The view from down here
August 06, 2008
Melissa has been reading the Atheist discussion boards at beliefnet.com.
There was one post that started a thread of over 400 replies and discussion. The first post was one of those perennial Christian favorites: wouldn't it be better to believe and find nothing in the afterlife instead of not believing and have to face the wrath of God?
What strikes me about questions like this is how utterly wrapped within their own paradigm they are. Christians are so utterly unable - unwilling - to step outside of their own tunnel vision that there's little point in pretending that you can have anything like a constructive conversation with them.
But aren't I the same, they ask? Aren't I just as dogmatic and fundamental in my beliefs that there is no god, and unwilling to consider their evidence?
I am completely ready to turn my world inside out and follow the truth where it leads. Show me God, not your feelings or some pedantic review of your bible, and I will get with the program. You need to actually convince me, not simply shout me down, wear me out, or set fire to me.
Here's the dirty little secret about Christians and other true believers. They don't know, and they know they don't know, and so they find hundreds of little ways of reinforcing their belief system rather than face the truth that they believe simply because they want to believe. Once you take that away there's very little left, so hold on and hold on tight.
Most Christians I know begin with the premise that their faith is right, and everything else follows from there. You can't debate with that. Everything becomes a mobius strip where all points lead to their side.
The tricky part is that a lot of what fills the life and intent of Christians is genuine and real. They feel a connection with their community, experience great joy at the wonders of life, and share love and trials with people they care about. Because they believe that these things come from God they usually can't help but see it all as evidence of God, and must then see me as being strangely disconnected, not only from a particular abstract belief, but separate from the very sense of love, of the sacred, and unable to see right from wrong.
This is the usual attitude I see in a lot of these online discussion groups, so I have all but given up trying to have a dialog with such Christian debaters, except to dismiss and ridicule them when I bother to take the time.
To me it's desperately sad that so many people have been taught that goodness is only granted from a church mascot hanging dead on a pole, and that every sense of hope, love, goodness, charity, wisdom, and kindness that they feel are tainted with the premise that these things can only exist under the aegis of a brutal and abusive father figure who loves them, but will cast them into Hell if they don't do it right.
So if you want to be right, be right. But don't forget that if you ever look into that darkest place of doubt that you dare not go, you will see me looking back at you and probably laughing my ass off and pointing.
Copyright 2008 Daniel LaFavers