A Christian Pastor Interviews an Atheist... and they like each other

The backstory

You will want to read a previous hub of mine titled “My Friend, the Atheist, Didn’t Show” to learn the background to this hub. The short version is that several months ago a man who called himself an atheist phoned me to ask if I’d interview him and publish a hub about it. I agreed and sent him some questions, but I haven’t heard from him since. So I published the hub just mentioned in the hope that someone else might want to answer the questions. My first response came within a few hours from Olivia who offered, “I’d love to answer your questions.” She readily agreed to the “contract” I’d drafted. So here we are. She did ask to write an introductory paragraph which is what follows. To help distinguish her writing from mine, I’ve italicized hers.

Olivia
Olivia

Olivia's opening comments

Before I answer any questions, I do want to make some caveats to my answers. I cannot speak for anyone except for myself. There is no formal doctrine or dogma of atheism, so I can’t pretend to know what my fellow atheists are thinking except through conversation and interaction with them. My conclusions here are all from my own life and experiences, and I don’t claim to be representing any movement. My views personally fall generally under the “agnostic” category (we simply don’t know whether or not there’s a God and probably never will), however they tend towards atheism because we have no positive evidence for God, and in that case I will assume nonexistence. I prefer to identify as an atheist because I feel there’s a strong stigma against atheists, and there is more of a community and movement around atheism. I also fall into the A+ category, in that I prefer to prioritize my social justice concerns over my atheism. With that in mind, here are my answers.

What are the main factors which caused you to conclude that there is no God?

Olivia: I spent a good deal of time considering God and whether or not there was a God. I think on a guttural level I never believed there was a God. I went to a Catholic school from kindergarten through high school, and I spent a good deal of that time trying to find a way to believe in God, trying to find some evidence of his presence, or some feeling that he was there with me, because I believed it was the right thing to do. I also have an undergraduate degree in religious studies from a Lutheran College. However the more I learned about science, the world around me, and the way that religion functioned in our world, the more I realized a.that I did not want to be associated with any religion, b.that I had never had the “belief” that came from faith, or any other sort of non-evidence based source, and that I never would because I did not view faith without evidence as a virtue, and c.that there was no scientific or philosophical evidence for or need for God to exist in this world. It was primarily by virtue of trying to think logically and rationally about God, and realizing that while there may not be evidence AGAINST his existence, I could find no evidence FOR his existence, and that the burden of proof was on those trying to assert existence.

How would you define the term “God” as used in your answer to the previous question?

Olivia: For the most part, I approach God in a very western sense: a personal, omnipotent, omnipresent and universal being. However I also feel that my above feelings could be applied to any sort of “supernatural” creature that has powers beyond what we can witness/see/experience/measure, or that exists in some other dimension/world/realm, or is completely non-physical. Any one of these versions of god or spirituality seems to be broken down by logic and a lack of evidence, and thus my previous answer can be applied to any of them.

What do you think of Jesus Christ?

Olivia: I don’t think of Jesus Christ often because he has no real bearing on my life. feel that we really have no historical evidence that tells us much about him beyond the fact that he existed and was crucified, so I don’t have many opinions about him. The Jesus of the Bible was an extremely contradictory person, especially when you take into account the non-canonical Gospels. It seems to me that I can’t really come to any conclusion about him because he says things that seem to promote peace and love, but also says things that seem to promote exclusivity or violence. In general, I mostly wish that people wouldn’t appeal to Jesus Christ as often as they do, and would rather that people use logic and empathy to find their values.

What or who is the final authority in your life? Put differently, by what means do you determine what is true or false?

Olivia: I honestly don’t feel that there is any “final authority” in the world, particularly in moral terms. In terms of truth and falsity, I think that there are some things that we can determine through science, logic, rational thinking, and empirical testing, however I think we are all limited by our own perspective, senses, mind, and culture. Overall, I think this means that there is no ultimate authority, simply intersubjective reality. We can come closer to a truth by incorporating more and more sources of information, however we will never reach an objective truth and there will never be a means to which I can appeal for certainty.

What is the mission of the atheist movement?

Olivia: The “atheist movement” is a pretty ambiguous term. First, I think there are HUGE numbers of atheists (the vast majority) who are not part of any movement. Second, many people have many different goals within the organized movement. And third, there’s a great deal of debate within the movement about what our goals and mission should be. Overall, I think that the movement was started to increase awareness of atheism, create some community and camaraderie to allow atheists to feel more comfortable with their lack of religious beliefs, and to decrease stigma against atheists. It also has a great deal of overlap with the skeptical movement, which tries to educate the population about pseudo-science and similar things. Atheism has also moved into trying to educate and end some of the harms that have happened because of religion (e.g. pedophilia in the Catholic church). Some people like Richard Dawkins have tried to make this the main focus of the atheist movement, and even gone so far as to say that religion is inherently damaging, but I would argue that that’s a fringe position. There’s also a recent development in the atheist movement called A+, which is something like a hybrid of humanism and atheism, and looks to incorporate social justice and humanitarian goals into the atheist movement, to try and create something like the ethical framework and community that a church might provide for the atheist community.

