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A Longer Conversation Part 1

A while back in my article A Short Conversation With A Christian, I mentioned a local baptist minister had invited me to give a lecture at his Church. I called him yesterday afternoon to apologize for not getting back to him and to explain why I had to decline. He told me he had someone in his office at the moment but he would like to talk further with me so I made an appointment to see him this morning. This article will summarize a few points from this morning.The first thing I did was explain why I declined his invitation to speak one Sunday.  He fully understood my desire to not appear as an evangelical or militant atheist ala the infamous 4 horsemen of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Stenger. He also understood that I as an atheist am not interested in converting anyone. He did understand my fear of ‘retribution’ by some Christians as far as employment and friendships in the area although he assured me nobody in his Church would feel that way [although on his wall hung a plaque of Psalm 14:1 saying I am a fool]. He smiled when I told him a minor fear of mine would be slipping into a Harrisesque type of rant. He smiled at that, told me he has read both of Harris’ books and that although he didn’t agree with most of the book a well structured rant is exactly what his Church needs to hear.

We spoke about a few topics in the almost 3 hours we spoke or rather I spoke since he said he mostly wanted to hear my views and address them but not to try to convert me. As soon as he said that I sat bolt upright and replied with one word. That was, huh? I asked him isn’t he told by the bible in Mark 16:15

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned”

He said yes that is in the bible and he will preach the gospel to me if I want to hear it but he is not trying to convert me to Christianity. This wasn’t what I wanted to speak about but I was not going to drop this that easily. I asked him where that says I must ask to hear the gospel. I opened the bible on his desk to the verse and read it. He admitted it says preach the gospel to every creature and does not restrict it to only those that ask. He brought up the part in Luke that says shake the dust off your feet if you are not welcome. I pointed out that that refers to not being welcome not to preaching the gospel. Returning to Mark I said if you preach and I believe, I will be saved but if you don’t try to convert me and I don’t beieve I will be damned right? He told me yes, the bible says I will be damned that it is not him doing the damning. I said it is you who would be letting me be damned instead of trying to save me. At that point he told me I was correct but I was taking the verse out of the entire context of the bible. He asked if we could leave it at that and go on to another point.

I figured let’s start at the beginning, although I really wanted to discuss at least in part the topics I had recently wrote about on here. Our topic was the creation. I asked him since there are 2 differing creation accounts in the first 2 chapters of Genesis, which one did he accept. I really didn’t expect his answer since I was under the impression that he literally believed the bible to be the unalterable and unchanging word of god. He told me that he doesn’t take either literally but understands the story as a whole [metaphorically]. That really was confusing, it’s not that I didn’t know some Christians take the bible literally and some take it symbolically or metaphorically. It was that how can you teach that the bible is the word of god yet feel free to alter it in any way. He did say he understood how that was confusing but [oh how I hate that word] god’s word could only be understood properly in a non-literal sense. I filed that statement in the vault, my head, for later use. Sine he took the creation metaphorically I figured there was no use to discussing it since personal interpretation can’t really be argued. It would almost be like beating your head against a brick wall. I figured let’s overlook the creation and talk about the rest of Genesis [and I intended to bring up the incest after the Adam and Eve debacle].

I listed quite a few instances of incest in Genesis starting with Lot’s daughters and making sure to stress Judah and Tamar [yes, that was still incest]. He had no desire to deny or even to excuse them. He tried to turn to Adam and Eve’s children since that is apparently the only incest he was prepared or able to address. I refused and spoke only about the ones I mentioned. In a flippant way I asked him if Genesis was a textbook on incest and he laughed, apparently he thought I was making a joke. I turned his bible to Matthew where I pointed to verse 3 which mentioned Juadah sons from Tamar that got but in the lineage of Jesus. I asked him how the literal son of god has two bastard ancestors in his lineage and if that is something to be proud of? He was obviously offended and I would not have been surprised had he asked me to leave but he fell back to the ‘agnostic’ point that god’s ways are beyond our understanding. My point was made so back to Genesis we went.

On the subject of incest I mentioned that god did nothing to punish any of those that committed incest to which the he said sure god punished them, they are dead now. I thought that really was an odd answer and one not worthy of a man that presumably teaches god’s word so I went on and turned his bible to 1 Samuel 6:19 which says

19 And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.

I asked him to explain how god does not punish those who committed incest, even putting one in the genealogy of his son yet kills 50070 men for looking into a box? Again he said god’s ways are beyond our understanding which to me confirmed two thoughts of mine. One is that Christians do not really read the bible and two is that scratch a Christian and you find an agnostic. Let me explain that last statement. Agnosticism deals with knowledge. Meaning an agnostic whether believing in god or not believes that we can not know definitively if there is or isn’t a god. When questioned, as I picturesquely say scratched, a Christian invariably falls back to the agnostic position that god can’t be understood.

Was pretty satisfied with pointing out some of the problems regarding incest in Genesis and was ready to go to the New Testament but I wanted to hear his answers to a few “questions” I had. I opened his bible to Deuteronomy 21:18-21 and asked him to read it. Then I asked him if he would help me stone my daughter since she rebelled against me. He looked at me askance and said nice way to read it literally. I asked him to explain it otherwise and he actually did by trying to relate the rebellious child to the Jews and the father and mother to god. I told him nice way to twist the meaning to what you are comfortable with. In any event, I went to that book for a reason so I asked him to please read 25:11-12 which he did. To paraphrase, the verse says if 2 men fight and the wife of one saves the other, her hands should be cut off. I asked him if that made any sense to him and please do not say “we can’t understand god’s ways.” He was silent. I then asked him to read verse 4 which he read but apparently it was silent because I did not hear anything nor did I see his lips move. I mentioned that in creation, god created animals before man and from man he created woman so in the scheme of thing it appears animal is more important than man who is more important than woman. He was visibly annoyed with that for some reason yet it was directly from the bible. The verse I had him read says not to muzzle an ox while it treads corn. I explained why the Jews of the time wanted to muzzle their ox so as it tread corn it didn’t grab a mouthfull here and there. This verse said not to do that, basically it said don’t be cruel and let the animal eat. Yet the same god that wants you to be kind and gentle to an animal wants you to cut off the hands of your wife who just saved your life? Didn’t wait to hear his response but asked him if we could discuss things from the New Testament. He let out an audible sigh of relief, I suspected it was because he was more comfortable discussing the New Testament instead of the Old passe Testament.The discussion we had about the New Testament will be written in another article for 2 reasons. 1 is this article is long enough. The 2nd reason is I want you guys to come back and read some more.

[tweetmeme source=”noreligionblog” only_single=false https://noreligionblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/a-longer-conversation-part-1%5D

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One Response

  1. “..scratch a Christian and you find an agnostic…”

    Man! I love that.

    I’m convinced that the Fred Phelps of the world truly know their bible. All others skirt the hard questions concerning their faith.

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