Through much of the history of mankind, the quest for answers takes a circuitous path through the divine.
I took this photo at the Noravank Monastery, roughly 100 miles southeast of the Armenian capital of Yerevan. I found this small carving on a built-in altar in a small side chapel at the monastery complex, called Sub Grigor Chapel, named after one of the most important figures in the history of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Although this small chapel was built as a tomb for members of the influential Orbelian family in 1275, this face caught my eye.
While adorning this small altar, the face would have been carved after the initial altar installation. It appears to take advantage of the natural curve of the side of the altar. Was it added merely as embellishment, as an afterthought or was its image planned?
Does it represent the quest for the divine or the quest for the divine in each of us? Is it a god looking down on us, or us looking up for god? We are left with only questions and suppositions. Ultimately, we are on a quest to seek the answers…to the quest.
Unfortunately, his words still ring true and continue to resonate in the face of intractable opinion, masked in modern culture, rooted in religion, dogma and delusional thoughts of superiority.
In the company of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Paul Graham gives us a roadmap on how to effectively argue your point. It does not mean that you will always win. In fact, it guarantees that if you do not have your facts and examples lined up to present, you can be outclassed with as little as name calling and ad hominem retorts.
Most of what I hear today in religion, civil war and politics rarely moves above the point of Contradiction on Graham’s scale. The art of disagreement comes with intelligence, empathy and knowledge.
Secularism, and, shall we say, REALITY continues to rear it’s rationally religious-rebuking ugly head more and more in the United States. Across the board, the fire-and-brimstone teachings of the past no longer resonate with people. Religion’s ability to scare individuals into believing has simply lost its strangle-hold on our conscience.
No organization knows this better than PRRI, the Public Religion Research Institute, a non-profit group of highly-regarded researchers who’ve been reporting on the state of religion in America since 2009. For those god-loving peeps, the news is not good. The latest research paper from PRRI, published two days ago, is Exodus: Why Americans are Leaving Religion—and Why They’re Unlikely to Come Back. It seems that many of us are sick of hearing that our fellow LGBTQ friends and family are going to hell for their “lifestyles.” That we need to “love the sinner; hate the sin.” That we need to believe in miracles that are simply impossible on this earth: stigmata, virgin birth, raising from the dead, coming back to life…the same old diatribe designed to win you over emotionally, but asks you to surrender reality.
That being said, let’s get back to Reverend Billy and his Christian friend/Atheist friend scenario as brought to us by Kevin Davis. Growing up in the 1970s in Texas I was constantly told that I was going to hell because I was not a Southern Baptist. Never mind whether I had gone through the same giving up my life to Christ as a Methodist–that made no difference. It had to be done on the terms of the Southern Baptist Convention: you know, Billy’s group. So when I realized that we were suppose to believe in the same thing–that we were playing on the same team, but that my team was not good enough, well, that’s when I started questioning the whole situation. That’s right. Billy Graham’s team, the Southern Baptists, help me to decide that religion was really just a mythological scare tactic to keep me invested, and investing, in their cause.
Now we see that Billy is going soft on the atheists. Rather than attempting to pound us into submission, they can use the passive-aggressive move to pray for us and, perhaps occasionally interject that we will have no life after death and that no one can help us when things get bad, except praying to Jeeeeeesus. Number one: we Atheists don’t believe in heaven or the pearly gates or Dante’s nine circles of hell. There’s no proof. You either believe it or you don’t. I don’t. Number two: things will get bad and they do get bad. If you think that turning to religion is the only way to turn your life around, then you don’t get out enough. For those of us who are highly educated, travel extensively and know people from many different cultures, the narrow dogma of “you have to do what we say or all is lost”–well, that just doesn’t hold water. It never did and it never will.
So this was the original question on Billy Graham’s website:
My best friend and I enjoy each other’s company, but I’m a Christian and he says he’s an atheist. I’ve tried to argue with him, but he just laughs and says I ought to grow up and forget about God. How can I win him over?
The Reverend’s initial answer to the question is:
You can point him in the right direction—but to be honest, you can’t win him over by yourself (as you’ve discovered). He’s convinced that he is right—and even if he has secret doubts, his pride probably gets in the way.
The atheist is convinced that he is right because all evidence points him to the actual reality of life: not giving in to impossible, mythological beliefs inherent in all religion. What if you are wrong, Billy? Your pride must be equally great to not be able to see the ridiculous dogma of your beliefs.
I like Kevin’s answer to all of this pray-the-atheism-away: he suggests, “focus on enjoying the friendship and camaraderie you have with your atheist friend. Most of my friends and family are believers and don’t try to convince me to believe their dogma, just as I don’t try to burst their Bronze Age ideological bubble. It’s called respect. Once you stop showing that, you can say goodbye to your friendship altogether.”
Might I add to the Christian who wants to convert his/her friend: accept your Atheist friend as he/she is. As for your continued attempt at evangelizing to an Atheist, you might be safer just to stay in your religious bubble. Reality has its way of rearing it’s head around secularists. That might be too dangerous for a believer.
Read the original post on Answers, from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.