Atheists desire peace and justice and long for personal joy and fulfillment. What brings these about and how do you experience them?

Olivia: First, I think it’s really an overgeneralization to say these things about any group. Yes, most people yearn for these things, but there are horrible people in the atheist movement and out who don’t care about these things. That said, I think that for me personally, these things are incredibly difficult. Obviously, peace and justice are difficult to try to bring about no matter who you are, and I don’t think the methods to bring them about hinge on religious beliefs. There is great variety within religious groups as well. In terms of personal joy and fulfillment, I think that atheists probably have to struggle a bit more with nuance about these because they don’t have a set of rules that they can turn to, they have to figure out the rules for themselves. That said, I think that even religious people spend a great deal of time trying to understand how to find personal joy and fulfillment in a difficult world. For me personally, joy and fulfillment come from giving back to my world and community, from love, relationships, family and being with other people, and from understanding my world. I don’t think that atheists are really all that different from other people in terms of what makes them happy, however they don’t label it with religious terms, they simply accept that their meaning is earthly, temporary, and transient, and comes from other people and themselves.

What offers you confidence in the face of the death we shall all experience?

Olivia: Nothing. I don’t have a strong fear of death, because it’s simply oblivion so I won’t experience it. What is there to fear about nothing? I don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about or worrying about death. I’m more worried about getting what I can out of the time that I have because it’s all that I have. What I’m afraid of is not having enough time, or feeling like I can’t accomplish what I’d like with the time I have. Once I’m dead, that won’t bother me, so I have to learn how to deal with those anxieties about the here and now through things like therapy, reflection, meditation, and an understanding of my own emotions and where they come from.

Frank
Frank

My take on Olivia’s answers

This is an interview, not a debate. Though I disagree with much of what Olivia has written I respect her for her thoughtful honesty and gracious manner. It’s helpful that she describes an atheist as someone who doesn’t see sufficient evidence for God as opposed to dogmatically asserting “There is no God.” The former has integrity, the latter implies godlike omniscience. I’ve learned from Olivia what an A+ atheist is. Whatever her religious convictions are, she’s focused on the real world seeking justice.

Olivia’s position concerning Jesus marks the watershed between us. She grants that he lived and was crucified but believes there’s little evidence for much else. She judges his teaching to be contradictory. If these are her thoughts regarding Jesus, I understand why she would find it off-putting that people appeal to him so much. Neither am I surprised that she’s not concerned about death, for she’s concluded that death is no more than oblivion.

I would have to agree with Olivia but for one thing. There is overwhelming evidence that Jesus not only lived and was crucified, but that he rose to life on the third day. I don’t expect Olivia, or any atheist to agree with that, but hear me out. If, in fact, Jesus rose from the dead, his life and words take on a whole new meaning. It would be reasonable to conclude that I’m faced not with a mere man, but with someone of godlike power and character. So if his words are contradictory, I’ll assume I’ve misunderstood them, not that he’s speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Once you grant that he conquered death everything else falls into place, including what happens at our own death.

Now integrity demands that if it’s proven that Jesus did not vanquish the grave I jettison my christian convictions in favor of a world and life view akin to Olivia’s. No melodrama here. Paul wrote, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:14) Conversely if after examining all the evidence for Christ’s resurrection he’s proved to be alive, I’d hope an honest atheist would reconsider.

Finally, I’ve never met Olivia. If we did meet, I’d enjoy her company over a cup of coffee. Everyone created by God is worth respecting and getting to know even if the person doesn’t believe there is a God.

Olivia's final comment

I want to thank Crane for setting up this interview. It's a really wonderful experience to have some honest dialogue between a theist and an atheist. I agree with most of his conclusions, and if I were presented with strong evidence of Jesus' resurrection, or of some other immediate intervention of God in the world, I would be forced to change my beliefs. We all start with the evidence that's presented to us, analyze it through our own lens, and work from there. I can begrudge no one the conclusions they have come to through their own honest contemplation. This experience has made two of us that would look forward to a cup of coffee and a good discussion.

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Comments - we're listening 33 comments

Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 2 years ago from The English Midlands

Yes, I can see why you thought of me when she said that :) :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 2 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Kirsten Powers is a well regarded in America as a liberal pundit who is often on Fox News. She is liberal politically and socially. While I'm conservative in those areas, I find her very fair and challenging when she shares her perspectives. I only recently learned that she had become a follower of Christ "against her will" as she put it.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 2 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi :)

I just watched & listened.

