I felt a bit of trepidation in engaging our guest Atheist Max on this site. My observation of him at RNS was that he was a persistent, if not aggressive poster. Some of you readers offered caution as well.
I do feel a degree of obligation to dialogue. I would wish it for myself, recalling the insults I’ve been dealt as a person who does not think with the mind of many Catholics online.
Max appears to struggle with words and events in the Bible, or at least, seems to assume these are problems for others. I think this statement is illustrative:
But that does not solve these problems because as a Christian you MUST accept SOME of the Bible as literally true. That is what I was trying to point out to you.
Call me post-modern, but while I can accept the Bible as “truth,” it does not mean I am compelled to accept all of it, or even any of it, as “literally true.” I am a traditionalist in the sense that being a disciple means more to orthopraxis than to orthodoxy. In other words, it about how I respond to God. Not so much the words I absorb about God.
So when Matthew writes about people waking from the dead and walking through Jerusalem, it is not important as a literal fact. Not at all. Decisions about accepting this literally or symbolically are indeed in the hands of a reader, a seeker, or a believer. But this is not what Christianity is about. Christianity is about the Beatitudes, about personal transformation, about following Christ, and embracing reform and renewal in ones life as a response to the initiative of God. The Bible may be a tool that helps me. But it is not an idol.
I appreciate that an atheist like Max has passion, and wishes to engage others on some personal level. I don’t intend my laughter–chuckling is likely more accurate–to be insulting or dismissive. I think about the discussions I’ve had with fundamentalists among Catholics and Protestants over the years. It’s actually funny to be accused of the sorts of things I’ve criticized in others. If I’ve really deluded myself, the laughter may well be directed to me.
Yet you say I am a fool to not love this guy.
I said no such thing. People like Max are free to read the Bible carefully, and look for all sorts of errors, inconsistencies, contradictions, an such. They will not find in the pages of a book what I have found as the foundation of my Christian faith. They will not gain traction by insisting Christians think as they do, or in misrepresenting what we say.
Ask more questions, by all means.
But keep in mind that this blog is not about a two-person conversation. I have other tasks here and in my life off the computer. This is not about finding Eighty-three Biblical Inconsistencies and throwing them at a Christian like one would bail a sinking ship.
My friend Max declined suggestions to conduct this conversation by email. I can only conclude he didn’t take me seriously, or that he prefers to have an audience. (Those who believe in trolls likely think the latter.) I’m unwilling to turn this web site over to such an enterprise. Personal conversations are the proper sphere for dialogue. Not contests in who is more rational, or who can shovel water faster.
Without your answers, I am left with nothing but an impression that you and your religious crowd have accepted on some strange authority that a violent monster is okay with you – and you don’t mind this.
Speaking for myself, I don’t have any control over what people might read into my good intentions. Speaking of God as a “violent monster” is emotional language, and a gross exaggeration. There are no human behavior manuals that will tell a person not to write their objection to faith in this form. It’s something one learns from socialization.
When one wants to get a reaction out of another, one uses audacity to get noticed. That’s all this is. I advise us all to treat with deep, deep skepticism people who say a lot of things about things they criticize. Often they say very little about their own beliefs. Why would we listen to those who reject the very things they reject? Max strikes me as less an atheist and more an anti-religionist.
Max wrote, “I’m leaving with an even emptier bag than I came in with.” I never got the impression the bag was for anything except to deposit a lot of stuff. But I’m still willing if you want to write me personally and ask your questions. Once a day on this site is enough for me.
When “Love thy neighbor” means ‘save their soul’ that is a recipe for conflict which religion can only fuel. Am I wrong?