Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A Pastor’s observations and my reply

I just love Harley.

I just love Harley.

Mr. Bob Rogers, a pastor with the Southern Baptist Convention, has commented on my post about the new History Channel mini-series “The Bible”.  Rather than allowing his comment and my response to languish in commentland, I thought I might post it here as an example of some other common Christian approaches to atheists.

“Oh, my, what a bitter tone we read here. So sad. I’d be glad to respond to some of your distortions if I thought you really wanted to listen, but I gather that there is a deeper issue here. Did a Christian hurt you? If so, I’m very sorry for that. Not all of Jesus’ so-called followers listen to His words to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).”

I’ve seen theists claim that atheists have to be bitter, sad, lonely, angry, hostile, stupid, ignorant, rebellious, etc.  I will more than happily admit to occasionally being angry and hostile.  I get that way when folks try to lie to me or about me and trie to cause harm based on an imaginary being.  I am not always angry and hostile and I also don’t think that theists always lie and always cause harm.   The assumption that atheists are only emotionally hurt is often used and I would argue is intended to devalue the atheist’s reasons.  Some atheists are indeed angry at Christians and upset that their former god doesn’t exist.  That’s not why I am an atheist. 

We also have the usual claims about what “real” Christians are.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you know what I think of those claims.

And for your delectation and amusement, my response:

Hello Mr. Rogers. Welcome to my blog. I see you are a pastor. From my perspective, your post does nothing to show that Christians are any better than anyone else, not even the professional ones. I am not bitter, though I’m sure you do desperately hope I am. That would be one of the few ways you could convince yourself that you are better off than me. I am also disappointed that you must make baseless assumptions that there is some “deeper issue” here and assume that I’m an atheist “only” because I had a run-in with a “bad Christian”. Nope, I’m not that dumb and if there were a god that was what is claimed, one bad apple certainly wouldn’t spoil the bunch. I know that people who happen to be Christians are often very nice people; most of my relatives are that.

I do really want to listen, but that does not mean I will blindly accept anything you claim. I expect you would do the same for a theist of another religion that wanted to tell you that their religion was the true one too.

No, Mr. Rogers, a Christian didn’t hurt me at all. That fact probably disappoints you since you can’t bring out the usual claims that not all people who claim they are Christians are “real” Christians. That is usually when the theist making the claim thinks that his version of Christianity is the only one, he thinks he is the only TrueChristian(tm). Out of curiosity, would you define what you think a real Christian is for me? I am always interested in how each Christian does that.

I started questioning the bible because what I was told by pastors like you didn’t match reality and I noticed that being a Christian didn’t make a person bad or good. There was no evidence for the Flood, no evidence for the exodus, no evidence for Jesus or the claims of Paul. I knew my good friend who was Roman Catholic was just as good as I was and for someone like you to claim that they deserved to be damned for worshipping the “wrong way” was simply nasty. I know you feel this way since you say “However, her [Mother Teresa] teaching about salvation sadly follows the typical Roman Catholic viewpoint of salvation, a viewpoint that falls short of the teachings of the Bible.” – http://bobrogers.me/tag/catholic/

My faith was fading so I then read entire bible myself, going to the “horse’s mouth” as it were and prayed for God to help me understand. I found no response from this god and that the bible says some very disgusting things and those disgusting things are, per the bible itself, directly said by its god or approved of by its god. A brief list includes: a god that either intentionally allows evil into its garden or was not omnipotent enough to keep it out; a god that says it will damn people for the actions of others, nothing fair or just about that at all. We have a god that seems to be quite happy to create humans but damn them just to make an example, which is pretty much my Presbyterian predestination, but doesn’t fit with the free will that many Christians claim that their god is all about.

We do indeed have the bible saying “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5-44-45- HCSB, but we also have Jesus saying “26 “‘I tell you, that to everyone who has, more will be given; and from the one who does not have, even what he does have will be taken away. 27 But bring here these enemies of mine, who did not want me to rule over them, and slaughter them in my presence.’” – Luke 19 – HCSB. (Most Christians don’t know this verse exists since most if not all pastors do avoid that parable. If they do know about it, many try to excuse it away and say it’s just some kind of metaphor but can’t tell me what it supposedly truly means. And it does bring up how one tells the difference between supposed metaphorical verses and what should be taken literally)

You see, I know the bible isn’t all sweetness and light. I read it once, mentioned above as a believer, and I’ve read it again completely as an atheist and probably even more than that piecemeal. Now, you’ll see that I used the Holman Christian Standard Bible, as you say you prefer in your most recent blog post here: http://bobrogers.me/2013/02/21/what-bible-translation-should-i-use/ . I’ve recently had Christians tell me the *only* bible to be considered accurate is the KJV. I asks you in all seriousness, which Christian should I believe? You don’t agree that it should be the only one followed, acknowledging that there are better translations out there. Since I have had so many Christians insist that their version was the only right one, from Roman Catholics, to Baptists like yourself, to Presbyterians (I was one of those), how can I tell which of you has the “right” answer since none of you have any better evidence than the next?

Also, if you wish to attempt to show how I am distorting anything, you are more than welcome to do so. I have no problems in posting opposing views on my blog. If I feel the need, I will rebut what you say. Depending on the length of the rebuttal, I may make it into a complete blog post rather than just a comment. Again, I am very interested in hearing what you have to say since there is always the chance you’ll have something new and enlightening. You cannot use the excuse that “oh that mean ol’ atheist doesn’t want to really listen so I don’t have to do anything”. Please do be aware I have been debating with theists of all types, mostly Christians, for about 15 years now. You may wish to read over some of my other “not so polite dinner conversation” posts to get an idea if I’ve addressed a particular point you think is valid to cut down on time potentially wasted.

 I am looking forward to see if we have any attempts at correcting my supposed “distortions.

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6 responses to “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A Pastor’s observations and my reply

  1. Very well. I’m glad to hear that nobody hurt you. My reason for asking that question was the bitter tone of your original column. It sounded like it came from a person who had been hurt, and I’ve learned that it is not useful to have a discussion with somebody who is angry, because it only creates heat, not light. However, since you welcome a discussion, I’ll be glad to respond to some of your assertions. I’ve got some meetings to attend today, but I’ll get back to you soon. I look forward to it. Best wishes to you.

    • I think you have projected a “bitter tone” onto my post, Mr. Rogers. It was written with much fun involved. I have found that Christians find they must imagine that anyone without their god must be miserable. I look forward to your attempts. Now, I will likely rebut them. I do hope you will not attempt to claim any response as “heat, not light”. That has been a common tactic with Christians, to claim that any response they do not like to be reason for them to cease discussion. You’ll see that in my interactions with the KJV-onlyist who was quite a liar when it came to geology.

  2. Boss, while I was reading this post it occurred to me that I finally have the formula for metaphorical and literal verses. Any verse that meets my purpose at a particular moment is literal and any that I don’t like or makes my case weak is metaphor.

    Interesting post

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