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 IAmAnAtheist. Discussions of religion and ethics from an atheist perspective

Sinners’ Religion

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

An atheist and a Christian visiting a historic California mission

Maria: This brick has a fingerprint in it.

Nolan: It must be from the Indians who built the chapel.

Maria: Isn’t that weird to you? Don’t you think the whole mission system was a little creepy?

Nolan: They were spreading the word of God.

Maria: They were effectively enslaving the Native Americans and forcing them into a culture that wasn’t theirs.

Nolan: They were trying to do good.

Maria: I guess, but it’s hard for me to think of it that way when so much of what they were teaching wasn’t reading and farming. A lot of it was just made-up stuff.

Nolan: Made up how?

Maria: You know — religious stuff.

Nolan: That’s not made up; it’s from God.

Maria: Right.

Nolan: No, really. I can prove it.

Maria: Okay.

Nolan: People — all people — are sinners by nature. We all sin, wouldn’t you agree?

Maria: Yes.

Nolan: Then why, if they were making up a religion, would sinners make a religion that was anti-sin? Wouldn’t they make one that told them to do things they liked instead of things they didn’t like?

Maria: You mean things like feel superior to others, believe that there’s a point to everything, think justice will always be served and that they’ll live forever after they die?

Nolan: You’re being sarcastic. Really, though, how could Christianity arise if it wasn’t true?

Maria: It’s a long process of trying to find explanations for things humanity isn’t ready to explain, combined with an inability to deal with the permanence of death and the fact that the world isn’t fair and that there are some things we can never know. Also, hedonistic societies don’t last, but ones where people work hard because they feel guilty or think it will earn them a place in Heaven get crops planted and missions built.

Nolan: I don’t know. I just don’t think people would believe a false religion that went against their nature.

Maria: I think they already do.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on May 16, 2014 at 11:03 pm by ideclare · Permalink · One Comment
In: Conversations

Sadness and Death

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

An atheist and a Christian in the company lunchroom

Jacob: Can I ask you kind of a serious question before the lunchroom gets too full?

Keith: I guess. Sure.

Jacob: You know I’ve never been religious, so there’s some stuff that I don’t know much about. You’re pretty religious, right?

Keith: I guess so. I go to church.

Jacob: What I’m wondering — and I hope this doesn’t sound stupid — but do you get sad when someone dies?

Keith: I guess I’m going to risk sounding stupid right back, but why wouldn’t I?

Jacob: If someone dies, you think they go to Heaven, right? Once they’re in Heaven, they’re free from cares and worries for all eternity, so why would you feel bad if they go there?

Keith: You know what — that’s a really good question. I hadn’t ever thought about it that way. I guess that for the most part I’m not really sad for them, I’m sad for myself. Even though I know the person is in a better place, it’s hard knowing that I have to be separated from them.

Jacob: Would you worry that maybe they went to Hell?

Keith: Probably not. I mean, the kind of person who would go to Hell wouldn’t be the kind of person I’d be that emotionally attached to.

Jacob: What about if they weren’t going to Hell because they were evil, but they were going there because they weren’t saved?

Keith: Good people have a chance to go to Heaven even if they don’t accept Jesus, so long as they live a good life and repent their sins. You don’t have to be Christian to go to Heaven. But even with that, I think I trust God enough to know that if a person goes to Hell it’s justice being done, so I would have to accept that.

Jacob: That’s good.

Keith: It makes me think of something else, though. I might be sad if a person died who still had a lot of potential. It’s sad to see that potential go unrealized.

Jacob: What if a person doesn’t have much potential?

Keith: I can imagine that if someone I loved was really old or in pain, I might actually feel — well, not happy, but relieved when they died. My sadness at missing them would be outweighed by my happiness that they weren’t suffering any more and they’ve gone to a better place. Don’t you think atheists feel more sad when someone dies because you think they’re gone completely?

Jacob: I don’t think so. I think I feel a lot of the same things you do. I’m sad because I miss the person. I might be sad about the lost potential even more than you because I don’t have any faith that there was some greater purpose to their death. I’d agree about the person who was suffering though — I’d think they’d gone to a better place.

Keith: Where?

Jacob: Well, nowhere. It’s better to be nowhere than to be constantly suffering.

