Jumping into the Lions den- and loving it
After getting more and more involved with the atheist community, I come bearing some interesting facts that I feel merit some attention. For starters, their meetings are not as dull and boring as I assumed. Before I attended a meeting, I couldn’t figure out what a bunch of people who don’t believe in something could possibly talk about. I envisioned the meetings a little like this.
Atheist 1: Hey man, you still don’t believe in God?
Atheist 2: Nope.
Atheist 1: Cool. Me neither.
Atheist 2: Cool.
END OF MEETING!!!!
I mean what else could you possibly talk about in regards to “not believing in something?” I actually found the meetings to be very satisfying and very thought provoking. I also want to point out that there were no black robes with goat masks, no pentagrams, and although there was a big fire pit, I don’t recall seeing a single virgin sacrifice. When they realized I was a christian, they were fine with it. I did get a couple “eye rolls” and I did get a “oh boy, here we go….” but nobody tried to feed me to the lions so I can’t complain.
I didn’t get involved in the early discussions because I was new, I just didn’t know anybody yet. There were two conversations I overheard where an atheist was describing an encounter with a christian and how he made the christian look stupid by pointing out that a person can’t be logical or intelligent and have any belief in christianity. Inside my head, I rolled my eyes and thought “oh boy, here we go.”
Slowly, a couple of people came over to talk to me so I would feel a little more comfortable and join the group discussions. Eventually, it came out that I was a christian. I wasn’t trying to hide it, I just didn’t feel the need to jump out and say “Hey everyone, I am a christian.” Besides, to say that I felt like a Reggae band in a Klu Klux Klan rally was an understatement.
What I learned about Atheists
Something fascinating that I am learning about Atheists as I type this article is that if I type the word atheist without a capital “A” there is no problem. However, if I try to type the word christian without a capital “C” then I get the red squiggly line, indicating I have misspelled the word. If I change the “c” to a capital “C” then it goes away. Interesting. Anyway, by the end of the evening, I made about 5 really good friends that I fully intend to re-visit and have further discussions with. I learned that some of my misconceptions of atheists were not as accurate as I thought. For instance, most atheists are not hate spewing, venomous, christian haters that want to destroy our way of life. For the most part, they just want to be left alone. They feel a lot of pressure with public displays of christianity and when government puts up christian monuments or makes laws with a christian theme. Although we haven’t had many new laws with a Christian theme, I can understand why they don’t want the 10 Commandments on govt buildings, or prayer in schools, or “In God we trust” on our currency. I will address my feelings on this in a later section called “What I learned about my faith.” For the most part, the atheists in my new atheist group were very level headed, good people, who I had much more in common with, than I would have ever guessed. There were not any of the vile, hateful types that I used to stereotype all atheists as being. In fact, as I associate more and more with atheists, in person and online is that most of the atheists are just like me. Other than the obvious, of course. What I found was that the vile and mean atheists really make up a very small percentage of the whole group. Unfortunately, they are the loud ones. We have all heard about the “silent majority” and the hateful atheists are definitely the “loud minority.”
What I learned about christians
Hanging around Atheists has really given me a new perspective on the whole christian movement. I always looked at christians, myself included, as the good guys, no matter what. It has only been until recently that I have been able to see us in a different light and I owe it to the time I have spent with atheists. Let me explain my point. I have an uncle. Let’s say his name is Uncle Joe. Now, my Uncle Joe is kind of different. He tends to tick a lot of people off and he really doesn’t have too many friends because of this. Since he is family, myself, and the rest of our family is able to overlook some of Uncle Joe’s less than attractive qualities. Because he is family, we are able to tolerate him a little better. People on the outside of the family, however, cannot usually stand to be with him for more than about 5 minutes. This is what I noticed with some christians. I wasn’t able to see how obnoxious and annoying they were because they were like my family. I was willing to overlook certain qualities because they were on my side. It wasn’t until I started looking at christians from the view point of the atheist that I was able to say “Wow, we really piss people off. And I see why.”
Another thing I realized about christians is that we have the same 10% that the atheists do. A very small percentage of christians are very intense, hate spewing, judgmental, opinionated, and critical of people who are not like them. I can see why atheists get so annoyed with us. We have a “belief” system, yet within that belief system exists over 50 different doctrines and dogmas. All 50 different doctrines believe that “they” are the right ones and everyone else is wrong. In fact, some of those 50 doctrines are so intense in their beliefs that they believe all the other 49 doctrines are wrong and will go to hell for it. There is quite a bit of discrepancy considering we are supposed to be a united front with a consistent message. I for one do not have a problem with all the different doctrines since for the most part, we agree on the major issues of the Bible, but I can definitely see how an atheist can take issue with it.
