The Pastor of my Old Church Tried to Re-Convert Me Yesterday
Yesterday evening my wife and I were invited to friends house for New Year's eve. We met them when I was a christian and we have kept in touch. They had a few other friends there as well, including the new church pastor and his wife. I was introduced to them briefly 10 years ago but didn't know them well. They were at the local bible college back then and moving to a church in Glasgow.
So I went through to the dining room to get some more food from the buffet and John the pastor follows me. Nobody else was in the room so I was guessing I was being set up for some gentle persuasion.
Sure enough, I am busy ladeling some rice and curry onto my plate when he opens with, "so you don't come to church anymore?"
Here is a paraphrase of how it went from there..
Me - "No its been over 10 years since I was in church. In that time my views have changed a lot. I would describe myself as an atheist now". (might as well get it out there)
John - "Really! Did you ever have an experience of Jesus as a christian or was it just about doctrines?"
Me - (thinking, cheeky bugger!) "No I was genuinely a born-again christian in every sense" I expanded on this at some length.
John - "It's funny how things in your lives can lead us down different paths...."
I perceived he was wanting to ask, "what the hell happened?" so I obliged.
Me - "I was having some doubts, but its difficult to be objective when your life is full of preaching and prayer meetings and other activities. So I accepted an offer to coach a youth team who played on Sundays knowing that would give me space to think about things. It was 10 years ago this week that I was driving to a Boxing Day charity football match when I heard the first reports on the radio about the Asian tsunami. It eventually turned out that a quarter of a million people had been killed in a few minutes. I spent the next few months paying very close attention to how believers and prominent theologians responed to it."
John - "What answers did they give?"
Me - "You know as well as I do John, all the usual apologetics. I eventually concluded that it is all vacuous. There was no answer, and I knew I no longer believed in a god or in anything supernatural".
John - "I would say that ......
(here Pastor John spent 20 minutes trying out 6 theodicies, summarised as follows...)
1. God does good things, Satan does bad things.
My response - So Satan caused the tsunami and god did nothing. That makes god look weak as well as wicked.
2. Calamities can be prevented by intersessionary prayer
My response - So god would have saved 250 000 lives if only a christian had remembered to pray?
3. There are lots of stories of christians who were saved from death in the tsunami. (this is a way of saying those who died basically had themselves to blame = prosperity teaching)
My response - I'm sure there are lots of stories of atheists and Muslims who were saved from death in the tsunami. There were also many thousands of christians who died. If god picked a few favourites that only makes him look even more nasty and capricious.
4. Humans cause suffering.
My response - The tsunami was caused by an earthquake under the Indian Ocean. There was absolutely nothing any human could do to cause it or prevent it.
5. Free will. Here he manged to link it to 9/11?
My response - I am deliberately not talking about human actions. I am only interested in "natural evil". If god had prevented the tsunami no free will would have been involved.
6. All creation including the planet was harmed by the "fall".
My response - It was casued by the movement of tectonic plates. Earthquakes are an intrinsic part of how the earth was made. They have been happening for billions of years. It would have been trivially easy for him to quell the beginning of the tsunami wave long before anybody even knew it had happened. He chose to do nothing except watch the wave wipe out a quarter of a million lives.
At this point he impressed me with his honesty. He said explicitly that he had no answer. He said that as christians they ought to have answers because people do ask these sort of questions. I suggested that theology has had more than long enough to think of one.
In retrospect it was appropriate to have that conversation on the 10th anniversary of the event that marked the end of my journey from faith to reason.
Manna works well also. If god produced Manna to feed starving people once why is (He) not feeding and helping the 18,000 children who starve to death every single day.
Well done Richard, you are certainly were well armed with your books to stave off a believer. Cofty your in the Dawkins cult. Kate xx
Very impressive, cofty.
Well done Cofty, I know how conversations like this went in to my sub-conscious, because at the time I sort of shrugged off thinking about the issues, when I was a JW.
But it all adds to the Cog. Diss. you may have helped the guy to flee his delusion eventually, (I kind of doubt it though, he will leave the answer to God to reveal).
