If by some chance a person of religious zeal stumbles across our blog, this post is for you.
Last week I was in Knoxville, TN for a meeting. I was walking down the street toward a bar and grill to get dinner when I was stopped by two young gentlemen. I had my street map out so I was surprised when their purpose was not for directions but rather to initiate the "have you found Jesus" conversation. Typically I'm not so responsive to people testifying in the street, but I have to admit, these two young men were by far the best I've seen. They were not intrusive, but asked poignant and personal questions regarding my religious background, my ideals, and then commented on their perspective of religion. They were bright and used some of the same manipulative speech I use when I'm trying to be persuasive.
Eric will tell you that my knowledge of the Catholic faith (that's what I was raised as) is probably superficial. I know the things they teach in Sunday school and I have some insight into the foundation of the church from a political perspective including the reformation. I'm not a student of religious doctrine so my opinions must be taken at face value. But I know that and I know I can't strongly argue certain questions of "why" because of it.
I had no intention of contradicting their belief system even though it was bordering on the "Blind Faith" concept I hate so much. I see a benefit to having religious faith, and I've said that many times. The problem is they said (he said – one guy was talking more) something to the effect of "You admit that you've sinned, so what are you going to say to God when you're at your judgment?" I had illuminated them on my belief that my worth as a human is based on my positive contribution to humanity through scientific contribution, service, self awareness, and a general accepting and utilization of my talents to their fullest. He said "but that's not good enough. It is your faith alone that will grant you heaven (he was protestant)." He talked about atonement and forgiveness and all that stuff. I reminded him about confession, the last rights, and purgatory.
Perhaps it was because I was reading Red Dragon by Thomas Harris (the first meeting of Hannibal Lector) that I felt compelled to take the "quid pro quo" stance. I asked him a lot of questions about his personal life, his "sins," and his journey to our chance encounter on the streets of Knoxville. I don't think they were prepared for someone like me. I'd guess they were used to complete rejection and combativeness or complete acceptance. Certainly not a somewhat informed person taking a logical stance toward the persuasive strength of their argument rather than the argument itself. Toward the end of the conversation I stopped it completely and complimented them on their technique. I pointed out the strong and weak points in order to help them be more persuasive. I commented on my recent gift subscription to Creationist magazine and to their complete surprise, I said it was terrible. It was a funny reaction. Then I went to explain that the content was ok, but the lack of proper journalism in that they disregard their responsibility to purvey both opinions of time and point out the issues that support their perspective. They just go straight for the jugular without setting up a sound basis for the attack. I told them to stay away from that kind of argument in their evangelism. Most importantly I retorted to the above comment by saying "if we are all sinners, even after we accept Christianity as truth and have asked for forgiveness, then what separates you from me in the eyes of God? Is your contribution to the world enough to grant you pardon?" I'm sure people have asked that before. It was their specific argument's biggest weakness. He had no answer besides reiterating what he had already said about asking forgiveness. It was circular logic. Believe me I didn't want to trap him, but I was fishing for the answer I believe would help his argument the most. Drumroll please. "Faith." That's simply it. By saying we have to take it on faith he's closes the argument, and has left the decision up to the other person. Honestly, he had said it before, but not in the correct context. "Faith" is an unobtrusive word. It inspires personal interpretation for that "personal relationship with God" that I've heard so many times. He has to accept the fact that inevitably that's all he really has to go on. There is very little in the bible that can be proven explicitly, so inevitably one has to have faith in its truth. I think the quieter one got my point, I'm not sure about the other.
And now a deep thought…
Unless science can someday prove without a shadow of a doubt to every common man the exact origin of the universe and the life in it there will always be a fundamental difference in the faith of science and the faith of religion. But right now both take a certain level of blind faith.