The final thing I have noticed about christians is that the majority of Christians do not act out their faith. Remember when I said earlier that there was not too much difference between me and the atheists? Did anyone notice anything wrong with that? A christian’s life should be more than church, work, and football. We are called to be “holy.” The word “holy” means to be set apart. It doesn’t mean “better than” or “higher than” or “favored.” It just means we should be set apart. Our greatest teacher was Jesus, and His life was about serving. EVERY DAY. Not just on Sunday’s by dropping a “ten” in the plate as it passes by. If Atheists saw Christians never “saying” anything about how people should live, but only saw Christians serving the poor, participating in community every week, taking care of widows and orphans, and being a pillar for people in society, they wouldn’t be so angry. I know this, because I have asked them. Don’t get me wrong, the Church has done amazingly wonderful things for communities and people all over the world. Unfortunately though, just like we have that 10% of loud and opinionated Christians, we also only have about 10% that actually serve like we are supposed to.
Associating with atheists has allowed me to see what we need to do in the Church to engage with society more and be a quality example to the world. It has also strengthened my faith and convicted me to analyze my own life and seek improvement. I have found myself holding back because I feel like I am “doing enough.” I have found that I can do more and if I want to gain the ear of an atheist, they don’t care what I have to “say.” They want to see what I “do” and if it aligns with the teachings of Jesus.
What I learned about my own faith
Hanging out with atheists has done amazing things for my faith and my walk with The Lord. After listening to atheist’s voice their opinions on public displays of faith, I can see where they are coming from. A faith in God is a personal thing. We are supposed to have a personal relationship with Jesus and everybody’s faith walk is different. It is difficult for some, to “choose” to have a faith walk when they feel like they are being forced or coerced into it. A couple years ago, I was one of the Christians fighting for prayer in school, the 10 commandments in court houses, and “In God we trust” on our money. I have recently changed my attitude on those things. I have realized that my children do not need to see public displays of God in order for me to teach them. I do not need a moment of prayer in school to teach my kids to pray. What I do believe to be helpful in schools would be a moment of reflection where children are taught to engage with their previous day’s decisions and reflect on the things they did and their interactions with people. I find too many people going through life with their “heads in clouds” and not paying attention to the details around them. I believe it would be very advantageous to equip children at a young age, with the ability to “be present” in their lives. That way, Christian children could pray if they wanted, Muslim children could pray, Hindu children could meditate, and atheist children could stare off into the corners and watch for the next form of life to spontaneously combust and create itself out of swirling gasses. HA HA, sorry, I couldn’t help it. He he.
I learned that my faith is very important to me and something I love. It is not something I feel I need to “defend” or “justify” to someone else. When we treat our faith like something we have to defend, like a brick wall, that can be very dangerous. It can be dangerous because there are so many uncertainties about our faith and so many things we can’t explain or prove. (Hence the term faith) If one of the aspects of our faith (or brick wall) is called into question and we don’t have an absolute answer, we are put in an awkward situation. Instead, my faith is something I enjoy. It is something I love and therefore, I invite other people to join me. Kind of like a trampoline. A trampoline has a hundred springs and I can tell you from experience that not all of those springs have to be in good working order, in order to play. So, if one of my springs (or beliefs) comes into question, or I don’t have a clear fact, it’s ok. If you don’t want to join me, I don’t mind. I am still going to play. And I don’t defend the things I love. I am not going to take out pictures of my kids and try to “defend” or justify to you how smart and great my kids are. Rather, I am going to share them with you, and invite you join me, in enjoying them. If you don’t care about my kids, I don’t mind because they still bring me great joy and delight. I think if more Christians took this type of approach with their faith they would be able to coexist with atheists and maybe even be a positive influence on them.
Which brings me to my next realization. christians should never, in my opinion, try to “convert” an atheist. Trying to argue and debate with an atheist about who is right could possibly be the most monumental waste of time there is. It is usually a complete waste of time because neither side has enough facts to support their belief and both sides are looking for facts. Arguing with an atheist over the existence of God is like arguing about Whether or not chocolate ice cream is good. Both sides can provide evidence to their sides but at the end of the day it comes down to how you interpret the evidence. And that, is the biggest and only difference I see between an educated atheist and an educated Christian. Both sides have plenty of evidence to support their beliefs, but like science, evidence is in the eye of the interpreter. Atheists cannot deny the existence of mounds and mounds of evidence. From the archeological discoveries, to the 40,000+ historical records and documents, to the secular historical recordings, and eye witness testimony, atheists have to reconcile there is a lot of stuff to support Christianity. All they can do is, discredit the evidence or say they “it doesn’t work for them” but it does not eliminate evidence simply because you don’t believe it. The same is true for Christians when they want to debate evolution. They can disagree all they want with the evidence, but there is tons of evidence to support the claims of evolution as well. It just depends on how you interpret the evidence. Which is an amazing concept in philosophy when you think about it, but that’s another blog in itself.
I hope that this article will cause Christians to analyze themselves and reach out to the atheist community. Most Christians I know are somewhat intimidated by atheists and avoid them at all costs. It would suit our cause, and in my opinion, please our Savior to reach out to them, treat them like humans, treat them as equals, and see what amazing things can happen. I have been warned by some well meaning christians that I should be careful of the atheists because they might “influence” me and I could lose my faith. My response to that is that if a little investigation can destroy my faith, then I never had faith at all. If my faith is reduced, simply because I left the comforts of my couch and “tested” my faith, then what kind of faith is that? Is that what my God wants of me? To sit in comfort, and never test my faith? I don’t think so.