The other day I was having a discussion about "beliefs" and such with a long time friend and co-worker. He has always listened to me ramble on about what I believe and has never, until now, said anything in response. He said that he had a challenge for me. I was shocked because he never really "participated" in any of my "ramblings" so I was curious as to what it might be. This man has been my friend for over 15 years and is someone who taught me a thing or two about electrical work ( I am an electrician). He has children and is a Christian. His challenge was this: You're in Afghanistan, you're being overrun by the enemy and you know this is the end. You know you will never see your wife or family ever again. If you have no faith, what will you cling to in that moment? Will I be able to remain an atheist, or will I revert back to what I was before? A christian. I had to stop for a moment and think about this. Humans will do and say crazy and things when faced with injury or death. I remember shortly after my "conversion" to atheism, this same friend was in a serious electrical accident that burned his face and hands. After he was taken to the hospital, myself and another electrician had to restore the power to the building. During this time, as I was "suiting up" in my arc flash gear, I remember thinking, "Please let him be okay and please don't let me or anyone else get hurt when we re-energize the power". After things calmed down, I thought to myself, "Who were you talking to?". Was I praying? I think I was! I was upset with myself because I never want to be hypocritical with what I believe. I have thought long and hard about who I am. I did not become an atheist overnight. It took many years. From Christian to agnosticism to atheism. I told myself that some habits are hard to break. I used to "pray" all the time. This is something I needed to work through.
So, my answer to the challenge? I truly hope that I will remain true to myself if ever faced with another situation like that or the situation he described. Hopefully I'll never have to find out the answer! Let me know what you think.
how about you challenge your friend's thinking by asking him to explain HOW his god can be 'thanked' when, let's say a young child is spared from some tragic event, like, say a tsunami, while hundreds, or perhaps thousands of others, some of whom may actually have prayed to said diety for 'protection' that morning yet were destroyed by what insurance companies call 'an act of god'. the burden is not upon you to explain why some old thought pattern re-appears in your brain, which clearly means the brain-washing of your youth was quite extensive proving the jesuit motto correct - 'give me a child until he is seven, and he is mine forever'.
the challenge is much more difficult to explain for your friend and don't let him use the 'god's way are mysterious' bullshit answer that basically tells you that they don't actually believe their faith is actually in something tangible, but a concept of some exhistential being that lives only in believers minds. the problem of evil is their's to defend, not yours nor is it up to you to explain to him neuroscience at any level.. have him read about how habits and patterns are formed in the brain and how difficult they are to remove and reconfigure.... and as you age, they get tougher to re-program.. that is the basic reason why religions tend to cling to the old and they very young so aggressively.. the old can't really change and the young need only be trained... the new testament makes that clear... one thing it got right, but they got it from the greeks...
cheers.. i hope that made a bit of sense.. :-)