Deathbed Conversion

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

An atheist and a Christian parent watching their children trick-or-treating

Leroy: Are those full-size Snickers bars she’s giving out?

Marisa: I told you this was a good neighborhood.

Leroy: Good is one thing, but by the end of the night we’re going to have enough candy to ruin the teeth of a small country.

Marisa: Oh, don’t worry about it. In a few years they’ll be too old for trick-or-treating. Let them enjoy it while they can.

Leroy: I’m not objecting. I’m just amazed that they can run around with such big bags of candy when they seem to have so much trouble picking things up in their room. They’re off to the next house — let’s keep up so we don’t lose them.

Marisa: Right behind you. I think that maybe kids enjoy Halloween more than adults because they are still so innocent. They can dress up without feeling self conscious, and they don’t have the same concerns about candy that we do.

Leroy: Age brings wisdom, but it takes some of the fun out of life, too.

Marisa: Don’t I know it. That reminds me of an article I was reading about a philosopher named Antony Flew. Have you heard of him?

Leroy: Sure, but why were you reading about him? It doesn’t seem like he’d be in your usual area of interest.

Marisa: It was in one of my Christian magazines.

Leroy: Gotcha.

Marisa: Did you know that he was a prominent atheist philosopher but turned to God just before he died?

Leroy: I do know about him, and that’s not exactly what happened. He became a deist because he couldn’t understand how the universe could have been created by natural processes, but he didn’t think that God was an active force in the world or that there was an afterlife.

Marisa: I don’t know — I heard that he became a Christian.

Leroy: He was influenced by some Christian thinkers in his later years, but he explicitly thought they were wrong about Jesus, salvation, and the like.

Marisa: Doesn’t it give you pause, though? Knowing that someone who was so strongly an atheist changed his mind?

Leroy: Not really. Looking at his reasons for becoming a deist, it looks more to me like a matter of him not understanding the science than of his having a philosophical revelation.

Marisa: It happens a lot though, doesn’t it? Atheists accepting God on their deathbed? It happened to Darwin.

Leroy: I doubt that. The Darwin-conversion story was told by one woman who had nobody to back up her story and Darwin’s children all disagreed with it. Besides, I don’t think Darwin was ever an atheist. He was, at most, an agnostic or a deist. But let’s say for the moment that Darwin did turn from atheism to theism when he was close to death, what would that prove?

Marisa: It proves that when people are closer to God, or when they have a lifetime of wisdom, they turn away from false beliefs.

Leroy: Maybe it proves that people who are dying start grabbing at straws of hope, no matter how small they might be?

Marisa: It’s true that God gives people hope.

Leroy: That’s not what I meant. Anyway, do you really think that people think at their best when their body and mind are failing?

Marisa: People’s minds are most focused when they are under great stress. It can lead to a moment of clarity.

Leroy: When I was a kid, I put a kettle on the stove to boil some water. A few minutes later, I realized I hadn’t put water in the kettle, so I picked it up, took it to the sink, and put water in it. The kettle was so hot that the water instantly turned to steam, shot out of the top of the kettle, and seriously burned my hand. I remember holding the kettle and thinking that I should put it down, but worrying that I might damage one of the plates in the sink if I put the kettle on it. That was a stupid thing to think, and I’ll bet you that I only thought it because I was under so much stress that my thinking was messed up.

Marisa: You realized afterward that you were wrong, though.

Leroy: Yes.

Marisa: Then the belief that you should worry about putting the pot down didn’t hold up. Things are only shown to have value if they can hold up under great stress — like a house standing up in the face of a storm. At the end of life, people put atheism aside. Atheism is weak because it can’t hold up under stress.

Leroy: A person’s resolve never to steal might not be able to stand up to great stress, like the stress of having a starving family. That doesn’t prove that stealing is the right thing to do.

Marisa: That’s a different thing. Can you honestly say, though, that people turning away from atheism have no effect on your beliefs? Don’t they make you question them, at least a little?

Leroy: No. Do you question your beliefs when you hear that someone has left the church and become an atheist?

Marisa: People can be tempted and led astray. That doesn’t mean they’re right.

Leroy: I agree.


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Posted on December 13, 2013 at 8:31 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Conversations

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