Sometimes I play this game I like to call “Ask the Atheist.” It always starts the same.
A former church member, or friend of a friend, or acquaintance writes me about how they had heard I was an atheist, and they always wanted to question an atheist. I don’t mind. About three years ago, I would have been doing the same. Surprised, questioning, curious, and a bit fascinated to actually talk to a real, live, honest-to-goodness atheist.
Like finding that proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We always heard of such things, just never have seen any. Invariably, one of the first questions is, “Do you mind talking about God?” It’s not very nice, but I admit I always chuckle when I read this. I blog in two places about God. I read resources every day on the issue of theism. I have debated on four or five specific forums about God. I read the Bible every single day. Mind? Not at all.
And then a few questions. The usual suspects:
“How can you believe the earth came about by pure chance?”
“What keeps you from doing whatever you want?”
“How do you get around prophecy fulfillment?”
“Since there are no proofs against God, aren’t you an agnostic?”
“Science has been wrong before, how can you rely upon the scientific method?”
“What would it take for you to believe in God again?”
Again, I don’t mind. While I have addressed these issues before, (and really should keep a file with stock answers, but don’t) I enjoy replying to each particular individual’s question or need. Being me, I tend to write long responses. They write a few paragraphs, it seems I write 6 pages! There is just so much to talk about in this realm; it is hard for me to feel I have adequately covered the ground with just a few sentences.
I have started to change my tactic, and write a bit shorter, but it always feels insufficient and a bit lackluster.
I get maybe one follow-up letter, my personal record is a total of three letters, and then it stops. Another round of “Ask the Atheist” is over.
I wonder what I did wrong. Did I provide the wrong answers? One specific participant seemed quite insistent that I had unresolved sin that was simply dying to burst out of me, and the only remnant of a restraint was this pesky belief in a God, so I discarded it to act out my wildest excursions.
The problem being, I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what this particular sin was, nor why a belief in God would restrain me.
Perhaps the person thinks I just never heard of their brand of theism, or haven’t studied the Bible, or was uniformed. And, upon receiving my answers, becomes satisfied that I have made an informed decision. (They never say that, though.)
Or maybe they hope to re-convert me. That no one else has ever introduced me to the brilliant argument of “Lord, Liar or Lunatic” and upon reading it, will abandon my atheistic ways.
Or do they think that I am angry at God? That my long responses are simply excuses for pent-up rage against something that God must have done that nobody (including myself) knows about?
Whatever the reason, the game always ends the same—an abrupt stop to my letters. No reason why. No follow-up. Nothing.
And I always wonder why. The closest I came to figuring out why, is one person told my wife they think I “protest too much” and the fact that I was still going to church meant I was still looking for God. But even he never got back to me. If I was still looking for a God, it apparently wasn’t his job to show me.
Is it that I write too much? Should I write less? But then it wouldn’t be me responding. Should I be more careful about the errors of Christianity? I do try and temper it with a bit of humor, or a light story, or an example. It may be that Christianity is seen so deadly serious, that my approach is taken as disrespect or mocking.
It is hard. There is no god. The Bible is not divine. And while I am ever mindful that my correspondent believes in these things, there are times it is difficult to converse with that same level of belief in the forefront of my mind.
Do I present issues and responses that are scary to them? That they would prefer to not even read it, even to the point of leaving their curiosity about atheism unsatisfied?
What ever the reason, I find myself once again, at the end of another round of “Ask the Atheist.” And I find myself, once again, wondering why.