Keith: I guess that’s true, but it must be scary thinking that you won’t exist some day.

Jacob: I certainly don’t want to die, and I worry about what will happen to my family after I’m gone, but I’m not afraid of not existing. Not existing doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t feel like anything. It’s as painless as never having been born.

Keith: I guess, but even thinking about that is kind of freaking me out.

Jacob: It’s good you’re not an atheist then, isn’t it?

Keith: Definitely! Sorry I’m kind of shaky on all this stuff. I could probably find you a book with better answers.

Jacob: No, that was fine. I’m good.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on May 14, 2014 at 11:02 pm by ideclare · Permalink · One Comment
In: Conversations

Free Will in Heaven?

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A Christian and an atheist on an airplane

Francisco: It’s a bit more than an hour to Chicago. Would you be interested in taking a few minutes to hear how you can get to Heaven?

Gavin: I’m not really religious.

Francisco: That’s okay. I’d still like to talk to you. If you’d rather go back to your magazine though, that’s fine.

Gavin: I don’t mind talking for a bit, but you’re going to have to start out by telling me why I’d want to go to Heaven in the first place.

Francisco: Of course! The obvious reason that you’d want to go to Heaven is that the alternative is going to Hell and being punished for eternity.

Gavin: That doesn’t say much about Heaven. I can see the sales brochure now, “Go to Heaven — at least it’s not Hell!”

Francisco: Ha! Right! Fortunately, there’s more to the sales pitch than that. Heaven is paradise. I’d say it’s the most wonderful place you can imagine, but you couldn’t even imagine it. It’s an eternity of bliss in the arms of God.

Gavin: That sounds good, but tell me how it works. If I go to Heaven I’m leaving my body behind, so is it really me that goes to Heaven?

Francisco: Your body is just a vehicle that your soul occupies for its time on Earth. After death, your soul is taken to Heaven, and that’s you going to Heaven just as sure as you are the person who takes a shower even though you leave your clothes behind.

Gavin: The analogy’s a little disturbing, but I think I know what you mean. Let me ask you a question, though. If it’s me that’s going to Heaven, then am I still going to have free will when I get there? I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have free will.

Francisco: Why wouldn’t you have free will?

Gavin: Well, if I have free will, then I can make mistakes. If I can make mistakes, then I might sin. Can you sin in Heaven?

Francisco: In Heaven, all your wants and needs are completely taken care of. There’s nothing to tempt you to sin.

Gavin: Couldn’t I be tempted to look at a hot woman in Heaven?

Francisco: When you’re in Heaven, you don’t hunger or thirst or have carnal desires any more. You aren’t concerned about such things.

Gavin: What if I go to Heaven but my wife doesn’t? Won’t I be sad and maybe tempted to take a trip to Hell to see her?

Francisco: The Bible teaches us that there are no married people in Heaven.* Family and other relationships don’t mean anything when you are basking in the presence of God. You feel nothing but joy that everyone has met their just reward.

Gavin: Even if I don’t miss anyone and I’m not tempted to do anything, what if I just decide to do something bad for the heck of it? You know, just to prove to myself that I still have my free will.

Francisco: If you’re in Heaven, you’re not the kind of person who would do evil.

Gavin: So humans who sin on earth don’t go to Heaven?

Francisco: It’s not that. We’re all sinners, but Jesus Christ has paid the price for all sins. If you accept his gift, you can go to Heaven even though your sinful nature makes you unworthy.

Gavin: But if a person with a sinful nature can go to Heaven, why couldn’t he sin in Heaven?

Francisco: Your sinful nature is wiped away in the presence of God.

Gavin: Let me sum up what I’m hearing. If I go to Heaven, I won’t have any desire to do the things that I liked to do in life, I won’t be married to my wife anymore, and even though I’ll have free will, my nature will be changed so I really won’t be able to do anything with it. It sounds to me like the person who goes to Heaven doesn’t bear much resemblance to the person who was on Earth.

Francisco: That’s true. In Heaven, you’re a pure spirit, unencumbered with the burdens of the flesh.

Gavin: So what’s the fun of going to Heaven? Why would I want to do that?

Francisco: Well, consider the alternative.

Gavin: There’s the bad sales pitch again.