Interesting :)

I don't know who Kirsten Powers is, but I find it quite surprising that she hadn't really encountered Christianity before and so was secular / atheist / agnostic.

Although it probably wasn't this simple, it seems that she became Christian having suddenly met intelligent Christian people. (To us English, it appears that Christianity pervades American culture so this is why it is surprising.)

I'm different from her, though. I have encountered Christianity, I was Christian and I know some lovely and very intelligent Christians :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 2 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

I thought of you, Trish, when I heard this.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/02/23/...


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 2 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi again :)

You never know, Frank. You never know :) :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 2 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Wow, Trish. Thanks for sharing so personally. You can call me anything you want. Pastor implies that I have a particular charge. I don't. I now work for Home Depot and am having a ball trying to practice what I've been preaching all my life.

There is something beyond the intellectual in the Christian faith. I said "beyond" not "contra." For instance Paul wrote of a peace that passes all understanding. So at the intellectual level I believe it is reasonable to follow Christ, at the spiritual level there's a certainty that is God's gift to us. But I can't defend why I feel certain, other than to say that God's Spirit has given it. I applaud your reading the gospels as though you've never read them before. The Lord may get your heart inspite of your doubts. You won't be the first person to enter the Kindom kicking and screaming. :-) Love ya, Frank


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 2 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi again LiftandSoar - or perhaps I should call you Pastor Frank :)

I'm pleased to have met up with you, again, too. :)

With regard to my comment "The final authority has to be me" isn't it the same for everyone? ~ Because, unless we are being forced to do something against our will, and even if we take advice or pray over our decisions, we each, ultimately, draw our own conclusions and make our own decisions about how to act and react, even if we may not always feel confident or certain about them.

And I agree that life can be scary. I worry about the health and safety of my loved-ones all the time. I fear for my own safety if I am in a difficult or dangerous situation. And, actually, I do pray about such matters. But who am I praying to and why? ~ It's a natural reaction; wishing and hoping and praying. And there just might be someone there to help. Maybe the souls of my deceased loved-ones, perhaps? I don't know.

It's not that I do not believe in anything. I believe in possibilities. There may be a 'supernatural realm' for deceased souls that people have come to call heaven. I don't know. That's why I call myself agnostic.

I think that Jesus has become a watershed issue for Christians, but I also think that one can have a good, even spiritual life believing in God, without this having to be specifically named Christianity.

Actually, I have been reading the gospels over the last few days. I decided to put aside my questions and just read the story that is written about Jesus. I also played some beautiful old hymns that we used to sing at school.

I found it alluring. The King James version, in particular, is very poetic and beguiling. I can understand how people steeped in these stories and in this atmosphere could really take it onboard.

However, once I am away from the books, I become more objective and realise that other mytholical stories may be equally appealing.

And I am sorry, I know that we have covered this before, but I always come back to the same thing. This is a religion where God either kills babies, or where his followers believe that he kills babies. At present I cannot get past that.

Many of my relatives, friends and online cyber-friends are believers. I like them. I enjoy discussing religious issues with them as well as with agnostics and atheists.

It helps us all to understand each other's viewpoints.

Take care :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 2 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Well, Trish, I see you've been doing some hub hopping. Glad you landed here. Frankly, when this was first published I wondered whether I'd get a response from you. As usual, your answer are honest and thoughtful. Three of your comments caught my attention.

In response to by what authority one may determine what is true and right you answer, "The final authority has to be me." I'm afraid I don't have that much confidence in my own ability to determine such matters. I hold that the Christiain faith offers a reasonable world and life view rather than a certain one. Not that I doubt the Scriptures or God's ways, it's myself I doubt. It seems arrogant to assert intellectual certainty on anything.

Another comment worth noting is your honest and heartfelt answer to the question about death. "Death is scary. Very scary." So if death is scary how can life not be scary?

Finally, I note your doubts about the historical reality of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection. Of course, that's the watershed issue. Again thanks for your honesty. I won't repeat points made to in this hub and in previous exchanges you and I have had.

So glad you and I have met up again.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 2 years ago from The English Midlands

Hello again 'LiftandSoar'. I hope that you are well :)

I haven't had a good look at this site for a while, so I have missed out on a few things.

When reading this hub I could not help but want to answer the questions and I hope you won't mind me adding my responses here.

Atheist or Agnostic?

I consider myself agnostic, but I think that others might describe me as an atheist. On the other hand, I might describe them as atheists. After all, most Christians are non-believers when it comes to Zeus or Odin or Ra. It's all about definition.

