With less than a handful of people in the dealership waiting room, I had high hopes for a swift and uneventful service experience. I plopped down in a seat directly across from a young trendy looking guy with a huge beard, wearing one of those slouch beanie hats, and flaunting a tee-shirt that read:
“Fact — the four letter word atheists swear by.”
He was enlightening anyone unfortunate enough to have made eye contact with him about how much he loved his Honda CRV and how he had extensively researched all the SUV makers before settling on the Honda. He poured through Motor Trend and other magazines comparing each and every feature, performance statistics, and customer satisfaction reports. He said, “I don’t take things at face value, I research facts. Facts don’t lie.” He went on and on for the next fifteen minutes or so.
Preferring to avoid that remarkably thorough analysis, I opted to read the book I brought along titled, “Confident Faith”.
Near the end of chapter one I heard, “Hey, you really believe that crap?”
I looked up over the top of my glasses to find this guy glaring at me. “Are you talking to me?” I asked.
Pulling at his beard he asked again, “You believe all that faith crap?”
I really didn’t feel like debating first thing in the morning, so with some reluctance I said, “I take it you don’t.”
He said, “Faith is based on superstition—it’s a great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence.”
“What evidence are you referring to?” — I asked.
“Modern science!” — said the kid
“I must have missed something; has modern science recently proven beyond all doubt that God does not exist?”
He said, “Have you ever heard of Richard Dawkins?”
“Heard of him—yes.”
“Then, you should read a few of his books instead of the one in your hand” says the kid.
“Well, Dawkins isn’t here so I’m asking you— prove to me that God doesn’t exist.”
“An overwhelming majority of the scientific community accepts the dominant scientific theory of evolution. Intelligent design and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life cannot be tested or proven and are considered as pseudoscience.” — replied the Beard of Knowledge.
I responded with,“Endless ever-changing scientific theories you mean. Science is nothing more than a work in progress. When an accepted theory can no longer explain some new found data, researchers work to build a new theory. Even Dawkins doesn’t actually know for sure that there is no God—he concedes the possibility that some kind of god might just exist.”
“Nonsense” — the kid said as he waved his hand in the air.
I continued, “His actual words were,“I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing is very, very low.””
“That’s not a statement supporting the existence of a god!”
“No, but he couldn’t say that he’s absolutely certain that God does not exist, so in order for him to maintain his belief, he has to exercise a certain amount of faith—just like me. You see, faith is the confidence we have in what we hope for. So we all have faith in something, what do you hope for?”
The kid paused for a moment and then said, “My hope is that one day you self-righteous Christians will stop trying to shove the bible down the throats of people who have no interest in it!”
I closed my book, “If I remember correctly, you started this conversation, not me. I was sitting here minding my own business. You’re the one who imposed upon my privacy, disrespecting me and questioning my beliefs. If anyone is guilty of trying to shove something down someone’s throat, its you. From my perspective, people who are happy with their philosophy of life generally don’t feel the need to make unsolicited attacks on the beliefs of others.”
He rolls his eyes as I continue, “I couldn’t help but overhear your chattering about how you had extensively researched buying your CRV. Did you put that much energy in reaching an opinion on the existence of God? Have you actually studied the bible, or do you simply allow Dawkins to do your thinking for you? I’d think that an “extensive researcher” such as yourself would have done some fact-finding of his own, a side-by-side comparison of both views. Instead, you may have spent more time scrutinizing the purchase of the automobile you’ll drive for less than a decade, than you have the monumental decision of how you might spend eternity.”
He snapped back with, “Why would I waste time considering something that doesn’t exist?”
“You say there is no god and I say there is. God can’t simultaneously exist and not exist—one of us is wrong. The way I see it, I’m holding the best hand. If you’re correct I’ll go to my grave having lived a life confident in my belief, unafraid of death and will never know I was wrong. If you’re incorrect… well, either way I can’t lose.”
The intercom breaks into our exchange—my car is ready. I stand up, look at the kid and say, “One more thing, I don’t believe Richard Dawkins actually exists.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’ve never seen him.”
“That’s asinine! He is one of the world’s leading intellects and a highly sought after lecturer. He is commonly quoted by scholars throughout the world. Look him up! You can research anything you need to know about him and his career. Heck, they even made a documentary about his views.”
I nod and say, “I can make those exact same claims about Jesus Christ. The difference is Dawkins envisions no future, he leaves me with nothing to be eternally optimistic about—whereas Christ gives me hope of something everlasting. But you’re free to believe in whatever you like. Just don’t deceive yourself by thinking you’re not exercising a certain degree of faith in doing so—just like me.”
Photo credit: jim68000 / Loveseat Deals / CC BY
I to find people who do not have faith in God to be defensive .I am not one to be able to find passages in the Bible that can give my words back up .What I do is just Give my Faith in God and His love for us and people like them .I know your personnel fight you had and the words you now speak come from the love you have with God now and your faith is strong .