Francisco: Darn — you’re right! I’m not sure where to go from here. I guess I haven’t helped you much, have I?

Gavin: Well, you got me five minutes closer to Chicago. I do appreciate that.

*Mark 12:25: “For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.”


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on May 12, 2014 at 11:02 pm by ideclare · Permalink · 2 Comments
In: Conversations

Mind and Soul II

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

Two teenagers sitting in a tree in a big public park

Tammy: You doing okay?

Violet: I’m fine. Why?

Tammy: You looked a little shaky for a second there.

Violet: Are you saying I’m unbalanced?

Tammy: I wouldn’t say you’re unbalanced — flat out bat-shit crazy from time to time, sure, but not unbalanced.

Violet: Oh, thanks. I’m the crazy one, but you’re the one who doesn’t even think she exists.

Tammy: What?

Violet: Remember what you were talking about yesterday? About free will being an illusion of natural blah blah or something so the self doesn’t even exist?

Tammy: Oh, right. You know that’s not what I meant.

Violet: All I know is “I think therefore I am.” That proves the soul right there and there’s no getting around it.

Tammy: I don’t know about that. What about schizophrenics?

Violet: Multiple personalities?

Tammy: No, that’s not really schizophrenia. I mean people who hear voices or think inanimate objects are talking to them. If you had a thought in your head that you didn’t believe was yours, what would that prove?

Violet: How could that happen?

Tammy: It can happen to a schizophrenic. They could be looking at a flower and think “That’s pretty” but believe that the thought wasn’t their own. Rather, they think that the thought was something that someone else put in their head.

Violet: All that proves is that they’re crazy. It doesn’t mean they have two souls or two minds or something.

Tammy: But if “I think therefore I am” proves you exist, doesn’t “someone else thinks the flower is pretty” prove that someone else exists?

Violet: No, because there really isn’t anyone else. That other person is an illusion. All you can prove is that the “I” in “I think I have an alien thought” exists.

Tammy: You think there can be a thought about the flower without someone thinking it?

Violet: No, I think that the crazy person thinks incorrectly that he’s not thinking the flower’s pretty.

Tammy: Then the flower thought would be an illusion. No separate entity is thinking it.

Violet: Kind of.

Tammy: Then what if the schizophrenic thinks that someone else put the thought “I am hungry” in his head?

Violet: How is that different?

Tammy: Because there’s a different “I” there. That “I” thinks, therefore it is.

Violet: But it doesn’t really think. The schizophrenic’s brain is wired in a way that it files that thought under “someone else thought this,” but there is no someone else.

Tammy: Then why couldn’t a sane person’s brain be wired to file all of its thoughts under “I thought this” when there really isn’t any “I”?

Violet: But there has to be an “I” having the thought.

Tammy: It doesn’t have to be a soul or an individual that is something more than the product of a flesh-and-blood mind. It could just be a meat machine that has been programmed to file some of its processes in such a way that it incorrectly concludes it has free will and freedom of thought.

Violet: This may be the craziest thing you’ve ever thought of. Are you sure you didn’t fall out of that tree while I wasn’t looking? Because you’re sure talking like someone who’s taken a serious blow to the head.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on May 9, 2014 at 8:17 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Accommodating Religion

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

Two atheists reading the paper over breakfast in a dormitory cafeteria

William: Can you believe this garbage? The airport’s going to remodel their bathrooms so that they comply with Muslim laws, and they’re using tax dollars to do it.

Alec: What? Seriously?

William: Yeah. Right here. Look. Muslim taxi drivers kept washing their feet in the airport bathroom sinks, so the airport is building Islamic foot baths.

Alec: Let me see that.

William: Here. See?

Alec: Wait a minute — it just says they’re building foot baths. It doesn’t say anything about them being Muslim.

William: They’re in accordance with Islamic law.

Alec: Well, yeah, but only in the sense that pretty much any foot bath would work for them. They aren’t going to be blessed or decorated or Halal or anything. It’s not a specifically Islamic thing.

William: Of course it is. Where else have you ever seen foot baths?

Alec: At the beach.

William: Right, but never in an airport I’ll bet. They’re just doing it to cooperate with Islam.

Alec: It’s not like only Muslims could use them or they’re in a prayer room. Anyone who wants to wash their feet after being on a plane could.

