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.
Nolan: No, really. I can prove it.
Nolan: People — all people — are sinners by nature. We all sin, wouldn’t you agree?
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.
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