I took a quiz about questions atheists should answer, and it got me thinking; despite it being sort of an asshole quiz to concoct, I understand the sort of desperation a person goes through trying to rationalize religion in the face of very illogical claims. I did these intellectual jumping jacks for decades before finally rejecting it.
I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to devise a quiz for all theists, because that’s not what this blog is for, and I don’t think that conversion or deconversion can honestly happen over the course of a few questions for most intelligent people. But I think I’m close enough to my original Christian
mindset to have a conversation with my former self about the problems inherent in my former belief system.
So even though this might be an exercise in frivolity, I thought it might be fun to imagine having a conversation with my former self. Honestly evaluating questions like these might have saved me a lot of pain and illogical monkey business. I don’ know if my Christian counterpart would have answered exactly this way. I suspect I’m engaged in a bit of self-serving confirmation bias, but I tried to think about these questions from both perspectives, and did try to answer honestly from both. Here it goes…
Atheist Tim: Why do you believe what you do, in terms of your Christianity?
Christian Tim: I don’t know. I suppose it’s because I was born in a Christian household, God seems to exist, and because I promised I would be a Christian for the rest of my life
AT: How old were you when you made that promise?
AT: Do you think you were emotionally and intellectually prepared to make a committment like that when you were that age?
CT: Probably not, but it’s not like I’ve been forced to make any sacrifices because of it.
AT: Do you think 13 year olds ought to be allowed to get married or enter into contracts?
CT: No. Maybe some contracts are ok with parental supervision, but definitely not marriage.
AT: What is it about 13 year olds that you don’t think they’re ready for marriage?
CT: 13 year olds aren’t even physically mature yet…some haven’t even started puberty. Most have hardly experienced any life or significant dilemmas at all…I certainly hadn’t. You learn a lot between the ages of 13 and 20, and maybe even more between 20 and 25. Being married implies all sorts of things that 13 year olds should not be forced into doing or accepting, and I don’t believe the large majority of 13 year olds have the intellectual tools to recognize that. Being a kid ought to be about learning and experiencing, not about slavishly abiding by arbitrary and rigid social conventions that are best reserved for adults who consciously decided to do something.
AT: Do you see a difference between being forced to do something and knowing that you would be forced if you refused?
CT: Maybe a bit, but they’re not exactly the same thing
AT: Do you think rape victims see the two things as different?
CT: It’s not the same thing. I’d say it’s more like cleaning your room. Either you do it or you drag your feet, but either way, it’s going to happen
AT: If you had doubts about your faith at 13, would you have felt safe to voice those doubts?
CT: Probably not. I’m sure some kids do, and I’m sure they ask for spiritual guidance, but honestly, I think even at 13, if I had doubts, I would have recognized that doubts about faith deserved skeptical analysis and devil’s advocate, even if I wouldn’t have articulated it that way when I was 13. I didn’t
have a lot of doubts at the time, because it all seemed self-evident. To be honest, I was probably too scared of going to hell to even imagine questioning my faith; and even if I had, I don’t think my family would have gone for me refusing to get confirmed
AT: Why do you think that a church would ask a person to make that sort of committment when they’re so young and before they understand basic tenets of
CT: I see where you’re going with this. You’re trying to say that kids get brainwashed. There’s probably some truth to that, but there’s also a problem of waiting too long, because 20 year olds can’t be forced to attend church by their parents the way 12 year olds can.
AT: Do you think forced marriages are ok?
CT: No. I think some forced or arranged marriages are worse than others, in terms of how bad of a situation one (or both) parties enters into, but in general, I think that forced marriage is one of the cornerstones of lack of freedom
AT: So, you don’t believe that people should be forced into major life commitments, you believe a person should be free to make their own decisions, and you believe that the bulk of these decisions and life commitments should be reserved for adulthood, but you’re ok with forcing 13 year olds to adopt a particular faith?
AT: Are there any compelling reasons why you think Christ was the person the bible claims…son of God, and that sort of thing?
CT: The bible says so. Isn’t that reason enough?
AT: If I rolled a standard, 6-sided die, but didn’t show you the result, would you believe me if I said I rolled a 7?
CT: There are only 6 discrete values. 1 through 6
AT: What if I could roll the die 10 million times?
CT: Still no. 7 is not a valid outcome. Don’t try to fool a computer programmer. I understand enumerations.
AT: So why do you believe Jesus Christ could do things that are not natural outcomes for humans (walking on water, magically healing lepers, rising from the dead)?
CT: The bible says so, and a lot of people believe it. And because Jesus was the son of God.
AT: If a lot of people believed that jumping off a bridge was a good idea, would that make it so?
AT: What if the bible said that jumping off a bridge was a good idea? Would that make it a good idea?
AT: If one part of the bible said it was good to jump off a bridge, but another part said it wasn’t, would you still say that not jumping off the bridge is better?
CT: Not jumping off a bridge is more reasonable. It is harmful to jump off the bridge.
AT: How do you know that?
CT: Common sense and collected evidence
AT: So why is common sense and a reasonable standard of evidence the most useful strategy for evaluating the biblical bridge claim, but not useful in evaluating whether Jesus Christ did what the bible claims?
CT: Because I’m a Christian. I promised that I believe.
AT: If you had never heard about Jesus Christ until now, would you believe all the claims the bible makes about Jesus?
CT: Probably not.
AT: Why not?
CT: Because there are a lot of logical and historical inconsistencies in the bible. And not all of it seems moral. And I have a higher standard for what I accept as evidence as an adult.Follow @TimSteppingOut