I love your point about Theologians having had long enough to come up with an answer, they have been struggling with the Problem of Evil for over a thousand years. God still hasn't given them an answer.
God has been much too busy deciding which football players deserve to win because of their faith. You can't expect him to fret over the possible deaths of a quarter million people when you have the prospect of self-promotion when a football player can score on national television and say, "Thank You Jesus!"
Sam stop being so obtuse .
Cofty, I am in awe of your ability to reason so well on the spot.
Sam stop being so obtuse .-cantleave
You gave me "The Greatest Show on Earth" did you seriously think I wouldn't use his own words against him. Dawkins has armed cofty to preach Atheism, but is the pastor an uneducated chrchgoer that preaches evolution is incorrect? I think not.
I met an atheist the other day at a bar and even though i'm against talking politics or religion while at a bar i couldn't help but to intervene as he was bragging to my girlfriend and I about a bad@** atheist church he is starting downtown including 1500 members gathered and in support online. He kept bringing up suffering around the world as a definitive sign that God doesn't exist. I myself since leaving the JW org have been questioning it, however I still believe that IF there is a God and IF most of the current bible is true and inspired then the JW reasoning for why God allows bad sh** to happen is the best reasoning...(bible teach book)
"10 To find out why God allows suffering, we need to think back to the time when suffering began. When Satan led Adam and Eve into disobeying Jehovah, an important question was raised. Satan did not call into question Jehovah’s power. Even Satan knows that there is no limit to Jehovah’s power. Rather, Satan questioned Jehovah’s right to rule. By calling God a liar who withholds good from his subjects, Satan charged that Jehovah is a bad ruler. (Genesis 3:2-5) Satan implied that mankind would be better off without God’s rulership. This was an attack on Jehovah’s sovereignty, his right to rule.
11 Adam and Eve rebelled against Jehovah. In effect, they said: ‘We do not need Jehovah as our Ruler. We can decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.’ How could Jehovah settle that issue? How could he teach all intelligent creatures that the rebels were wrong and that his way truly is best? Someone might say that God should simply have destroyed the rebels and made a fresh start. But Jehovah had stated his purpose to fill the earth with the offspring of Adam and Eve, and he wanted them to live in an earthly paradise. (Genesis 1:28) Jehovah always fulfills his purposes. (Isaiah 55:10, 11) Besides that, getting rid of the rebels in Eden would not have answered the question that had been raised regarding Jehovah’s right to rule.
12 Let us consider an illustration. Imagine that a teacher is telling his students how to solve a difficult problem. A clever but rebellious student claims that the teacher’s way of solving the problem is wrong. Implying that the teacher is not capable, this rebel insists that he knows a much better way to solve the problem. Some students think that he is right, and they also become rebellious. What should the teacher do? If he throws the rebels out of the class, what will be the effect on the other students? Will they not believe that their fellow student and those who joined him are right? All the other students in the class might lose respect for the teacher, thinking that he is afraid of being proved wrong. But suppose that the teacher allows the rebel to show the class how he would solve the problem.
13 Jehovah has done something similar to what the teacher does. Remember that the rebels in Eden were not the only ones involved. Millions of angels were watching. (Job 38:7; Daniel 7:10) How Jehovah handled the rebellion would greatly affect all those angels and eventually all intelligent creation. So, what has Jehovah done? He has allowed Satan to show how he would rule mankind. God has also allowed humans to govern themselves under Satan’s guidance.
14 The teacher in our illustration knows that the rebel and the students on his side are wrong. But he also knows that allowing them the opportunity to try to prove their point will benefit the whole class. When the rebels fail, all honest students will see that the teacher is the only one qualified to lead the class. They will understand why the teacher thereafter removes any rebels from the class. Similarly, Jehovah knows that all honesthearted humans and angels will benefit from seeing that Satan and his fellow rebels have failed and that humans cannot govern themselves. Like Jeremiah of old, they will learn this vital truth: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jeremiah 10:23."
___________So I used this logic when talking to the soon to be atheist minister and it seemed to make sense to him. Agreed to disagree even though I myself am still unsure how much I hold it to be true. Either way, you can't prove there is a God and you can't prove there isn't. I just hate having to to try and turn speculation into faith.