William: How often does that happen? If it wasn’t for the Muslim cab drivers they wouldn’t be building them. It’s a complete violation of separation of church and state.

Alec: It would be if the airport was building them to comply with religious rules, but they’re not. They’re building them because people are washing their feet in the sink and that’s disgusting.

William: Muslim people are washing their feet in the sink.

Alec: Who cares if they’re Muslim? The airport can completely ignore the religion of the people doing the foot washing and just respond to the need for foot baths.

William: No, they can’t. You can’t spend government money on someone’s religious practices.

Alec: Look — what if it was a British tradition to wash your feet when you got to a new country, so British tourists were washing their feet in the airport’s bathrooms. Would you have a problem with the airport building footbaths for British people?

William: No.

Alec: So you think there should be a religious test before the government spends money?

William: Right! If something’s just going to accommodate a religion, the government shouldn’t spend money on it.

Alec: It costs the government money to give employees the day off. Should government employees get Good Friday off with pay?

William: No, of course not. That’s a religious expense.

Alec: Then what about Christmas?

William: No. Same thing.

Alec: But I’m an atheist and I like Christmas. Do you think I shouldn’t get the day off with pay to have secular Christmas because if I did then people who had Christian Christmas would also benefit?

William: Okay, I see what you mean on that one. I even know Jewish people who do Christmas. If a lot of people are going to want the day off anyway, you might as well make it an official holiday.

Alec: The footbaths are the same thing. If a lot of people are going to want them, it doesn’t matter why they want them, the airport should consider building them. If nothing else, it will stop people from getting disgusted that cabbies are washing their feet in the sink.

William: I still think that’s just a religious expense. If they don’t want people washing their feet in the sink they should make a policy against it.

Alec: It says in the article they already have a policy against that.

William: Then they should enforce it and throw out people who wash their feet.

Alec: You’d be okay with them paying security officers to stop people from washing their feet in the sink, but you’re against the expense of making sink-feet-washing completely unnecessary?

William: It’s the principle of the thing. It’s like if they made all the airport food kosher.

Alec: If there’s demand for it, should kosher food be available?

William: Not if it costs the airport money.

Alec: What about vegetarian food?

William: Sure. There are plenty of vegetarians and that’s not a violation of church and state.

Alec: I think you’re going out of your way to inconvenience religious people instead of just demanding that the government look at everything secularly.

William: I just don’t like religious people pushing me around.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on May 7, 2014 at 8:16 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Any Real Pagans?

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A mother reading her child a book about mythology

Mom: “In the temple, he prayed to Hera that —”

Peyton: Mom?

Mom: Come on now. We’re only half way through, so no interrupting.

Peyton: But I don’t understand something.

Mom: What’s that?

Peyton: Did people back then really have temples and statues of gods?

Mom: Yes. This was before Jesus, and the people had fallen away, so they didn’t know the true God.

Peyton: They really prayed and made sacrifices to statues?

Mom: Well, they didn’t call them statues; they called them gods.

Peyton: But those gods aren’t real.

Mom: Of course not. It’s just stories. Are these bothering you? We could read something else and leave these until you’re older.

Peyton: No, they don’t bother me. I like them. I was worried that if these people believed in gods but it turned out that the gods aren’t real, how could they be so wrong about everything? If they were that wrong when they believed in their hearts, then maybe we’ll find out that we’re wrong about Jesus, too?

Mom: Banish the thought! It’s not the same thing at all. The Greeks had stories they told, but they knew they were just stories. And although they built temples and statues, they knew that their gods weren’t real, flesh-and-blood creatures, but just representations of parts of nature that they weren’t able to understand. They didn’t have the deep love for their made-up gods that we have for the one true God, or the knowledge burning in them that their gods were real like we do.

Peyton: So they knew they were just play acting?

Mom: It was just a part of their culture, like how you might talk about good and evil by telling a story about Star Wars even though you don’t think that Star Wars is true.

Peyton: That’s good. It seemed weird.

Rebekah: All right. Now let’s see what happens to Jason, and no more interruptions.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on May 5, 2014 at 8:16 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Believing in Your Heart II

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

An atheist and a Christian finishing lunch on a park picnic table

Lauren: I was reading in the paper this morning about a Muslim guy that the police picked up for plotting to burn a synagogue. This guy said Allah had told him to do it, and it reminded me of the other day when you were saying that God spoke to you.

