Let’s suppose you were to have a dramatic experience as you were getting into your car. Blinded by light from heaven, you hear an earth shaking voice that says, “B-E-L-I-E-V-E!” You turn to your neighbor’s house and they run out the door exclaiming, WHAT WAS THAT? Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that this really did happen to you. Would you believe? I mean, would you believe that God is real? Would you believe that God really can communicate? Would you believe that supernatural miracles are really possible and that you actually experienced this first hand? Or would you dismiss it as dishonest or at least not to be trusted?This comes up occasionally—what would the atheist do if Jesus appeared to them? A common response, “I would have a full mental examination!” or “I would check myself into a hospital!”…but would you?
I’ve had the rare opportunity to work with mentally challenged people. It is not as if one part of the brain acts rationally, and the other side is acting irrationally. And the rational part keeps telling the irrational part, “Be quiet! I know I am not actually hearing voices” and the two are bickering children in the back seat.
The mental difficulty interweaves within the rationale. It becomes part of the person’s entire experience. It is part and parcel of who they are. They really, truly believe the government is utilizing dentists to monitor people by filings. They can drive, order movies, work—but part of the wiring tells them it is equally rationale to believe this fantasy. It is as real as our belief the police will come if you call “911.”
If I had a vision of Jesus, it is very possible I wouldn’t get a mental examination because I wouldn’t see the need to do so. Just like the schizophrenic who hears voices—they will not get one either, because the voices (to them) are real. It is not as if my rational brain could “trump” my irrational brain.
More importantly, though, what about the same question to Christians? What if God appeared and told you to kill a dog? Or kill your own children? If the person holds to the Tanakh God, he has ordered children killed before. Numbers 31:17; 1 Samuel 15:3. Indeed if the same Christian insists in absolute objective morality, it would be perfectly moral for God to ask again. Nothing whatsoever preventing it.
This is demonstrated as a useless question. If we are in control of our mental facilities, we (both the Christian and the non-theist) will dismiss such apparitions. We both would dismiss (or greatly question at the least) a vision of God outside our perceived notion. What if the Christian saw Shiva? Or YHWH? Again—the Christian expects the appearance to conform to their notion of what God is—they most likely would dismiss it.
So I ask the same question back, “Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, God really did appear to you and told you to kill your children. Would you believe that is what God wants you to do? Would you believe God adequately communicated his desires? Would you believe you experienced this first hand? Or would you dismiss it as dishonest or at least not to be trusted?
“What if God told you to kill your neighbor’s children?”