There may be some sort of power behind the universe that could be termed as 'God', but I don't know - ie I am agnostic. Perhaps 'Mother Nature' would be a good name for it, or even the secrets of science.

Many people have experiences that are termed paranormal, so maybe there is something there which could fit into an explanation of God. Indeed, I think that all 'religions' are attempts by humans to explain the inexplicable.

The main factors which cause me to doubt God / consider that there may be 'no God'.

When asked about 'no God', I wonder, what exactly is meant by 'no God'?

No God at all? No God named Yahweh? No power behind life, the universe and everything? No possibilities of something 'supernatural'?

I conclude that there is no 'Yahweh' because there is absolutely no reason to believe that Hebrew mythology is any more real than Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian or any other mythology. Plus, the Bible tells us some pretty horrible things about this God, as well as giving us some contradictory information about him. It also indicates that 'he' is based on earlier god myths.

What do I think of Jesus Christ?

Scholars say that Jesus definitely existed, but I am not convinced that the evidence is as reliable as some of them claim. He may have been real, or mythological, or half-and-half. He may have been a real man who had lots of stories added to the original one.

Was he divine? It's unlikely. He could have been a radical preacher or even a semi-peaceful rebel. Who knows. It's fascinating to study what people said / wrote about him in order to try and find some truth about him.

The final authority in my life? Determining what is true or false?

The final authority has to be me. I have to weigh things up for myself ~ but not without assistance. When it comes down to it only I can decide what I do, but I take advice. My parents, grandparents and teachers advised me when I was small. My husband, children, mother, brother and friends help me to think things through now. And I read a lot. I hope that I can work out what is truth and what isn't, but I cannot be sure.

The mission of the atheist movement?

I didn't know that there was an atheist movement. Obviously there are atheists and some of them are now willing to come to the fore and discuss matters. (I get annoyed when people call atheism a religion.)

I do think that atheists are fed up of people telling them that, not only are they destined for hell, but that they deserve it.

What brings these about peace and justice, personal joy and fulfilment and how do I experience them?

Human beings working in harmony should be able to bring about harmony and justice, but it isn't easy, of course, and we can only try to do our best.

I get joy from sunrises and sunsets, new babies, young children, my family and friends, my studies, travel, etc, etc.

What offers me confidence in the face of the death we shall all experience?

Death is scary. Very scary. Not just our own deaths, but the deaths of those we love. I have had, and I know other people who have had, experiences which indicate that our loved-ones may live on. I hope that this is true and that we may meet up again one day. It's a reassuring thought. I have always said, even as a young child, that I find it hard to believe that the energy of our soul could just disappear. Obviously this is akin to 'religious belief', but I have no idea whether or not it is true; it is simply comforting.

Again, I think that such experiences have contributed to the evolution of religions. But the existence or non-existence of an afterlife for the soul does not indicate that a god who supposedly killed innocent babies existed. It certainly does not indicate that such a deity should be worshipped.

Thank you for allowing me to add my thoughts :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Thank you, Burnell Andrews, for your thoughtful comment. You make some very signficant points. As a Christian I've become persuaded that we do far more to commend our Lord to the world by acting like Him than by arguing for Him.


Burnell Andrews profile image

Burnell Andrews 3 years ago from LaBelle, Florida

I liked this hub, I get so tired of people just screaming at each other(with regard to religious arguments), we don't always have to be so hostile, we can have common interests, why is it so important to attempt to destroy another person's beliefs. I am a agnostic environmentalist but this doesn't mean I have to be against religious people, I can just seek out those people that are religious with congruent beleifs, like the Evangelical Stewardship movement, or on social welfare groups like the Salvation Army. We don't always have to be against each other, we are all human, weak creatures that need each other to survive. The world is bad enough without making it worse for ourselves. So live and let live eh?

I wish more religious people were like you Pastor.


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Thanks, RealityTalk, for you thoughtful and sensitive comments. Indeed, one of my goals is to contend for the Christian faith not by mere argumentation but by demonstrating the character features of the Lord I worship. That begins with respecting other human beings.

See, my conviction that all human beings bear the image of God in them offers me a framework for respecting and loving all human beings. That image is not a physical set of traits (eye, nose, ears, etc). God exist as a spirit without physical features. Yet he is personal. So the image of God in man consists of a moral consciousness, self-consciousness, ability to love and to think abstractly. Features that I don't believe will be found in the lesser animals.

Of course I don't expect you to agree with my point of view above. I write to promote understanding. Indeed I've come to regard you as a friend, well, as much as that is possible in cyberspace.


RealityTalk profile image

RealityTalk 3 years ago from Planet Earth

I did read the Hub you wrote "The Gospel for Sale or On Display?"