You’re a fantastic storyteller. I can picture that conversation unfolding. 🙂
While reading, I was reminded of how Dawkins opens his book, Unweaving the Rainbow. He wrote:
“We are going to die, and that make us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”
God or no God, most can agree that each life is a miracle. The optimistic person finds the wonderment in the present and the extraordinary in the finite time he is given. What we know for sure is that we exist. Focusing too much on the possibility of the everlasting detracts our attention from the certainty of the present — where we currently are and what we can do today with the miracle which we are all presently experiencing. I have faith – confidence in my hope – that my life here on earth, in this very moment, has purpose and meaning. And it is for that reason that I play my hand rather than hedge my bets. I am unafraid of death because if there is eternal life, I have faith that God will say, “You did well. You made the most of my gift to you by being present in the moment and finding the simple joys in the relationships around you.”
Each day I’m given is reason enough to be optimistic, regardless of whether God exists, because “To live at all is miracle enough.” – Marvyn Peake
I appreciate you sharing your perspective. Thanks for the kind words as well, the greatest compliment I can hope to receive is to have someone tell me they can “see” or visualize what I’m writing.
Faith is a tough issue to discuss, it’s easy to offend people who are passionate about their beliefs.
You’re right, we need to pay attention to the certainty of the present because it does have purpose and meaning. For me I find meaning in the present by way of my ongoing relationship with Christ.
One thing I have to agree with Richard Dawkins on is his clear and strong definition of truth—something is either true or not true.
I found an incredibly interesting perspective on how Christians should respond to those around them given by the devout atheist, magician Penn Jillette. He posted a YouTube video urging Christians to share their faith.
Jillette was signing autographs after a show when he noticed the man standing over to the side of the crowd. The man walked over and complimented him on the show, and then handed him a Gideon’s New Testament.
The man wrote in the front of it and wanted Jillette to have it. He said, “I’m kind of proselytizing, I’m a businessman. I’m not crazy.”
And Jillette said, “He looked me right in the eyes. It was really wonderful. I believe he knew that I was an atheist. But he was not defensive, he was truly complimentary. It didn’t seem like empty flattery. He was really kind and nice and sane and looked me in the eyes and talked to me and then gave me this Bible.”
Jillette then stated he doesn’t respect people who don’t proselytize.
“I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?”
“How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you.”
Go, Gene! You had me laughing and applauding your words. You also challenged me to really consider how I should have confidence to put words to my faith when it is confronted. You brought up great points!
And for the record, I could totally picture “beard guy.” 🙂
Jeanne, you know the really sad part of it all is that this kid was attempting to do what I have been instructed to do, he was spreading “his gospel” while I was content with quietly reading a book about mine.
I am so impressed! You did extremely well, I think. I read your comments section too. …… Maybe you were supposed to be “just quietly reading a book” and you did challenge that young man in the area he is presently able to be challenged at. You obviously weren’t meant to be preaching at him that day. He wasn’t ready, but I’ll bet that now he is rethinking his ideas about faith. Most of us feel somewhat stumped when put on the spot like that, but you didn’t allow yourself to be put on the defensive. That takes a lot of shutzpa (if I spelled that right). Anyways, praying for him will bring him more opportunities to think through faith issues too. God bless you for speaking out! 🙂
There are many different ways in which we could respond to an attack, but when we really don’t know where the attacker is coming from we have no idea of the personal struggle that may have motivated the assult. We’re probably not going to convince an unbeliever by quoting a bible they don’t consider to be true. For me, I guess the best thing to do is to leave them with something to think about. Hopefully they’ll consider what they have based their choices on, and hopefully they approach God about it. But if people are unwilling to humble themselves before a Soverign God they are never going to resolve their anger. Their decision to reject what God offers doesn’t change the truth that Christ died for all people, even the ones he knew would never care.
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You are absolutely right. Bless you either way. I think you handled it well. Christians really need not be on the defensive. We have”the good news” and offering it to others is to offer them the best possible gift they could ever have. Our challenge is to lead them to the next step they may need to take in order to receive that wonderful gift. Frankly, I admire your wisdom and humility through it all. God bless you, brother. 🙂
Wow! Did that really happen? How AMAZING! What a divine appointment! You were the perfect person for that fellow and what a good job you made of it.
Thank you for documenting it quickly enough to not forget the details. That was one great conversation.
Thank you Sharon, As luck would have it, I had just finished reading the Dawkins quote I used in that conversation, so I’m not all that smart. And yes, I started writing the story when I returned home so I wouldn’t forget what was said.
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Umm… you might not think you are smart, but your were smart enough to be in the right place at the right time reading the right thing. You could have been anywhere, doing any thing, but you listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit and he lead you to read that quote then be in that car place at that exact moment, reading the right book which would set that man off. I call that very wise 🙂
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Love that sign in the window! Great discussion. I think you planted some seeds and shocked the guy. It’s not everyday he gets an intelligent, informed response to his accusations. Keep writing. Love, Joanne
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Well done, Gene. He asked you “the reason for your hope” and you answered.him. Great post.
Blessings ~ Wendy ❀