Lenny and Fran: a Parable
Imagine that there is an atheist named Fran. Fran says that she is an atheist because, after examining the evidence, she sees no compelling reason to believe that God exists. Imagine also that Fran has a friend named Lenny. Lenny believes that only people who accept Jesus as their personal savior can be saved. He believes that Fran, sadly, is destined to spend an eternity in Hell.
Obviously, Lenny thinks that Fran is wrong not to believe in God. But why doesn’t she believe? Maybe she doesn’t believe because, although she is a rational person, she is either misunderstanding or not seeing the evidence that God exists. In that case, God would be condemning her to an eternity of torture because she misunderstood an argument or never saw the evidence that would have saved her soul. That doesn’t seem fair, so it must not be the case.
Or maybe the evidence is right there in front of Fran but she’s not intelligent enough to understand it. Then God is condemning her to Hell for being dumb. Again, that couldn’t be.
Perhaps Fran is intelligent, but her belief that God doesn’t exist isn’t rational. Maybe any reasonable person confronted with the evidence would agree that God exists. That means that Fran is being sent to Hell for being irrational — maybe even crazy. But God wouldn’t hold a crazy person responsible for their behavior, would he?
Well, Lenny knows that Fran is intelligent and rational and that she’s seen all the evidence. He also knows that God is good and just. This leaves Lenny with only one possible solution: Fran must be a liar. She knows full well that there is enough evidence, but she is rejecting it for her own selfish reasons. Sure, she says she’s carefully considered her opinion, but really she’s just rejecting God because she doesn’t want to believe that God exists.
Having thought this all through, Lenny called Fran and demanded that she admit she doesn’t disbelieve in God, but rejects Him. Her response came as a surprise. Fran didn’t admit her deception; she didn’t get mad at Lenny for confronting her. Instead, she said, “Lenny, I know you’re an intelligent, rational, man who has seen all the evidence. Unfortunately, you’re also a liar. Since no reasonable person would conclude that God exists, you must just be saying you believe in God because you don’t want to believe that he doesn’t exist. Are you ready to admit your deception?”
Lenny couldn’t believe that Fran would say such a thing — she was such a kind, thoughtful person. The only possible explanation was that Fran was being influenced by Satan! He had to tell her that her evil thoughts were not her own; that her mind was being controlled by a supernatural being that was after her very soul! Surely she’d thank him for bringing this to her attention and saving her from eternal Satanic servitude!
But, unfortunately, Fran had already hung up the phone. It was the end of a beautiful, if odd, friendship.