Listening Is Key: An Interview With An Atheist

AP01-TrapsheetIn this blog I want to capture a recent dialog I had with my friend “Caleb” regarding the idea of God.  As you read this, see if you can relate to Caleb’s journey. This is how it went.

Petrus: “Caleb, what were you brought up to believe about God?”

Caleb: “I was brought up in a conservative Christian home to believe that the god of the bible was the one true God, that he sent his son, an incarnation of his triune self, to die for us on the cross. In order to absolve us of our sins.”

Petrus: “Ok, what do you currently believe about God?”

Caleb:  “I currently believe that every god I have seen described by a religious tradition, has errors, inconsistencies, or philosophical or logical impossibilities. I believe there are no gods, at least not as man would define them, but that until we have evidence for some higher beings, I withhold judgment. This stance is called agnostic atheism.”

Petrus: “How did you get to that conclusion?”

Caleb: “I wanted to know the truth. I learned that truths can be hard to accept. So slowly, my interpretation of the bible changed as I learned and grew. It changed because of philosophy, my love of others, and the fact that God’s love was incompatible with the standard Christian doctrine of hell. And it changed because of science, because the mountains of evidence show evolution and an old earth. God had never revealed himself to me. If I had been raised in any other faith, then I would have been on this same path to fit my beliefs with reality, but from the perspective of a different religion. Indoctrination, or love bombing. These are how converts are made.

So I made a choice. To try to approach every religious truth claim from a neutral perspective. To hold my beliefs to the same standards I held other beliefs. So I couldn’t call myself a Christian.  So I came to the stance I hold currently.”

Petrus: “Have you ever considered that God would be immoral to send you to heaven against your will, and that the loving thing to do would be to allow you to make up your own mind, for or against him?”

Caleb:  “My mind isn’t made up for or against God. My mind seeks to know the truth. A god would know that. I can’t make up my mind with integrity, unless I have evidence. The loving thing to do would be clear and unquestionable revelation.”

I can relate to Caleb’s story, I too have wrestled with God’s hiddenness and Hell and whether Christianity is the only way. We all have questions but it’s what you conclude that determines your view of the world. The strongest commonality that I share with Caleb is a hunger for truth. Putting your cherished beliefs on the line takes courage, but having good reasons for what you believe is essential.

Taking the time to listen to someone with a different view of the world is essential for understanding people. People aren’t problems that need to be solved, they are valuable unique individuals, with intrinsic and inalienable rights. Caleb is a real person with real questions. Even if I had an answer to every question, if I can’t listen then I lose every time. Who is going to sign up for a conversation where they are shut up, interrupted and spoken over? Deep down, we all want to be understood. We all want a fair hearing.

Let’s make an effort to listen to one another as we pursue truth together.

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