First, I think we agree on many things, and most likely would agree on many points of interest yet, or maybe never to be discussed between us. I have a great respect for many people of faith and I know many religious faithful who are good friends. I too do not want to convert you, and despite my not knowing you, I have a feeling you are very happy and content with your beliefs and lifestyle. And, odd as it may sound, I am very happy about that. I do respect other view points even if I do not believe them. I love to discuss them; especially religious beliefs, which is a hot bed for many. It would be a pretty boring world if we all thought the same thoughts and we all had the same ideas. I always tell my children, we can always learn something from someone else, anyone else, no matter how smart, or not so smart, no matter how different, no matter how young or old. What we learn may be good, bad, useful, or useless, but it will be something we did not know before and it will shape our lives in a major or minor way.

Second, regarding how my wife became my wife. I love my wife and I feel so lucky to have her, not only because of who she is, but because she feels the same about me. As I believe you feel, I am not so confident I could ever meet a another woman as perfect for me as my wife. That said, however, I do believe it was luck, pure luck that I met my wife. It would be romantic to say otherwise, and I am a bit of a romantic, but it would not be true. I dated many women before my wife and I was even married once prior for 10 years. I never regret my first marriage, because it made me appreciate my (as my wife says) - final marriage, all that much more. I believe if I had never met my wife, I would have met someone else and not ever knowing my wife, I may have thought her my perfect mate. Although, I am very glad that I did meet my wife.

Third, as regards the supernatural, I admit I do not believe in the supernatural. I do however, believe in physics that may be foreign to our universe and or state of being and I do not consider that supernatural; only foreign to my senses and understanding of how things work. I am, as I believed you stated, implied or inferred, limited to my 5 senses of touch, taste, sight, smell and sound. But science has already shown things exist that we cannot see such as the atom, electromagnetic waves on either end of the spectrum beyond our ability to record with our eyes. But the undiscovered is not necessarily supernatural. And, what troubles me about those who profess belief in the supernatural is the specific belief in a supernatural deity; and, they give this deity form. And the form given this deity tends to be that of a man. The defense put forth for that this manly description of god made in our image is to state the exact opposite, that man was made in god's image. It seems more logical that god was made in man's image and done so for many egocentric reasons. There are many creatures on this planet besides man and all creatures are edible. Man is a source of food no less than a cow or a chicken. But, man sets himself apart by his superior ability to manipulate his environment. But that is not enough for most men, because men know they die just like any other creature; men know they must eat just like any other creature; men know they can be eaten by the other creatures they share the Earth with just as they can eat the other creatures. So, man makes god; and, god looks like man. But even if a photograph of god was discovered that predated the dawn of man, I would have to ask the following questions: why does god need eyes, a nose and a mouth? Why does god have a stomach, a heart and lungs? that infers god eats and god breathes and god can die. I believe it possible a being or beings can exist, or did exist, that could be responsible for creation of man, chickens and cows and the universe itself. But I cannot understand why such a creator(s) would be physically limited by the body of a man. Also, I do not presume to know if a creator or creators exist what the physics behind that creator or creators may be. It may be, and most likely would be, foreign to what my 5 senses allow me to perceive.

I hope I have not gone too far off the trail from what you intended as my response to your last reply. These were just some thoughts that came to mind after reading your reply and Hub. I have little doubt that if the two of us met, I would enjoy discussing many topics with you and we could probably talk for days in a likeable and enjoyable manner. I like to believe you would feel the same. It is so difficult to convey ones personality and inner most thoughts and beliefs in short-worded commentaries. I believe a person is so much more. And, I hope you do not take offense to anything I write; and that you do not take of my words as a personal attack. I never mean to attack anyone merely because they have a different opinion or mindset than my own. As my wife would tell you, I am very strong in my opinions. But as I always like to reply, I respect the same in others. The only people I have difficulties with are those who wish to rudely and ruthlessly force their opinions on others in a manner that usually ends with them attacking the person and not the subject matter.

Thank you for discussing this with me, and for being so polite and courteous in your responses. Enjoy your weekend!


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Good to hear from you again, RealityTalk. I appreciate the irenic spirit with which you write. My interest is not to convert you. As you say, you are happy and settled in your set of beliefs. I respect that. However I think that you would agree that understanding of opposing points of view is always a good thing. Many of your questions regarding the Christian faith seem to me based on misunderstanding of that faith.

Another factor has to do with the presuppositions you begin with. In other words with the spectacles through which you view the world and history. We all have them. I readily admit that my presuppostion includes the possibility of the supernatural. Would that atheists, or realists as you call yourself, would recognize that you too have such presuppostions. Yours seems to be the persuasion that human intellect is capable of objectively evaluating the data and that truth is only what meets certain objective criteria.

