This is a distilled (and from memory) reconstruction of a chat this morning...
My 81 year old ex-Baptist minister friend Dub and I went to Starbucks for coffee and conversation. Dub likes to start conversations with strangers.
Today a Seminary student caught his eye. They talked for about half an hour before Dub dropped me into it. Dub described me as an ex-cult member who had spent time in prison! This sucked me in when the student addressed me directly. His name was Jason and he was in his final year in Dallas Baptist Seminary.
He: "Who or what is your idea of god?"
Me: "At one time I could speak confidently that I KNEW within a moral certainty exactly who god was, his Name and his purpose. Now, I have to laugh at my idiotic and egotistical self-deception! Any god that I--a mortal creature--could describe and know would always be unworthy of worship and far removed from reality. You know why? Because such a god would be more ME and my imagination. I'm ignorant. I don't and can't KNOW god. Anybody who tells me that they DO is somebody I view with caution. The way you'd treat a person who has been kidnapped and probed by aliens in a UFO."
He: "For a guy with no beliefs you have very strong beliefs!"
Me: "You and I don't use language the same way, I'm afraid. It makes communication accuracy almost impossible."
He: "Why do you say that?"
Me: "Because I live in a Post-Enlightenment world described by science with measurements and descriptions that are testable. You, as a Seminary student, are immersed in a Pre-Enlightenment world described by metaphor utterly elusive to testing except as an interpretation of an emotion."
He: "So you are alone in the Universe without direction, then. Doesn't that frighten you?"
Me: " I came through my mother's birth canal without a roadmap or a clue. Same as you, I suspect. On the one hand, Science had given us medicine, technology, space travel, triple-bypass surgery and anti-biotics while religion has given us talking snakes and donkeys, fluttering angels and malevolent devils. Which is closer to reality and progress and health and well-being?"
He: "But, we all die."
Me: "Well said! The religious person does die. No better or worse than the infidel."
He: "But, afterward the judgement!"
Me: "Afterward, the funeral!
Remember Jason, Muslims have the 42 virgins and Mormons have their own planet and Jehovah's Witnesses have a Paradise Earth according to belief--not according to reality. We can test a dead body for life. We can't test a belief; we can only assert it."
He: "We have the promises of the bible."
Me: "And the Koran and the Vedas, and the returning...returning...almost here....Jesus as well. I once had a friend who promised to split his Lottery winnings with me! You'll notice I did not drive up in a limousine!"
He: "Those Jehovah Witnesses really did a number on you, didn't they?"
Me: "I was the one who jumped in to the frying pan. I did it to myself."
Me: "Because I was a believer before I was a prover. I was a person of Faith rather than a person of due dilligence. I wanted pie in the sky bye and bye rather than a life of three score and ten and then a cemetary plot. It is called gullibility and greed for more than there really is. I was a glutton who could stuff a tasty promise in my gut and ask for whipped cream!"
He: "I've never heard anything like this before. You're a strange man. I don't mean to be insulting."
Me: "I'm non-threatening and have no agenda to carry out. I won't be spreading any false doctrines to young college students or instructing others to put whim and willy-nilly ahead of a reasonable skeptical inquiry, that's for sure."
He: "And how do you know for sure if you are right or not?"
Me: "The easiest test there is. I look at my own life. We need to be able to spot a phony even if he is staring back at us from our mirror! When I was a bible thumping, door knocking Jehovah's Witness I never improved anybody's life for even five minutes. I just parroted what I was told. It was a job like cleaning the bathroom. I was so busy wallowing in all that "Truth" I forgot to be real. Telling somebody something that isn't true---even if it is beautiful--is a terrible and cruel attempt at making the world a better place. I'd rather mind my own business when it comes to certainty and absolutes."
He: "Well....food for thought. I enjoyed talking with you. I have to go now."
See the kind of day you can have with Dub as your traveling companion? He will chat anybody up.
He'll excuse himself to go to the restroom and return an hour later having stopped to talk to some lady who was sitting reading a book!
Today's coffee shop chat is not unusual. Dub had had a go at the fellow before dropping me into it.
Afterward, Dub insisted that we were "meant" to go to that coffee shop that morning. God had sent us there to give that fellow something to think about.
Here I thought it was because my daughter had given me a gift certificate:)