(B) Born-Again Christian And An Agnostic – Why Dialogue?
Note: This post is a continuation of my post from January 10, 2011, entitled, “(A) Born-Again Christian And An Agnostic – Why Dialogue?“
The following is fiction, but loosely based on actual correspondences between a Born Again Christian and an Agnostic. In this dialogue, I have named the Born Again Christian, Bac and the Agnostic, Ag. My intention with the post is to present a civil dialogue between two different thinking systems about God and religion. There is no intention for this to be a debate in which there is a “winner.” Enjoy the dialogue and please feel free to comment.
***(The following exchange, marked with asterisks, are repeated from January 10’s post.)***
*Ag – All of the posts/links that I referred to previously,
(https://r2blog.com/2009/09/17/what-do-you-know-about-your-feelings-of-awe/ & https://r2blog.com/2009/07/09/do-you-ever-change-your belief/ & https://r2blog.com/2009/02/07/ethical-what-does-it-mean-to-you/ & https://r2blog.com/2009/01/27/why-ten-commandments/ & https://r2blog.com/2009/01/26/religion-and-my-sister/)
deal in some way with my thoughts regarding religion, faith and/or belief in God. I can imagine that, from your point of view, I do look lost – don’t I?
*Bac – I see your point, but I do have unconditional love for you and I will try to help you “not be lost.”
*Ag – I think we will have an interesting conversation regarding religion and especially, why you believe what you believe. How did you come to believing it? What is God? Is everything the work of God?
Bac – You ask, “what or who is God?” The very first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” He is the Great Creator. When you look at nature around us, and you see the intricacy of a rose, a butterfly, mountains and animals, they can’t just have happened. If you have a wrist watch and someone says where did it come from? The answer is, it was made by a person or company. Where did the things of nature come from? There had to be an intelligent design, a creator. Since I have made many references to the Bible and I want you to have the ability to read in more detail, here’s a King James Version of the New Testament. I’ve taken the liberty of marking some of the very important verses.
Ag – I sincerely thank you for the gift of the KJV New Testament. I’m considering what you marked and have already used the KJV New Testament for resource. I’m having a few problems with understanding. I find the translation a little hard to understand. I think I will have to study, discuss, and in general, reflect on what you have marked. I think the bible is difficult to understand without treating it as a way of life. Also, you referred to Genesis, which isn’t in the New Testament. Do you believe and follow all that is written in the Old Testament?
Bac – You are welcome. Of course, I believe in the Old Testament, especially the book of Genesis. What or who do you think God is?
Ag – As you most likely read, in one of my posts, I think, “God is all that we don’t know.” Another way of thinking about and/or believing in God, is to have God, as thinking done deductively, and science, as thinking done inductively.
To illustrate this, take your belief of God, the Intelligent designer, and deduce specific ideas, concepts, beliefs, etc. For example, God created everything and since I am part of everything, then God created me. Of course, if I create this e-mail, then I will be given credit for its creation. Generally, we won’t go back to the most general statement, but instead, allow me to have “free will.” :-)
Now let’s consider a scientific way of thinking, and through the scientific method I (we) might consider many specific cases and then come up with a general belief. For example, through observations and experiments, Galileo was able to conclude that the earth was not the center of the universe, yet the Catholic church believed it was. Galileo was called before the Inquisition for professing heliocentrism instead of geocentrism. The point here is that geocentrism was taught by a religious belief system to be the correct way of thinking. The belief system was wrong, in my opinion. There must be, so I think, a way to use the Bible as a “guide on the side, but not as a sage on the stage,” paraphrasing an old education mantra.
Bac – Well, for me, that’s certainly a different point of view.
Ag – Yes, it is, especially since I am not professing that the Bible is without error and should be used as an instruction manual. I think using God (deductive) and Science (inductive) together without either as a “supreme court,” allows us to live with and in nature. Actually, this is not so easily explained by using so few words, but hopefully, you see my point. Considering other points of view is good and I will definitely consider the point of view from the Bible. But, I have some more questions. Why do you pray? Yesterday, I was at a ‘Celebration of LIfe’ for my friend, Mary who died last Friday. Where’s Mary and should I pray for her?
Bac – You ask, “Where’s Mary?” The Bible clearly teaches if Mary was saved and born again and had a relationship with Jesus Christ, she is in Heaven with Him. A beautiful example of this is in the Gospel of Luke 23: 39-43. This is part of the Bible that describes the crucifixion of Christ. There were two criminals crucified with Jesus. One of the criminals said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” If Mary did not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Bible teaches that she is lost and is in hell. God created us with a free will; we can either accept Christ or reject Him. We are in no position to know Mary’s heart. The Bible teaches that hell is a very real place. The Bible says the flame and torment in hell is not one that burns out, it is eternal. All of us will have eternal life and life in heaven is eternal with everlasting peace and joy; life in hell will be eternal and everlasting torment.