For example if I were to choose a wife based on objective data pertaining to women there would be hundreds, if not thousands of women that would qualify as good wives. But there was something beyond objective data that drew me to the woman I've been married to for fifty years. So it with belief in God. I believe there are good objective data that makes such belief reasonable, but that data didn't convince me of His existance. There was something beyond, but not contra, rational. I recently wrote a hub that features the experience of an atheist, liberal, lesbian college professor which illustrates what I mean. I would value your take.

http://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/God-the-Go...


RealityTalk profile image

RealityTalk 3 years ago from Planet Earth

The story of resurrection is a beautiful story, but a story nonetheless. And I cannot equate any logic to it whatsoever. Why would a creator of a species, a creator of trillions of species as well as a world and a universe turn itself into one of its creations and live the life of its creation and allow itself to be destroyed by its own creations, to then leave its inhabited body to prove to man it is god and it loves its creations? The tale lacks logic.

It would be more logical if a creator revealed itself to its creations as the creator. [I mean no offense by the use of the word "it," I use this descriptor only to avoid the use of "he or she" as I wish to avoid using sex as a feature of the creator]. If god is all knowing, god has no need to be born and live the life of a man to understand the life of a man. What purpose is there for god to be born a man and grow up known only to a few as the son of god, and not start his preaching until 30 years after his birth? I read a lot of history, and despite my understanding history is written by subjective beings, history reveals that man has not changed very much in the last thousand years. I think if you asked most men or women today, they would agree they would be more impressed by a god that revealed itself to them. A creator that did not hide and reveal itself only to a very few. History is full of men and women who lie as to who they are and their motives. There have been thousands of religions and thousands of stories and they all are not true. Why would Jesus make man take his word as a man in the form of a man? I know I am not explaining this as well as I like. I apologize as I am out the door to my 2 daughters' concert, so I will sum up my rhetoric.

Even the story of resurrection itself recounts very few saw its happening or spoke with Jesus thereafter. And, Jesus was gone shortly thereafter. If a god desired to go through life as a man, die in a horrible way, as a man, and come back to life as no man could do, why not do it before the entire world? If the act of resurrection was done with the intent to amaze, god could amaze in so many more wondrous and caring and loving and visible ways. It just is not logical.

Let me end this on a different note however. We may have different beliefs. You will never convince me of a man-image god. I do not want to erode your beliefs; your beliefs are yours and not for me to judge. I am very happy and I love my wife and children; they are my life. You love your god, and your god is your life. As long as we both are happy, I'm happy. I would love that everyone could be happy in their convictions and their lives. May life continue to be good to you and everyone else no matter what we all believe.


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Thanks, RealityTalk, for stopping by. Visited your site and scanned some of your hubs. You may be surprised that I agree with your basic point on same-sex marriage.

To your comment above, my first impression is that the Christianity you abhor is not the same as the Christianity I love. So much of what you inveigh against is foreign to the Christian faith I know.

I applaud your mission to cut through the superficial and self-serving and misguided in so much of the organized expressions of the Christian faith. I suspect the same in other faiths, but it's not for me to comment on that.

As in my comments re Olivia, the crux of the matter is Jesus' resurrection. What makes you so positive that he didn't rise and why would that be illogical. I ask honestly, not to put you down or to deny your right to disbelieve the resurrection. I just want to understand.

Thanks again for stopping by.


RealityTalk profile image

RealityTalk 3 years ago from Planet Earth

I am what you would entitle an atheist, but I prefer the term realist; not to make my self stand out, but to accurately describe my philosophy and people like myself as not anti any particular religious beliefs, but pro truth, learning and discovery.

I agree with many of Olivia's points and I think she expressed herself well. I was raised a Catholic, baptized, communioned, confirmed and instructed in religious classes until I was 14. I read the bible from cover-to-cover, and I was born again at 17. As a young teenager, I had a poster of Jesus hung on my wall; Jesus and Muhammad Ali were my two heroes. I even thought of a career as a priest.

It was after I read the bible and came to the realization it is a collection of folktales, not Gospel written by the hand of god, that I started on a path of thinking about my faith, not just accepting it on faith. I read. I discussed with others. And most of all, I thought for myself. I reinvented the wheel; i.e., I no longer justified what was taught, but rethought everything from beginning to end.

