This post was imported from Livejournal on 2008.07.17
I have a bad memory, but this is the best I can remember.
So today I went to lunch with a few people from work, and everything was going fine until the way home. It turned into a typical "Christian-who's-never-met-an-atheist" conversation. I was riding with two female co-workers, Mary, who is a Deist and Annie, a Christian. Mary mentioned something about her bad luck, and said it was a bad sign "if you believe in such things." And so then I said, as a joke of sorts, "You must've angered the gods somehow."
Mary: Well, I don't believe literally in that like Jeff (my boss) does.."
Annie: Well he only believes in one god.
At this point, Mary and I both said something along the lines of "Well, yeah but it's the same difference."
Mary: I even actually pray, even though I don't believe that anything is going to happen because of it..
Annie: Well, then what's the point? You might as well be praying to the air.
Me: It's just superstition. Just like throwing some salt over your shoulder, it's just something that people do sometimes.
Mary: I've studied enough biology to believe in some kind of god.
Me: Funny, I've studied enough biology not to. If I believe in anything like a god, it's just an overriding force in the universe, but nothing remotely close to a personal god, a cognitively-aware being.
Annie: I believe in a personal god, and I believe that he had a son, and that he walked the earth, in the flesh. [When people use phrases like "in the flesh," that just shows how far into the dogma they are. Who uses those kinds of phrases in everyday conversation?]
Annie: No, Jesus.
Annie: I believe that he walked the earth, with Satan, and all of that. So, you don't believe in God? Does that mean you don't believe in Satan either?
Me: *laughing* No, of course not. That's ridiculous.
Annie: See, I've felt the hand of Satan way too many times to not believe.
Me: And I know that there is a scientific explanation for everything that you've felt. If God exists, he exists as a concept, as a sort of manifestation of those who believe in him.
Mary: That's a sort of typical atheist viewpoint.
Annie: Annie: I used to pretty much not believe in anything, but I've seen enough in my life that's happened. The problem is that life is just so empty to not believe in anything. I have spiritual experiences that I couldn't have if I didn't believe.
Me: No, no, life has plenty of meaning! My life is anything but empty. We can both stand at the edge of something like the Grand Canyon, and we can both feel the same feelings, and I will be marveling at the beauty of everything...the beauty of the universe. You can call it spiritual, but we can both have the same experiences. It's such a common misconception that atheism is empty and meaningless. [What I actually wish I had said after this is "Life only has the meaning that you apply to it." but I didn't think of it at the time.]
Mary: But she's just talking about her life.
Me: Regardless, if a god exists or not, the experience will be the same.
Mary: But you can't prove if God exists.
Me: Right, but what I'm saying is that it doesn't matter.
Mary: It doesn't matter to you, but to her...
Me: I'm saying it doesn't matter ultimately. Just because you have those experiences, that says nothing about the truth. If you believe you're having a certain experience, your experience will be the same, regardless of the actual existence of God.
It kind of faded out after that. I can't remember how it concluded, but no one was mad at anyone else as far as I could tell. The best thing I do remember Annie saying was that she didn't believe that anyone else's beliefs were wrong, and that they were a personal thing. I loved hearing that. That's where I was before I made the next step to questioning it all. Not that I think she will, but that's the most religion that I wish existed (if any). That's at least a sensible outlook.