I am having an online discussion with a born-again "follower of Christ" lady who says that the fact that I have so many Christians in my life challenging my atheism means that the Lord is courting me. My response has been that I think it is because I am an outspoken atheist and the issue is very important to me, so I tend to give Christians around me reason to talk to me about it.
What should I say to her about why this issue is so important to me without her twisting it around so that it seems I am just confused and seeking Jesus but don't know it?
BTW, I think she thinks she is helping me to find Jesus, but she's not. I am basically studying her. the problem is that I can see how people can be taken in by her message.
9.999 out of 10 times, there is absolutely nothing you can say to someone like her that will have any effect at all on how she thinks when it comes to her faith in the Lawd. I am sorry that I cannot be more helpful.
Ok, god is male, he has a penis, and he is courting you. Sounds kind of ewwwwwww to me!
First thing that came to my mind!
Courting - the act, period, or art of seeking the love of someone with intent to marry.
True! In The God Question, a book another Christian gave me, the author indicates the relationship with God should be more intimate and all-encompassing than that between a married couple.
Ewwwww is right!
In a word you should tell her "goodbye". Engaging these people is pointless and dangerous.
If you insist on doing so, however, maybe you could point out that the reason there are so many religious people in your life is that religion has had thousands of years to hunt down and exterminate those who won't believe and to bully those with doubts into submission. Were it not for this horrific, shameful history there would be very few religious people in the world much less in your life.
I think you should tell her that you are curious. Spend some time with her, and start to try to understand what the experience is like from her perspective. Most atheists are terribly out of touch with Christians, and it really effects their ability to understand where to go in terms of bringing up things.
You can even throw in the outspoken atheist bit, as long as you blend it with that you feel it is time to understand Christians better. Don't get all heavy into refuting her religion. Just point out that the bible says things that don't make sense to you and make you think it is man made. Tell her that you just don't think gay relationships are sinful, and or that people shouldn't go to hell. At the same time tell her that you don't see yourself converting, but you do seek to understand. Use simple answers. Stay away from Asherah poles, and all of those things that you think are clinchers for why the bible can't be true. Religious people need to have a bit of doubt for those to take hold. Otherwise they explain them away.
And it isn't because they are being totally irrational. The problem is that religion, like most beliefs is based on inductive reasoning. People who have been religious for a long time have a lot of reasons why they "know" it is true. A few zingers will not really dent that mountain of erroneously acquired reasons for why they can be certain the Bible is the word of God.
Questioning the atonement is always good, but be humble whenever you do challenge religion. Become aware of the good parts about Christianity as a philosophy. Stress some of those so that you aren't simply fighting with her. It helps show where there is common ground. If you question the atonement, take on the very principle upon which it rests. Whether it is just. The simple format is not only does it seem wrong to have someone die in someone else's place, but also that the entire system is based on justice, but using a loophole of the substitutionary atonement is an abuse of justice. If it is that important to enforce that people get sent to hell for all eternity over it, it is very unjust to get out on a technicality. If it is enforced so there are no exceptions, then it really wasn't a big deal in the first place, because an all-knowing God would have realized the technicality was there all along, and the law was never just with a technicality like that in the first place.
I have a degree in biblical studies, have spent years being active in churches, and am an ex-seminary student. I know these people in and out. It does not seem that a lot of atheists really know how to engage them. It is not just their faulty thinking, it is the manner in which atheists challenge the faulty thinking that leads to why a lot of these situations get out of control. If she is convinced that the "Spirit is at work on your heart", then as long as you don't act hostile, and appear open-minded, it might be a good experience.
That is basically the approach I have taken with her. I have actually gotten some useful information from the experience.
And what are the good parts of Christianity as a philosophy that are actually unique to Christianity? None that I know of, so why not point out the fact that it has no unique philosophies and is really all borrowed mythology and/or philosophy?
I don't think it's necessary for Christianity to be unique, in order to be useful. After all, there's very little new under the sun. The "selfish gene" theories of Richard Dawkins are probably a notable exception. What makes Christianity useful, in my opinion, is that at their best, Christians are idealistic, well-meaning, honest (in their way) and at home with deep mystical ideas. They can often be progressive and constructive. All this is collected together in one place, a "one stop shop". That's useful. I don't see many other groups doing that in the West; certainly not Richard Dawkins et al.
For example, I came across this video on YouTube:
John Kelly, you confused my intentions. Asherah poles, the Easter Bunny and fasting for 40 days does not disprove Christianity. Judiao-Christian belief warns against some of these practices, but a Christian doing these things just shows their lack of understanding. I would take what you said a step further from Atheists being out of touch with Christians to include that even Christians are out of touch with their own teachings.
I agree again with you that the concept you presented as atonement is immoral, but unfortunately, that is the popular belief by many Christians even though it is a corrupted one. The biblical principle of atonement is this 'born again' statement that has nothing to do with a physical birth as one dolt presumed earlier, but a change in character. The idea that all transgressions are absolved is not what is inline with what the bible teaches, but something that is fabricated.
It seems that many Christians and Atheists are out of touch with the Christian Principle and a lot of arguments from both sides are based on incorrect notions. With that being said, how do we know what we know (or don't know)? We can't fully so I would suggest a heavy dose of humble pie for both sides. There is a difference between devoting yourself to listening what people say about a subject and devoting yourself to actually learning the subject. The unfortunate part is that the majority of Christians do too much of the prior and considerably nothing on the latter.
This is the reason why I mentioned the Asherah poles and what not. It is one thing to claim that someone doesn't know what they do, but for the other to see the contradiction their principle they ascribe to and their practices. Modern Christianity is not what is in the Christian bible and very few people seem to realize this.
Yeah, when I was a Christian, getting fellow Christians to actually follow the religion was like pulling teeth. You are right that modern Christianity is not what is in the Christian bible. The closest one to the biblical ideology I think is the Eastern and Oriental orthodox, as far as priorities are concerned.
@ John Kelly: I very much agree with this approach.
I often come across Christians (whether in real life or on YouTube) who are people after my own heart, in that they are doing their level best to bring about a better world, with courage, humility and good grace. In this at least, what's not to like? In some ways I've lived a very tough life, and at my advanced age of 44, I've come to see the very real value of a lot of the things that Christianity talks about. Obviously - as an atheist - I don't agree with a lot of it. But that's not so important. I find Richard Dawkins etc., clever though they are, too negative.
My view on "the atonement of Christ" is that Christians have got it slightly wrong. It shouldn't be "Jesus died for our sins", but rather, "Jesus showed that we all have to die for our own sins". I observe that if a sinner submits to "his" proper punishment - Crucified - then he is in a position to learn from his mistakes, to be forgiven by those who matter, including himself, and thereby to turn his badness into goodness and be born again as a better, wiser, more compassionate person - Ressurrection. To me, that's a profoundly valid and optimistic idea. Yes, Jesus really does save, even if you're an atheist.
Simon, I really like your outlook, and it is good to find other atheists out there that don't harbor seething hate against religion. I think it is a more mature outlook to not see religion and non-religion as black and white.
The message of Christ though was the exact opposite of what you are seeing as can be learned from the story. Though the philosophy of self-acceptance is spot on and you can find that very grounded in modern psychology.