Posts Tagged ‘ atheism ’

How NOT to Talk to Atheists

So, there I was this morning going through my Twitter timeline (@persecuted23 for those interested) when I caught part of a conversation between an Atheist and a Christian. (I follow many Atheists, Pagans, non-Christians.) I find the conversations between Christians and Atheists particularly interesting.  I can really see why the Atheists get so damned frustrated. Actually, I remember the same conversations I have had as I was an Atheist most of my life.

The conversations tend to go something like this:

“Oh so you’re an Atheist, are you?”

“Yes, I am an Atheist.”

“But don’t you know what God says? That if you don’t believe in Jesus you are going to Hell.”

“Well, for starters, I do not believe in God, neither do I believe in Hell.”

“But God’s word, the Bible, says….”

What the Christians neglect that the frame of reference that they most often use in these conversations has been rejected prior to the conversation.  They keep going back to it in a never ending spiral of  the logical fallacy of petitio principii. These people can’t seem to understand that the argument that they are trying to make will never be made because the premise is rejected. For Atheists God, and therefore the Bible, have no authority because for them God is non-existent. So, to keep referring to God, to keep repeating the Psychologist’s fallacy becomes nonsensical within the conversation. I have never witnessed a conversation between an Atheist and a Christian where the Atheist hasn’t tried until she was blue in the face to get that point across. Yet, Christians keep pressing the petitio principii and the psychologist’s fallacy. You may well desire that your position, your frame of reference to be universally accepted and think it objective, but it just simply isn’t either.

Not only am I offended by the ridiculousness of the continued repetition of these fallacious arguments I am equally offended by the confrontational and combative nature of them. Instead of approaching people with an attitude of “I’m right, you’re wrong”, why not try to understand where they are coming from. Maybe, just maybe it was conversations like these that pushed someone from agnosticism to atheism. Maybe take a lesson from Paul when he visited Athens. He first explored the city, went to their temples and shrines and learned what they believe. Then used the truths that they possessed as a starting point. He found points of agreement before he engaged in conversation with non-believers. Paul did not look for points of disagreement. Jesus never looked for points of disagreement when He approached people, whoever they were.  Jesus and Paul honored people and their opinions, did not approach them with, “You’re wrong.”

Listen to the Atheists, the Pagans, the Muslims, the Buddhists, to everybody and find where we intersect, where we have common belief, common experience. Then, and only then, can you even begin to even communicate.

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Monet, Science, and God

Back in 1997 or 8 I went to see an exhibit of Monet’s works at the Art Institute of Chicago. My boss was a member and we were at the opening which included dinner and a very good lecture about Monet and how he worked. Monet was a stickler for lighting. As he painted in the late 1800s he utilized the sun for light. Well the light from the sun changes throughout the year and varies day by day. Monet would paint for the few days that the light was how he wanted it. Pack up his stuff and wait until the next year. Meticulous about the lighting.

After the lecture we were off for the galleries to see the paintings. This was the largest collection of Monet’s paintings ever displayed, some of these paintings had never been together before. Magnificent paintings. I was amazed at the size of the canvases, some over 10 feet square. All of them magical in the images.

I was particularly drawn to Harbor at La Harve at Night with the golden lights shimmering in reflection off of the surface of the water. Amazing, magical, inspiring. Monet painted this 10 foot square canvas from the distance of the length of his arm plus the length of the brush. So amazing. My curiosity got the better of me, the scientist that I was I had to know how it was done. How Monet made this magic with his dabs of paint. So I walked right up to the painting. I could see each dab he placed on the canvas. From that close you cannot see the full painting nor see the light shimmer in reflection. From 20 feet away there is magic in the painting and you can take in the whole thing. From two feet away you can no longer see the whole painting and the magic disappears. For me the painting lost its magic. But I gained such a deep appreciation for the genius of its creator. It was a trade off, one I did not know that would occur, but a trade that was worth it.

It took some time before I could look at that painting and see the magic again, but it came back. Now I have the magic of the creation and the deep appreciation of the creator.

For me science is much like this. I may temporarily lose the poetic magic of the Creation, but gain a deeper appreciation for the Creator and I know that the poetry, the artistry of His Creation will return and I will have both just like with Monet and the harbor scene he painted.

(originally posted as a comment on Rachel Held Evans blog )