Now many years later, at age 55, I place religion in a more "realistic" perspective. And when I refer to religion, I mean the supernatural portions of that philosophy, not the cultural and ethical portions thereof. These three facets of philosophy are joined under one roof of belief, but can exist independently of one another. I still admire the stories of Jesus. But I admire Jesus as a man; as a philosopher, and as a teacher. I do not believe Jesus was a god; I believe Jesus was a preacher; perhaps a rabbi. I do not believe Jesus rose from the dead, and I have absolute confidence in this belief and I do not consider myself omnipotent. It is just logical. I could write an entire book on explaining the logic behind this, but that is for another time. Let me just summarize with two questions. 1. If Jesus was the son of god, and if Jesus wanted the world to know he was the son of god and Jesus wanted to save the world, why did he not reveal himself and his resurrection from the grave to the entire world? 2. How does Jesus' being nailed to a tree like a common criminal of the day save all mankind from sin?

There are so many "human" inconsistencies in religions. Heaven was defined as existing beyond the dome which was our sky with doors in the dome necessitating the creation of winged angels to open the doors and let the ocean from heaven rain on the Earth. The stars and the sun and the moon existed within this doom. Now heaven is defined as something unreachable and well beyond the universe. Heaven moves further away as man learns more about his surroundings. There is only one god and yet he is the father, the son and the holy spirit, and yet he is one and yet is not. Everything good in life is god. Everything bad is man or the devil. God is all powerful and loves man, yet god lets man suffer and god hides from view. God is good. God is perfect. God is all knowing and all powerful. Yet god expects the creatures he created to be perfect and, if not, god will send them to hell to be tortured forever. How is it that god is so omnipotent and so all loving that he cannot understand that he created a flawed creature? How is god can expect man to act the way god dictates and if not god will not merely terminate man, but make man suffer for eternity? I do not mean to ramble on and on. What I said earlier goes for this topic in general; it would take an entire book or at least a week in conversation to adequately discuss and explain.

As regards ethics and and culture. I believe all men have a code of ethics born within them and many of the same ethics apply worldwide. It is part of our will to survive amongst each other. It is this internal creation of ethics that attaches itself to religion, not religion that creates the ethics. The same goes with culture. The Jewish faith (my wife is Jewish) is a culture. The Catholic faith is a culture. Buddhism is a culture. Islam is a culture. Cultures create religions. Religions do not create cultures.

I apologize for the disjointedness and meandering and ramblings of my writing. I wanted to throw a few things out there and philosophy/religion cannot be discussed adequately in a comment. Basically, I am saying that god and Jesus as god are creations of men. I am not suggesting I am smarter than you or anyone else, but I do not think I have to be smarter to say the burden of proving the existence of god and Jesus as god resurrected from the grave is not the same as proving these things wrong. It is easy to say one cannot prove something wrong, but that does not put one's belief in the realm of fact. I can equally say, you cannot prove I am not god. I am equally made of flash and blood as was Jesus. But I am sure you will argue that just because I say you cannot prove I am not god, I am not god.


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

hmmm... Thanks for stopping by, but is "hmmm" your screen name? But you're not underlined like others. And you're not identified as a guest. Sounds a little fishy.

To your point. The Romans instigated by the Jewish leadership were in control of Jesus from the time he was arrested until his body was turned over to Arimatheaus. So when might his friends had drugged him? Furthermore, it was in the best interest of the Romans and the Jewish authorities to make sure he was dead. One does not survive a 1st century crucifixion.

Also, those who followed him willingly gave their lives rather than deny him. I doubt that such loyalty would have been inspired by a fraud. Though of course there are instances of that, in this case it seems different. Jesus' followers did not aspire to fame or riches. What possible reason would they have to follow him to the death, unless it was that his death and resurrection had convinced them that Jesus is, in fact, God.


hmmm... 3 years ago

It's nice to see a reasonable religious person and atheist interacting in a civil/friendly manner. I hate how both groups are so often represented by bigots.

Also, about Jesus... There are drugs that make the "victim" appear dead until they wear off sufficiently. Might that be a reason for someone to "rise from the dead" after 3 days? I don't know too much about them, but I don't think it's impossible. The problem is that it may be difficult to find historical evidence for such a scenario.

Just putting that out as a possibility, because I'm curious about what others may think.


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Wow, just came across this article in Christianity Today.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/january-f...

This woman, and atheist and a lesbian, writes from the heart.


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

PDXKaraokeGuy Yes! Thanks my fellow follower of Christ.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 3 years ago from Portland, Oregon

This was really fascinating. I'm in the process of reading Luis Palau's book where he and an atheist also debate. i'll be curious to explain the answers.

What I appreciated most is the respectful and thoughtful tone of this piece. While authors shared drastically different conclusions, both were able to explain their beliefs and didn't seem eager to prove the other person wrong... just listen.

I believe in God precisely because of science. I think the human body and nature are far too intricate and organized not to be the design of an intelligent creator. That said, I can also understand arguments against the existence of God, and I no longer identify as a Christian. I refer to myself instead as a follower of Jesus and a seeker of Truth and knowledge.