Madeline: Don’t worry — it’s an entirely different thing. I don’t hear voices or anything. I have the feeling of God in my heart is all.

Lauren: I’m not saying you’re delusional, I’m just wondering if maybe the Muslim guy had the feeling of Allah in his heart and that’s why he felt so strongly that he had to start the fire.

Madeline: If he thinks that, then he’s being deceived. That happens all the time. People say that they feel God or they just “know” something’s true, but what’s happening is that they’re either fooling themselves or being fooled by Satan.

Lauren: How do you tell someone who’s being deceived from someone who is getting a message from God?

Madeline: Someone whose beliefs conflict with reality or don’t make sense is being deceived.

Lauren: So you wouldn’t trust your own feelings if they didn’t make objective sense?

Madeline: Right.

Lauren: So why don’t you accept it when I say that I know in my heart that God doesn’t exist? Can you prove I’m objectively wrong?

Madeline: You’re wrong because you don’t know that God doesn’t exists. Rather, you reject Him.

Lauren: I can’t reject something I don’t believe in.

Madeline: You believe in your heart that God exists.

Lauren: No I don’t.

Madeline: Yes you do. You’re just fooling yourself.

Lauren: How can you tell I’m fooling myself?

Madeline: Because everyone knows God exists. It says so in the Bible.* If you don’t believe that, then you’re being deceived.

Lauren: Who says I’m the one being deceived? Maybe my feelings are right and yours are wrong.

Madeline: If I was wrong, then you could show that my knowledge of God is incorrect or illogical.

Lauren: I can. The world can be completely explained by material things so there’s no need for the supernatural. That means that God isn’t necessary.

Madeline: If that’s true, then I only feel God exists because I’m being deceived, right?

Lauren: Right!

Madeline: But if I’m being deceived, something must be deceiving me. That would have to be a supernatural thing. So you end up having to believe in supernatural things either way.

Lauren: No, you could be being deceived by our culture, by false religious teachings, or by your own need for religion.

Madeline: Those things might lead me to false conclusions, but they couldn’t make me feel God in my heart.

Lauren: Sure they could! If you have enough false information and need, you can end up deeply feeling something false. It’s like Stockholm syndrome or falling in love with an abusive guy who promises he’ll do better.

Madeline: You’re being insulting.

Lauren: How?

Madeline: Religion isn’t insanity, or insecurity, or a cry for help. It’s a wonderful window into reality.

Lauren: If I’m being insulting, then aren’t you being insulting by saying that I don’t really feel that God doesn’t exist?

Madeline: That’s different.

Lauren: Why?

Madeline: Because you’re wrong and I’m not.

Laugen: Wow. I’ve got to stop talking to you about the news. It turns you into a jerk.

*Romans 1:18-20, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on May 2, 2014 at 8:53 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Considering the Supernatural

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

An atheist and a Christian watching television

Fernando: This may be the stupidest show ever.

Garrett: Wait — pause it. What are you talking about?

Fernando: It doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Garrett: It makes sense to me. Want me to go over what’s happened?

Fernando: No. I’m following it, I just think it’s nonsensical. Look, that detective is supposed to be really religious, right?

Garrett: That’s kind of the point of the show, yeah.

Fernando: Well, he doesn’t act like it. Nobody can figure out how the guy got stabbed when there was no knife and he’d locked himself in his room, so shouldn’t the detective consider the possibility that there was a supernatural cause?

Garrett: You mean like he was murdered by a ghost?

Fernando: Do you believe in ghosts?

Garrett: No.

Fernando: Then the detective guy probably doesn’t, either. But you both believe in God and demons, right?

Garrett: Yes.

Fernando: Then he should, too. Maybe God struck the guy down because he was a sinner? Maybe a demon assaulted him? Or maybe he was killed by a human, but a demon locked the door afterward to confound everyone.

Garrett: God doesn’t stab people. I guess the demon thing is possible, but we don’t see demons doing things like that, so I wouldn’t really consider it.

Fernando: How do you know demons don’t do things like that? Maybe they mess things up all the time but make it look normal so we don’t notice.

