Saturday, June 2, 2012

Conversations Between a Christian and a Skeptic, Episode I

Prelude: Do you have any idea why God would be hiding from me? Why I have not found him, despite sincerely desiring to?

Seek the Lord and you will find him.
Well, I sought the Lord for quite some time and never found him. Either he doesn’t exist (which is the sneaking suspicion I finally came to), or he doesn’t want to be found.
Of course he wants to be found. Or, more accurately, he wants to find you.
Then let him find me. Here I am.
Where did you look?
Excuse me?
You said you looked for God for a while. Where did you look, when you were looking for him?
All the usual places. Nature. Scripture. The lives of people who profess belief in God. You know, the places he’s supposed to be.
And you didn’t find him in any of those places?
Nope. I used to think it was easy to see him in nature. When I was a child, thunder was God muttering. Rain was him crying. The moon was his thumbnail. As I grew older, I came to understand these to be natural phenomena, but I still believed that the existence of God best explained their existence; the stars on a winter's night were Nature singing its Creator's praises. As I continued to study, I came to understand that natural phenomena came about naturally. There is not a single instance where a natural phenomenon has turned out to have had a super natural cause. It’s either a documented natural cause, or remained unexplained.
And Scripture?
The God I believed in was completely good. There was no darkness or evil in him, and so when I found things in Scripture that went against the morality I ascribed to deity, I was at a cognitive dissonance. For many years I was successful in suppressing this dissonance, but over time I forced myself to think about it. And I did not like what I found.
The God of Scripture knows all things, and yet claims to be good. And yet he allows things to happen (and sometimes causes things to happen) that are very, very evil. And if any human had the power to stop these things and didn’t, they would be considered evil as well.
What do you mean?
Say I saw a woman getting raped. What do you think my moral obligation would be?
Where did that moral obligation come from in the first place?
Don’t change the subject. We can talk about that another time. What’s my moral obligation?
To stop it.
Exactly right. Why should I expect any less from a being who is supposed to exceed my own morality?
But the difference between you and God is that you are a finite being. God is infinite. He knows past, present, and future.
So you’re saying that if I knew the future, it might be okay, nay, even moral, for me to stand by and watch? If I knew that this woman would go on to found a women’s help line that would be a force for good in the lives of millions of women and even put a stop to millions of rapes, that this knowledge would grant me the moral authority to stand by and watch her get raped?
God doesn’t enjoy it!
I don’t care! If I were the woman, and a stranger stood by while I was violated, I wouldn’t care whether he enjoyed it or not. I don’t care if the stranger knows the good or bad that will come of this event. The fact is, he is standing by while my body is violently penetrated against my will! He does nothing while I am robbed of dignity and self-respect! What does that make the stranger!?
You know, as sad as a situation like that is, we all deserve worse. We all deserve Hell.
Do we deserve to get raped?

Your silence brings me to the third place I looked for God. People of faith. What matters is not their religion, their affiliation; the church they went to or the prayers they uttered.
 I figured, if God wants to be found, surely one of them has it right, and I should therefore see him at work in someone’s life. Especially if I’m looking for him.
What about me?
Sorry, buddy. Besides your "orthodoxy", I see no praxis that sets you apart from people with different orthodoxies.
Did you never feel God tugging at your heart?
Oh, sure I did. It’s what the Mormons call the “burning in the bosom.” You’re not suggesting they’re the ones who’ve actually found God, are you?
See, I cannot trust my own emotions to tell me if I’ve found God. I’ve had plenty of emotional experiences. At the time, I thought they were God. But it becomes so hard to sort out which are God and which are just me, feeling emotional. An encounter with God must be more than that.
What would it take to convince you?
I don’t know. I’ll let the good God I don’t believe exists handle that one.
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