Ag – Wow, that’s quite a response! I don’t think my friend Mary was saved or born again, AND I do not believe she is in hell. I don’t believe my Dad, who died suddenly in a car accident when I was five-years old, was saved or born again, and I don’t believe he is in hell. Actually, I don’t believe in hell and I’m unsure of heaven. I do believe that we experience a “heaven and hell” while alive. I think heaven and hell are creations of the human mind. If my Dad is in hell, then in order to spend eternity with him, I will have to NOT be saved. ??? What about my Muslim and Jewish friends? What about the little children who have died before they were old enough to save themselves? This doesn’t make sense!
Bac – I want you to know that I love you and am praying for you. More importantly, God loves you with an everlasting love as stated in John 3:16. I hope you keep an open mind and please know that I have unconditional love for you.
Ag – Well, it’s nice to be loved. Before we end our dialogue, I would like to add a few more points. I will try to use your gift of the Bible as a guide on my side. As you know, the version you gave me is translated from Greek. In the Greek Orthodox Church, there are times when the priest will challenge the translation from the original Koine Greek and in doing so, will state that since he is Greek and studied the bible in Greek, he knows “better.” A lot can get changed or lost in translation. The old, “lost In translation” issue! :-)
You think of God as the Intelligent Designer and I think of God as “all that I don’t know.” I believe in evolution and you don’t, I assume. I think complex systems are difficult to know and therefore, my God is all that I don’t know. I think many years ago, when less was known, many people attributed to God, things we now don’t attribute to God. “Things“such as weather, fire, etc. used to be unknown and considered only understood by God. Who knows? Perhaps, God plays dice!
I think God exists only in the mind. I think math only exists in the mind. I think this computer I’m typing on exists, physically. I think the lamp near my sofa exists physically. God and math are examples of existence only in the human mind and the computer and lamp are examples of existence in the physical realm.
When I look at nature around us, I see complexity. Like your wrist watch example, if I’m asked, “Where did nature come from?” I will answer, “some person or company.” Not really, but I would consider the “company” to be reasonable, where “company” represents some complex system that I may or may not understand when you ask me.:-)
Lastly, it really is a nice and fulfilling feeling to be loved. God loves me and you love me. But, God only loves me, if I believe in him. (John 3:16) If him is “all that I don’t know,” then I believe in him and all is well. If God is the Creator and therefore, created not only the good, but also the bad, then I’ve got to work on my “believing.” :-) Actually, I think I have to develop a better understanding of love, because love like that just doesn’t make sense.
Thanks Bac, this has been enlightening. You have not convinced me to be a Born-Again Christian and I’m sure I haven’t convinced you to be a “Born-Again Agnostic.” :-)
Born-Again Christian and an Agnostic, why dialogue? Because dialogue, as an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue, can help us reach an amicable understanding of each other and help us with that all-important intellectual trait of empathy.
I hope you were able to read the first of this two-part series about an imagined dialogue between a Born-Again Christian and an Agnostic. Together, they manifest some of the confusing thoughts I have about religion, faith, and God. Though much of this was imagined, as mentioned previously, it is loosely based on an actual exchange of ideas. Thanks for reading the dialogue and I look forward to your comments.
A very nice follow-up. I have a number of reflections:
I agree with Ag that it is important to honor science and religion as equals, as I find them to be complementary systems of knowledge which can teach us the most about the world around us when they are seen to be in harmony.
I also respect Ag’s concern that religious texts are not always “perfect”: a.) because translations, long periods of time, multiple authors, etc. may not adequately preserve the original message. b.) sadly because religious leaders/institutions have wrongly imposed their own (often narrow or inaccurate) interpretations of religious scripture on their adherents. I certainly don’t think that Jesus himself proclaimed geocentrism! These are both examples of what has been referred to as “truth decay”.
Like Ag, it has always disappointed and confused me when any religious person makes claims that their path to God is the “only way”, especially if it condemns others in any way. As I see it, if a loving God exists, then all religions stem from the same ultimate source with the same ultimate purpose of creating love, unity, and inclusion in the world. Our rational mind and our free will are beautiful and amazing powers which allow us (and obligate us?) to constantly investigate what we believe, so who are we to ever judge another for their ever-evolving beliefs?
Finally, as for heaven and hell, my response is that all religious scriptures have always contained metaphorical writings which push us to think beyond the literal. I see heaven and hell solely as metaphors, not as real realms. If anything, they are like Ag says, psychological/spiritual states of our everyday life. Heaven could be likened to closeness to joy/God/higher self and hell to the absence of this and becoming lost in the ego.
Thanks again for posting such a thought-provoking dialogue.