Garrett: It just doesn’t seem very demonic.

Fernando: So what kinds of things do demons do?

Garrett: They tempt people. They sometimes pretend to be spirits of the dead. They might make works to deceive people and lead them away from Christ.

Fernando: Then why couldn’t they lock a door?

Garrett: They could, but what would be the point? That wouldn’t draw anyone away from God.

Fernando: It might help a murderer get away or make honest Christians question their own ability to reason.

Garrett: I don’t see how.

Fernando: Then how about if you are a parent and you hear something break in the other room. You go in, and there’s your child, who has never told a lie in her life, standing next to a broken lamp. She says a ghost knocked it over and broke it, but you know there’s no such thing as ghosts. What do you do?

Garrett: I’d have a talk with her about lying and probably punish her for breaking the lamp.

Fernando: But how do you know she broke the lamp? Isn’t it possible that a demon broke it to throw suspicion on your daughter, which would drive a wedge between you that the demon could later use to attack her faith?

Garrett: Seriously?

Fernando: Yes, seriously. Couldn’t she be telling the truth?

Garrett: You’re acting like Christians are stupid. It’s vaguely possible that the things you are talking about are supernatural, but you have to use Occam’s razor.

Fernando: Can you think of an example where a supernatural explanation is the simplest one?

Garrett: There are lots of them. It’s a lot more reasonable to think the universe was created than that it just happened. Or what about UFOs? It’s highly unlikely that Earth is being visited by aliens, but we already know that demons exist so it’s more likely that UFOs are created by demons for one reason or another.

Fernando: You think that it’s more likely that UFOs are demons than that they’re just being misreported?

Garrett: In some cases, yeah.

Fernando: Wow. So getting back to the show, how inexplicable would the situation have to be before the detective started to suspect that demons were involved?

Garrett: He’d never suspect that. That kind of thing doesn’t happen.

Fernando: I agree, but not for the same reason you do. I don’t think supernatural stuff ever happens; you’re the one who does. How do you know when to consider supernatural explanations and when not to?

Garrett: You only need to worry about the supernatural when the supernatural makes sense.

Fernando: Like with UFOs.

Garrett: Right. They aren’t something we have explanations for, so the supernatural makes sense there. Stabbings happen all the time. There’s nothing supernatural about them.

Fernando: Even stabbings that occur in a room that was locked from the inside and doesn’t have a knife in it?

Garrett: The stabbing itself is a known type of thing. The rest is just details.

Fernando: Then why do religious people sometimes say it’s literally a miracle when someone is cured of cancer or survives a disaster?

Garrett: Because the odds of it happening are so small.

Fernando: Aren’t the odds of someone’s cancer going into remission much better than the odds of a seemingly impossible crime having occurred? And talk about things that aren’t unusual — didn’t Jesus miraculously make a fig tree die?* That kind of thing happens every day without divine intervention.

Garrett: I’m not saying that small miracles don’t happen, only that we don’t need to look for miracles when things are explainable otherwise.

Fernando: Then you’d agree that the Big Bang, the origin of life, human intelligence, and all of that aren’t miracles if we can find good non-supernatural explanations for them?

Garrett: No. Those are clearly miracles.

Fernando: So far as I can tell, you’re picking and choosing when to allow for the possibility of miracles based on what you’ve already concluded about the universe.

Garrett: I’m being completely consistent.

Fernando: You’re being consistently inconsistent, and I think the detective is doing the same. It’s bugging me. I’m going to my room to read.

*Matthew 21:19, “And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.”


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on April 30, 2014 at 8:52 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

What Is Faith?

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

Two Christians of different denominations at a block party

Caitlin: I’ve been meaning to ask you, there’s a person on Twitter named GodProz that reminds me of you sometimes, but there’s nothing in their profile. That wouldn’t be you, would it?

Bailey: No. I do Facebook and I read some blogs and the news, but that’s about it online. Except for shopping, of course.

Caitlin: I’m really active in a bunch of Christian discussion groups and forums. Have you ever tried that?

Bailey: I used to, but it got on my nerves. People spend so much time arguing with atheists and trying to prove that God exists, and I can’t help but feel that they’re missing the point. There’s no need to try and prove anything. You just have to have faith.

