Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Atheists One and All

[I wrote my last post while delayed in at the airport in Springfield, MO. I managed to get from there to Chicago, and now I’m stuck here. I will post this when (if) I get home.]

I’m now stuck at O’Hare. New airport; new conversation.
“Do you believe in God?” The fellow asking me this is a Christian minister who overheard me say that I teach religion and Bible at Middle Tennessee State University.
“It depends what you mean by “God.,” I said. “If, for example, you mean a God who has a son, no I don’t believe in God.”
“Then you are an atheist, since there is no God other than God and that means the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
“Far enough,” I said, “Do you believe in Krishna?”
“The Hindu God?”
“No, the Lord God of the universe, the one true God as described in the Bhagavad Gita.”
“Of course not.”
“Then you, too, are an atheist.”
It never pays to be clever. What I thought was a clear and compelling argument against theological hubris was in face an invitation to a battle of the gods.
“I’m talking about the God of the Bible,” he said.
“Why is your God more true than someone else’s?
“Because it is the God of the Bible.”
“Why is your Bible better than mine or better than the Gita?”
“Because it is the Word of God.”
“Your God is true because your Bible says he’s true, and your Bible is true because you God says its true.”
“And you don’t see this as circular reasoning?”
“It is simply the truth.”
And that is why I am always wary of truth.


Karen said...

Thank you for sharing, Rabbi Rami! I always love these conversations you share!

I find it fascinating how comfortable a lot of people feel in their less-than-logical, circular-thinking religions and how frightened and fearful they can get when they are simply asked to step out of that circle for just a moment. I wish they would, for just a little while, so that I could have a decent conversation with them. Unfortunately, their comfort (and maybe mine as well) leads to basically a one-sided conversation. Oh well...

dtedac said...

Rabbi Rami,
This is obviously a case of "My God's better than your god." And God is so much bigger than all of this baloney. Thank God that this is true.


Rabbi Rami said...

God is always bigger than all of our baloney. I spoke with someone this past week who was troubled that because her loved ones weren't Christians she would never see them again in heaven. I asked her if she believed God was love. She said yes. Then I said, do you love them any less for not being Christian. She said "no." Then I said, can your love be greater than God's love? God's love trumps any religion's theology. It seemed to help.

Maggid said...

Golly, I always wish I'd thought of these things . . . you are so fun.


Lyn Baker said...

Well, there you go, another mid-western fundamentalist. You are dealing with a person who has never even considered studying a belief system other than the one he was indoctrinated into since his birth. And, if he had ever considered it and made the mistake a mentioning it to someone, he probably got slapped. I read this and knew that I too was trapped in that kind of thinking just like him, and find it amazing that I've broken free from it. If you pressed this gentleman, he could have eventually said this, "I was born a Baptist, and I'll die a Baptist. Everything I need to know about God I've already been taught and there isn't anything you can tell me that will make me change my mind. And by the way, it was good enough for my grandpa and grandma and good enough for my mom and dad, so it's good enough for me and ought to be good enough for you!" That's what he could have been thinking.

So, how can that kind of thinking be overcome? For me, deep down, I have always just really, really wanted to know as much as I could about God via the Christian faith I was born into (no pun intended). But as I learned more over a period of years and ignoring or explaining away the problems I discovered, I realized the Bible was a book full of problems and definitely not inerrant as I had been taught and believed. Once I got my head around this, I was off and running!

Karen said...

Rabbi, I love your blog. I remember my folks and their friends would sit around talking religion and politics and it was always a lively discussion. Nowadays I hear these circular arguments and it's not even worth it to try and have an interesting and informative discussion. A big loss.

Delora said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Delora said...

I thoroughly enjoy your thought-provoking writing and enlightening spirituality. I go directly to your column while standing at the mail box when S&H arrives! Thanks!