and Islam it is seemingly OK to stone to death a woman who was raped." Defaulting to religion (especially the Ten Commandments) as the be all and end all for moral guidance is reprehensible and contradictory. Everything in moderation. Religion has created vast amounts of good in this world, and vast amounts of evil.

Eric writes:

"One of the photos in this album stated that there was 0% chance that an atheist would believe in god based on an argument. I am asking for an opportunity to present arguments to you in support of Christianity, not to have an argument."

No hint of an argument taken, Eric, my friend. The graphic, as I am sure you are aware, merely shows how we Atheists freely use common terms such as "If there is a God, the Mariners will win a world series", "all over creation", "go to hell", and "Please, God, don't let the answer to question 42 be 'C'". That is how pervasive religion is in our society.

I hope all is well in Hawaii, with you and your family. And feel free to continue our conversation if you'd like.

I just perused the album again and would like to add religion should not be given any more respect than race, creed, sexual orientation (which I believe is genetic), skin color, or anything else. The freedom of religion (or lack thereof) should never be the trump card. Freedom of speech, assembly, press, redress of grievance, and religion are all on equal footing in the Bill of Rights.

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Letter 3: Eric's questions:

Hey man. Sorry it took so many days. I get pretty caught up in stuff during the week. I know; get over it. If you thought, that you would be right.

Anyway, I thought if we were going to continue this conversation then there were some questions I would like to ask you. I think it is important that we know exactly where we stand on some items. My guess is that you may be surprised where I come in on a lot of topics. I think if Christians really understood the words they ascribe too they would be surprised how out of line they are.

I kind of want to continue the conversation and forget (for a moment) the hot topics of the day: abortion, gays etc. Not that those aren't important but I think we should start at the bottom.

So here are the questions. You don't need to be too detailed and yes I realize that I could answer most of these for you myself.

1. What is the nature of God?
2. What is the origin of the world?
3. What is the nature of reality?
4. What is human nature?
5. What is the source of human knowledge?
6. What happens to humans after they die?
7. What is the origin of ethics?
8. What is your understanding of the flow of history?

Understand that I too believe in freedom of religion. I believe the two greatest things God gave us are life and free will. I know this is contrary to what you believe (God giving anything), but I think it is important for me to be honest. I would love to see you become a Christian, but I will never force that upon you. That is not the example we were given.

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The conversation continues...

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