Great work. Thank you both for sharing!


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Thanks, James, for your perspective. Perhpas I'm naive, but can't social justice mean merely a concern for justice for others as well as myself? That's how I had taken Olivia's reference to it.

Regarding your last paragraph. At what point does a human born with the image of God, loose that image? It sounds like you are saying that there comes a time when one may be beyond the reach of grace. Even if there is such a time, I doubt that we have the right or the discernment to know when that line has been crossed.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 3 years ago from Chicago

Thank you for publishing this. I enjoyed reading the thoughts of both of you.

One note, I think everybody loves Justice. When you add the word "Social" to "Justice" just what does that mean? True Justice is great. Social Justice makes a mockery of the word Justice by making the State a coercive power used to punish the winners of the world to reward the losers, to be "fair." Fair? Who decides what is fair? If you drive a new car and mine is ten years old is that fair? If you marry the prom queen and my wife is homely, is that fair? If you are 6'5" and I am 5'3", is that fair? If I die at 60 and you live to be 90, is that fair?

If you confiscate my legally gained earnings at the point of a gun in order to give them to someone else, you can call it anything except Just. It is not Justice.

It is no wonder that the whole Social Justice crowd is Atheist, since it is just another fancy term for Marxism. And where do the unfair people go, to the Gulag or the Gas Chamber? I mean, they are just animals after all, not Beings Created in the Image of God that might attach to them more value than a cow or chicken.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

Wow, excellent and very interesting interview here. I am a Christian, so there you go.

Voted up +++

God bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

nenfea, Thanks for your response and your honesty. I hope what exchanges I participate in will help both Christians and atheists understand each other and avoid offending each other. I'm sure each side holds strongly held convictions that are offensive to the other. But not everything we believe need be spoken and what is spoken can be uttered with respect and love.


nenfea profile image

nenfea 3 years ago

I'd like to be honest here. I find it a little be offensive that some of you are saying that my beliefs and conclusions are impossible to hold. If the tables were turned and I were saying to you "I don't really think it's possible for someone to actually believe in God, and our intellect and reason will reveal themselves to each of us in their own time. I hope each of you is disillusioned and comes to see the truth that your beliefs are impossible and flawed", I think you would become somewhat defensive.

In the same way, I'd like the respect that says while you may not agree with my beliefs, you don't act like you have the privileged higher ground of KNOWING that you are right and I am wrong, because none of us have the ground.

Charlene-thanks for that insight. I have thought about that as well, and I do find it somewhat comforting that there is a balance, an order, and a continuity in the universe. I'm still not sure if that translates into anything spiritual.

Pastor Brad-unfortunately I'm not anywhere near Richmond, so for now the comments on this hub will have to take the place of coffee :(


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Charlene, so good to hear from you. I'm eager to see how the exchanges develop on this hub.


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Well, thanks Pastor Brad. Thanks for the affirmation. I'm counting on you to keep it from going to my head!


Pastor Brad profile image

Pastor Brad 3 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

Frank, your hubs are always thought-provoking. Most I endorse wholeheartedly. Some, I propose some of my inexperience in comment form for your gentle correction. But this hub ...

... this hub is by far the most fantastic to date. I am proud to call you friend and brother, and the respect and dignity with which you approached the content and participant are beyond admirable. Thank you for your gracious, compassionate heart for others and your unabating commitment to the Gospel. You continue to lead and encourage in what you do.

Olivia, thank you for sharing. I, too, have gained valuable insight. I am grateful for your transparency and honesty. If ever that coffee rendezvous takes place, I'll treat you both for the privilege of sitting in on the conversation and getting to meet you in person.


Charlene Marsh 3 years ago

Very interesting answers from Olivia. I can understand her viewpoint as I used to be very rational and want scientific proof of God and Jesus. One law of physics that Olivia could think about is the law that says "Energy is neither created nor destroyed". So when we die, our life force, life energy(soul) is transferred to another form. We do not simply cease to exist. I have come to understand that there are many things we can never fully understand in our limited human paradigm.


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Thanks, Patriot Quest. Appreciate your stopping by. One of the things that I love about God is that he forces no one to believe. If a person looks for an intellectual reason to deny God, it will be found. There is something beyond intellectual understanding to our conviction about God and yet it is a reasonable conviction. While God doesn't force anyone to believe, only He can open the eyes of the blind. So your prayers are certainly in order.


Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

I too appreciate her thought out comments and answers. Of course I disagree because I believe we as humans are so complex that it is IMPOSSIBLE to NOT believe in God.............I intend to pray for Olivia that God may reveal himself to her. Excellent thought process in creating this interview. .........voted up

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