Caitlin: There’s nothing wrong with evidence, though. I have faith in God, but I think that evidence only strengthens it.

Bailey: How can it? If you want evidence, that means that you don’t have enough faith.

Caitlin: I don’t think so. When I talk about faith, I don’t mean blindly believing something, I mean believing with all my heart because my trust has been earned. For example, imagine you are on the eighth floor of a burning building. If you see firefighters below and they are encouraging you to jump from the window, and you jump because you assume that they know what they’re talking about, then that’s faith. It’s a deep form of trust that firefighters have earned by demonstrating their skill. But if there is so much smoke that you can’t see out the window and you haven’t heard sounds of fire engines or firefighters below, but you jump out the window anyway because you’re sure firefighters will save you, that’s blind faith. I don’t think that a Christian has to have blind faith.

Bailey: That’s not blind faith — it’s not any kind of faith. It’s just stupid.

Caitlin: It’s believing without requiring proof. Isn’t that the kind of faith you are talking about?

Bailey: The difference is that there’s no way firefighters are going to save you if you jump out of a burning building and they don’t even know you’re there.

Caitlin: How do you know?

Bailey: Well, they just can’t.

Caitlin: In other words, you don’t have blind faith in firefighters. You’d have to have evidence before you had faith that firefighters would save you in a certain situation.

Bailey: Yes, but that’s not the same as God.

Caitlin: If you were in a burning building, would you have faith that if you jumped God would see you safely to the ground?

Bailey: Yes!

Caitlin: Why? Does God always save Christians who jump out of flaming skyscrapers?

Bailey: No, but if I’m not saved, I know that it’s because it’s part of God’s plan.

Caitlin: Then you have faith that if you jump out of a building God will either save you or He won’t, but that either way it’ll be for a good reason. That doesn’t sound like very impressive faith.

Bailey: The kind of faith you say you have isn’t very impressive, either. You wouldn’t put your faith in God unless He proved himself to you. The Bible says you can’t put God to the test like that.

Caitlin: There’s no need to put God to the test. The Bible itself is proof enough that God loves us and has a plan for us. I have faith that he will see that plan through because He has always kept His promises in the past.

Bailey: I have faith that God will keep His promises even without the Bible. I don’t need any proof.

Caitlin: How do you know that He’ll keep his promises?

Bailey: I have faith in my heart.

Caitlin: Personally, I trust God’s word more than I trust my heart.

Bailey: I still think you’re missing something, and now I’m all worked up about it. This is exactly why I avoid this kind of conversation.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on April 28, 2014 at 8:51 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

The Holocaust

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

Two teenagers studying after school

Victor: Did you see Sam after the video? I swear I thought he was going to cry.

Thomas: Yeah. You have to admit it was pretty grim.

Victor: I can’t believe they are allowed to show those pictures in class. Some of them were pretty horrific, even though they really didn’t show anything gory.

Thomas: I can’t believe God allowed the Holocaust to happen in the first place.

Victor: Come on — you know there’s nothing He could have done. It’s human evil that’s the problem. God has to allow people free will, no matter what they use it for.

Thomas: It wouldn’t have hurt anyone’s free will if Hitler had crib death or something.

Victor: Maybe, but there’s a reason for everything God does. I think that the reason God didn’t stop the Holocaust was because he knew that in time it would end up doing more good than harm.

Thomas: Are you nuts? Millions of people died?

Victor: Actually, my Dad told me about this because he knew we’d be watching that video today. Millions of people died, but because of those deaths millions more found Christ and went to Heaven. The Holocaust reminded Jews all over the world that their way was old and done for. They’re not the chosen people anymore. Those that were convinced to accept Christ are saved when they would have been lost.

Thomas: What about all the children that died?

Victor: What about all the children that were saved, either because their families converted to avoid the Nazis or because they were placed with Christian families for safety?

Thomas: That’s still pretty cold. I have trouble believing that as many people were saved as died.

Victor: Then what about Israel? If it had not been for the Holocaust, Israel wouldn’t have been given back to the Jews, and that’s something that had to happen before Jesus could return. I think we can agree that even a million deaths is nothing compared to the glory of Jesus returning to judge the world.

Thomas: Well, maybe not nothing, but I see what you mean.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on April 25, 2014 at 8:51 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations