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AUTHOR”S NOTE: This was originally a free-standing article but the Holy Spirit led me to incorporate it into my previous series on Critical Thinking with additional articles to come.

Back in January 2020, a militant atheist posted a comment on my employer’s blog. Since I moderate all comments for that blog, I intercepted it and responded with an email. My response led to a dialogue over the claims of Christianity vs. atheism.

I am documenting that discussion here so you can both see the logical and rational emptiness of his position as well as learn how not to respond to your children when they ask questions concerning their faith and the crucial nature of such responses. After reading some research performed by a professional apologist on “deconversions,” he discovered to our mutual surprise that most such folks echoed what I discovered to be Jake’s own experience.

Truth be told, this conversation motivated me to dig into the theological discipline of apologetics in much greater depth. Had I known then what I know now, I would have handled this situation a bit differently, primarily by using the techniques presented by internationally renowned Christian apologist Greg Koukl in his excellent book Tactics, a book I cited in a previous article in this series on critical thinking.

Though I feel I’ve learned from this experience and can/will handle myself more graciously and effectively moving forward, by no means am I setting myself up as any kind of paragon of apologetics virtue here. I pray that by reading this, you will learn from my mistakes during this encounter so you won’t make the same ones yourself.

I will intersperse the transcript with comments about how I would approach things differently if I had such an encounter today.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Because this man’s actual name is irrelevant to this account and to avoid any possible liability problems in the future, I have renamed him “Jake.” Everything quoted here is exactly as he stated it with no changes. Some of my comments have been slightly edited for clarity and to correct some grammatical errors.

The Discussion

Jake

“The simplest Christian, who has neither the opportunity nor wherewithal to conduct a historical investigation of Jesus’ resurrection, can know with assurance that Jesus is risen because God’s Spirit bears unmistakable witness to him that it is so.” — William Lane Craig, The Son Rises, p. 8

Jake: This is why Christians believe, dear Reader. Strip away their appeals to weak historical and empirical evidence, and they will still believe. Believers in the Resurrection are absolutely certain that an executed first century peasant came back to life and is currently sitting on a golden throne somewhere at the edge of the universe — ruling as King of the Cosmos — primarily due to their gut feeling that his ghost inhabits their body. We are dealing with irrational thinking, my fellow skeptics. Rational discussions regarding evidence will get us no where with these misguided people. We must address their superstitious feelings and perceptions.

Steve

I know you get your kicks out of trolling Christian websites because you militant atheists are desperate to prove your point to any and all of those ignorant and gullible enough to listen to your schtick. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “The atheists doth protest too much, methinks!”

Unfortunately for you, the intellectual dishonesty of militant atheism has already rendered it null and void in the marketplace of ideas. Interestingly enough, the Bible has already addressed your intellectually bankrupt belief system over 3000 years ago in Psalm 14:1.

Oops!

Sorry, we’re not buying into your dare to publicly debate this nor will we ever allow such atheist drivel to appear on our website. Our site exists to serve our current and future students, not serve as a bully pulpit for anyone’s agenda, Christian or non.

All that being said, if you ever develop the intellectual honesty to participate in an open, honest discussion — with you leaving your mockery and sarcasm at the door, that is — I’m your guy!

Otherwise, go find another victim for your malice.

We’ll be praying for you — and i’m dead serious about that without an ounce of sarcasm .

Regards,

Steve Willis, PhD

Nowadays, I would start asking questions from the outset without making any accusatory or judgmental comments. While I was actually correct in all my assertions, they were unproductive in terms of moving the ball of persuasion down the field towards the goal. Fortunately, his stubborn persistence in attempting to deconvert me caused him to blow right past my mistake.

Jake

I’d love to have a discussion with you regarding the truth claims of fundamentalist (conservative) Christianity. I am a former fundamentalist Christian myself. Where would you like to start?

Steve

Before we open any philosophical/doctrinal cans of worms, it will help me to have a basic grasp on your frame-of-reference.

In my experience, people who walk away from Christ don’t do something so drastic apropos of nothing — they have some fairly significant and traumatic events compelling them to do so.

I can only imagine the pain which drove you do so, BTW.

  • So how/when/where did you become a so-called “fundamentalist Christian,”
  • What church(es)/denomination(s) were you associated with?
  • What eventually disillusioned you so badly?
  • If you don’t mind my asking, what was your upbringing like, both in your family and especially spiritually in the church(es) you attended?

In the interests of fairness and full disclosure, if you want to know my own history, you can find it here: https://misc-ramblings.com/about-steve/ and here: https://misc-ramblings.com/2013/07/24/forgiveness/

The latter article is not intended to preach at you, but to flesh out some specific details concerning the bullying I grew up with — you can safely ignore it, if you want.

And just so you’ll know, inflammatory comments won’t fly on my blog, either. I moderate both sites and they’ll never see the light of day. πŸ™‚

Looking forward to hearing from you.

The Holy Spirit allowed me to recover from my bad opening here. Without consciously recognizing His leading, I stumbled into actually doing the right thing and started asking questions to clarify Jake’s position and possible motives.

Jake

I will be happy to answer your questions if you answer mine, Agreed?

  • I grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist denomination. I prayed to Jesus to be my Lord and Savior and to forgive me of all my sins at the age of nine.
  • I left fundamentalism at the age of 18 when my family moved to a new city. We started attending a non-denominational evangelical church (with Baptist doctrine). Same doctrines but with a positive emphasis. I left evangelical Christianity in my late twenties due to its emphasis on feelings as a barometer for one’s faith. “Do you feel the Lord moving you?” “Do you feel the Lord leading you?” “Are you sure (feelings) that you are a child of God/saved?” I didn’t feel all the emotions other evangelicals seemed to feel.

    I became a Lutheran after reading some of the writings of Martin Luther. I eventually became a “confessional Lutheran” which means that I became a fundamentalist Lutheran. I joined the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

  • Evidence. I came across an ex-evangelical pastor turned atheist on the internet. I was horrified by his blasphemy against my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I dedicated myself to bring this lost sheep back to his Savior. This atheist challenged me to look at the historical evidence for my beliefs in order to engage him in discussion. Four months later I had lost my precious faith. I was heart-broken.
  • Loving parents but strict rules due to our fundamentalist beliefs. As a confessional Lutheran, I was content and happy. I believed that I had found the original, apostolic form of Christianity. I looked forward to raising my children as confessional Lutheran Christians. I was devastated when I discovered that the evidence for the historical claims of Christianity are incredibly weak, consisting of many, many assumptions.

My questions:

  1. How old were you when you first believed in the resurrected Jesus as your Lord and Savior?
  2. How many books by skeptics/critics of Christianity did you read prior to your conversion?

Steve

Feelings are a terrible barometer of anything spiritual because our emotions are so volatile. In the situation you’ve just described, there can also be an implied emotional demand or expectation for you to feel something. Ergo, if you do not have a “feeling,” then you can be β€” and often are β€” made to feel somehow “less-than.”

I’m of the charismatic persuasion and there have been multiple instances in my walk with God where I’ve stood in a prayer line during a charismatic service and there was a similar implied “demand” for everyone in that line to “fall under the power” aka “being slain in the Spirit” upon being prayed for. I cannot remember ever being slain in the Spirit and I’ve been treated like I’m some kind of second-class believer because I didn’t.

Such stupid religiosity totally cheeses me off!

All that does not negate experiencing the power of God personally, however.

I grew up the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) before it merged with the American Lutheran Church (ALC), but my 4 cousins grew up Missouri Synod. One of them is a retired Missouri Synod minister, one a lawyer, one is deceased, the other a Buddhist.

While there is much to admire about Martin Luther, modern Lutheranism has become to staid, traditional, and theologically liberal. It took me years for me to forgive the Lutheran church for not teaching me about the New Birth and how to receive it β€” humble submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ. It was not until I was in the US Army stationed in then-West-Germany (1973-75) that I was able to connect the theological dots and was born from above.

The LCA-ALC has entered into a race with the Untied Methodists, the Episcopalians, and the Presbyterians as to who can be the most theologically heterodox, to the point where the only way I would ever be present in one of their churches is for someone’s funeral.

Without the proper apologetics tools at your command to deal with such a person, it’s like taking a knife to a gunfight, especially if you have unresolved doubts of your own.

The historical evidence for faith is actually well established with no weaknesses. There are some very well-written books on the topic by:

There is actually a motion picture of Lee Strobel’s struggle with the claims of Christianity entitled The Case for Christ (available on Amazon Prime, Netflix, and DVD) documenting his journey from being a hostile atheist skeptic to being a Christian apologist. You might find that an interesting movie to watch.

There is yet another non-theology author I greatly admire named Dr. Rodney Stark, one of the foremost scholars on the sociology of religion. His books have been real eye-openers for me as he explodes quite a few myths and misconceptions concerning the history of Christianity and it’s impact on the world.

And I have a series on my blog touching on some related issues: The Plague of Pietism

One of the few downfalls of being raised in a Christian home is a failure for parents to successfully transmit their faith to their children. It seems from your brief bio of yourself this possibly is entirely possible, even likely.

Many times in strict Christian households, when a child starts questioning why they should believe in Jesus, they are often told, “Because I said so,” or “Because that’s the Truth,” or “Because that’s what we do in this family,” or other words expressing a similar shutdown of rational inquiry by the child. Often, such questions scare parents, with them making the faulty assumption their child is being attacked by the devil, or the questions somehow reflect badly upon their parenting, or such questions are an expression of rebellion against their authority, none of which are even remotely true in most cases.

IOW, they can get pretty reactionary.

Thankfully, I personally never had that kind of emotional baggage to overcome, but in all honesty I have to confess causing some of that kind of problem for my own son.

Every child needs to embark on their own journey of faith and come to their own conclusions as they come into adulthood. It is the parents’ job to facilitate β€” not cripple β€” that journey by bringing the necessary resources to bear so their children have the information required to make rational decisions concerning faith in Jesus without pressure or condemnation.

In answer to your questions, I was born from above at age 20. I read no books by skeptics prior to my conversion.

When I was presented with the claims of Christ, I already possessed a solid intellectual grasp of the facts of the Gospel and needed no further persuasion of them. What I was missing until age 20 was a failure to connect all those facts with my humble submission to Jesus as Lord over my life. I did that and have never looked back with anything other than gratitude for all the miracles He has wrought in my life since then, despite my frequent screwups and bad attitudes. I’m at 46 years and counting.

Jake, I am neither threatened by your honest inquiries nor am I on some sort of fevered quest to convert you.

It is not my job persuade you of Truth β€” only the Holy Spirit can do that. Neither am I here to pass judgment on you β€” that task is way above my pay grade!

What I can and will do is lovingly point you to answers for any questions you pose as well as pray for you.

Any of the books I listed above would be an excellent start β€” and I strongly recommend that movie!

Jake

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Here he listed about 30+ books by written by authors on both sides of the debate. For the sake of space, I have not listed them here.

My first question for you, Steve is this: Upon what is your belief in the truth claims of Christianity based? Historical evidence? Faith? Personal experiences? Miracles? Out of all of these, which is the strongest source of evidence?

Steve

All of these.

Jake

Which is the strongest source of evidence?

Steve

I’ve been contemplating our conversation, thinking about and praying for you, your situation, and the challenge you have just placed before me.

I do not know you well enough to be diagnostic and as I’ve said before, perfect knowledge concerning the state of your soul is way above my pay grade. So I am in no way heaping condemnation on you on any level.

What I’m about to say is admittedly my view from the cheap seats and I may be wrong in some of my particulars. That being said, the Holy Spirit guides my insights on occasion through words of knowledge and/or wisdom and this might be one such case, so I’m going to throw some spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks.

The bottom line question you’ve asked is: what do I believe and why did I believe it?

An excellent question β€” and it had me checking my hole card on the topic. Here are the reasons you offered me to choose from:

  • Historical evidence
  • Faith
  • Personal experiences
  • Miracles

The interesting item missing from your list of reasons is relationship, which leads me to ponder why that particular word is conspicuously absent.

Before we get into that, I have to confess, you just might be the most religious person I’ve ever encountered.

“What!? Me, religious!?” you may exclaim incredulously. Yes, indeed, religious. Please hear me out.

I have insufficient information to ascertain whether you grew up in a family which was truly Christian or merely pietistic β€” and there is a huge gulf between the two. The US is filled with faithful church-goers who proclaim themselves to be Christians, yet in reality are merely religious. The difference is simple, yet crucial.

  • We born-from-above Christ-followers are in a vital love relationship with our Heavenly Daddy based upon the grace and mercy of God as expressed in the finished work of the Cross. There are only 2 rules for us to live by: love God and love others, with everything else flowing from these, both motivationally and behaviorally. We recognize we are hopeless screwups and stand before God holy and blameless only by His grace and mercy, so we focus on Jesus as our Example, allowing Him to guide our thought processes and their resulting choices. We are princes of the Most High with immediate, continuous, and perpetual access to His throne of grace to receive grace and help in time of need. Because everything we are, have, will be, or will have is by His limitless grace, we also recognize we are in no position to pass judgment on other people’s performance because the ground is always level at the foot of the Cross β€”no moral high ground exists for us to stake out.
  • A religious person thinks there is a list of rules β€” do this, don’t do that, cut this off, grow that out, yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full β€” required to appease an angry God and persuade Him to let us into heaven, not smite us, and maybe even bless us every so often. Because they have made it all about their performance and are terrible at it, they live in secret shame over their failures, mentally flagellating themselves over their “lack” of whatever they conceive it requires to be a successful Christian while publicly portraying themselves as having their act together. If they do rather well at such rule-keeping, they have a tendency to pat themselves on the back and pass judgment on those who don’t do as well as they do. God is frequently perceived as a cosmic child-abuser, visiting death, destruction, and calamity “lovingly” dispensed by Him for some inscrutable “greater good” we cannot discern this side of eternity. This is the essence of every world religion other than Christianity.

Which side of that gulf your parents landed on is irrelevant β€” my point is this: you appear to have landed somehow on the religious side, possibly despite their best efforts to influence you otherwise.

As an adult, you claim to have engaged the conservative Church. It is entirely possible you mistook what others experienced in their relationship with God as them living by their feelings. Or perhaps you were offended by their self-righteousness. Because you are intellectually driven, none of this sat well with you, so you moved on to Lutheranism β€” with no better results!

When you over-zealously took on that militant atheist while possessing no relational foundation for your belief system, your religious underpinnings were swept out from under you and you then became a religious atheist. I frankly believe he was successful only because you were operating on an intellectual level with God, rather than a relational one.

And now you pursue your latest religion with a fanatical zeal compelling you to “evangelize” Christians away from their faith, rather than simply taking a “to each his own” stance on the topic.

Like all analogies used to illustrate eternal matters, the following one is flawed and you could easily pick it to pieces intellectually. However, whenever you start dealing topically with either relationships or eternity, intellect serves us ill in many respects, so please hang in there with me. Since you mentioned having children, it appears you either are or have been married. For the sake of this analogy, I’ll assume you are happily married to an excellent wife.

  • When your wife is absent from your presence, does she still exist?
  • How do you know this?
  • How do you know she still loves you when you are apart?
  • What if someone came up with a list of “proof” informing you she either didn’t love you or even exist at all?

You’d blow it off because you are in relationship with her.

You know she exists because you interact with her daily, conversing over matters great and small, whether in person or via electronic means. She values you and demonstrates her valuation through selfless acts of service. You know she loves you because she expresses it verbally as well as by her loving behavior towards you. Your heart is secure in the knowledge she has dedicated herself to you personally and chooses you over all others. When she gives you her word on something, she keeps it, so you trust her in and with everything. Etc., etc.

I personally know God exists because I communicate with Him daily, conversing with Him over matters great and small. He values me and has demonstrated His valuation through His incarnation as Jesus and the finished work of the Cross. I further know He loves me because He has expressed it in writing and verbally as well as through His answering my prayers. My heart is secure in the knowledge He has dedicated Himself to me. He keeps His promises to me, so I can trust Him completely because He has proven Himself faithful to His Word over and over and over and over again in the last 46 years and counting. When I attend a church service, I’m not performing a dead religious work, I’m spending time communing with my Daddy as well as celebrating Him with my brothers and sisters. He has healed me on repeated occasions, both supernaturally and via medical science. He has delivered me from besetting self-hatred, seething anger and bitterness towards the bullies I endured throughout my childhood and adolescence, clinical depression, as well as an addiction to pornography which afflicted me from toddlerhood because of unremembered sexual molestation.

In summary, I don’t have to serve Him, I get to.

Now back to your list of choices. Your insistence that I answer your question in the manner you desire shows it’s a trap, a logical fallacy called “false dichotomy.” It attempts to induce me to make a choice based upon only the premises you’ve pre-selected. Why? So you can take any one of them I pick and then run with it, eventually winning the argument. It plays into what you perceive as your strengths in any discussion about whether a deity exists and whether that deity deserves our love, devotion, and service.

In other words, you want me to play your game with your bat, your ball, on your field, using your rules.

That is simply not going to happen.

Here is my bottom line (I freely admit I’m shamelessly paraphrasing and ripping it off from someone I cannot remember, perhaps C. S. Lewis):

If I’m right, I have nothing to lose but a bunch of stuff I’d rather not have anyway (selfishness, arrogance, bitterness, anger, depression, addiction, and a host of others) while gaining everything I desire (love, peace, joy, freedom, etc.). After a life lived to the fullest, heaven awaits me and I’ve neatly avoided a horrible, gruesome, painful eternity in the Lake of Fire.

If I’m wrong, I’ve still lost nothing because my life has been ever so much better than where it was going before I met Jesus. I may die, cease to exist, and my body go into a grave to rot, but I will have lived the best possible life available to me while I was here. If I am delusional, it’s an excellent delusion I can totally live with.

In other words, there is zero downside for me to love/follow Jesus with all of my heart, mind, and strength.

At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I discovered later it wasn’t C. S. Lewis, but Christian mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal. My premise is an elaboration upon what is known as “Pascal’s Wager.”

Jake

“In other words, there is zero downside for me to love/follow Jesus with all of my heart, mind, and strength.”

And this may very well be true, Steve. It may be, that for you personally, belief in the supernatural claims of conservative Christianity is the “best” option. It may be what keeps you from slipping back into destructive addictions (I’ve read your story on your blog).

And if your beliefs only affected you, I would let it go and say, “If it helps Steve, let him believe it and leave him alone.”

But your belief system, since its inception in the first century, was never intended to be kept to oneself. The central message of conservative Christianity is to convert the entire world to your belief system. But I believe that your belief system is dangerous, even deadly, because it elevates blind faith above reason and rational thinking. It elevates subjective personal experiences and perceptions above critical thinking skills. For instance, how can you possibly know that you have a “relationship” with an invisible being whom you have never seen, heard, or touched? Answer: your subjective feelings and perceptions.

You seem like a good man, Steve. I do not want to destroy your life. So I will leave the choice to you whether you wish to continue this discussion. But beware: the truth may be cold and harsh. So you should ask yourself this question: “How important is the truth to me? Is the truth worth losing what gives me the greatest peace, joy, and comfort — my cherished faith?”

If not, do not continue this discussion.

Steve

Your reply is so chock full of misconceptions, logical fallacies, and “facts” presented with no evidence, I’m at a loss as to where to start, but I guess I’ll just take it from the top.

  • First, it’s called the Great Commission. Comes from the mouth of Jesus personally. This is the only factual statement you have made in your reply to me.
  • Actually, no. The central message of Christianity is John 3:16, among others. We do not “convert” anyone; we present the Truth of Christ to a world hungry for love, mercy, acceptance, and truth. The message itself produces a desire within an individual to allow God to convert them through the New Birth.
  • Your claim that my beliefs are dangerous, even deadly, assumes facts not in evidence.

    Admittedly, the false cult of Roman Catholicism and a host of misguided individuals like John Calvin killed ostensibly in the cause of Christ, but none of that is supportable biblically. While the doctrinal basis for the Crusades was bogus, the fact was it was never about forcing Christianity on Moslems, it was about keeping Moslems from forcing Islam on us. Nowadays, the only deadly aspect to Christianity is martyrdom at the hands of groups like ISIS or Boka Haram, atheist governments such as China, Cuba, and North Korea, or Islamic governments such as Iran.

  • Your assertion that Christianity elevates blind faith above reason and rational thinking again assumes facts not in evidence.

    Just because you cannot “see” what I “see” does not make my faith blind, nor does it make me unreasonable or irrational. It takes a special kind of hubris to make such an assertion about a person who is little more than a total stranger to you.

    Who died and made you omniscient?

  • You claim it elevates subjective personal experiences and perceptions above critical thinking skills. Yet again, assumes facts not in evidence.

    Anyone who takes the time to read my blog in any depth will discover I am a pretty good critical thinker. The fact I disagree with you does not categorically negate that.

    Back to that hubris schtick I just mentioned.

  • So now you are asserting that I’m not only irrational, unreasoning, and devoid of critical thinking ability/skills, but that I am completely insane simply because I have the temerity to disagree with you about the existence of a Supreme Being.

    How do you walk through a doorway with a head that big?

    What’s really amusing to me is how you have exalted human reason to a level of infallibility reserved for deity, as if it is some kind of moral absolute in and of itself. I’ve already dealt with this topic in 2 articles (links below), but in summary, without a God, your opinion is just as good as mine and neither of us has any intrinsic human value. We are merely worthless blobs of protoplasm who came into existence by a freak cosmic accident and happen to be at the top of the food-chain though the equally accidental fact that we have a bigger brain than the rest of the apes.

    Assuming such a premise, if my self-described superior reasoning informs me you have become an existential threat to my physical, mental, governmental, or social wellbeing (I left our spiritual because, after all, that’s a figment of some fevered primitive’s imagination) and should be removed from this planet by any means possible β€” including violence β€” who’s to say I’m wrong? I’d just be terminating the existence of a fellow ape-descendent by obeying the law of the survival of the fittest. I could not be held legally responsible for my behavior because the only standard available is another ape’s personal opinion of the situation based upon their own reasoning. Who knows? Perhaps their opinion of your relative value to them or society exceeds mine, so they could call me into account for my deed β€” otherwise, you’re screwed, having gone to the grave with no afterlife awaiting you while I party down, taking your wife as my own sex-slave by force (after all, marriage is a social construct bereft of any true significance) and turning your children into slaves for my own offspring.

    And there are a host of nations across the globe where such scenarios are not that far off the mark. Most of them are run by folks of your ilk, such as China, Vietnam, North Korea, and Venezuela.

    Thanks, I’ll pass!

    The Plague of Pietism #2 β€” Secular Humanism & Postmodernism
    The Plague of Pietism #3 β€” Speaking Your Truth

  • You claim you do not want to destroy my life. Eu, contrere. You may proclaim this until you are blue in the face, but in reality your goal is quite the opposite. You are incredibly envious of those of us who truly enjoy the fruits of Christianity. Why? Because you never bought in to the point of total surrender to Christ’s lordship over your life so that you could enjoy them, too. So now your mission in life is to level the playing field in a perverted form of spiritual socialism, approaching the matter with the attitude of, “If I can’t have it, neither should anyone else.”
  • As for your offering me a choice to discontinue this discussion, you will never convince me for the very reasons I detailed in my previous message. I have never stated I was open to your trying to convert me. I said I was will to conduct an open, honest conversation. It has been you with the conversion agenda.
  • As for the truth being cold and harsh, yeah, it is. And I just gave you a heaping plate of it! If my submitting my thought processes to your propaganda is your requirement, then indeed this conversation is over. I am, however, willing to continue an open, honest discussion about any of the issues you have with Jesus.

In retrospect, rather than counter-claiming his assertion of Christianity being dangerous, even deadly, I would now zero in on that fraudulent claim by asking for specifics.

Remember, whoever makes the truth claim has the burden of supporting it!

Jake

How confident are you that Jesus gave a “Great Commission”? 100%?

Steve

I’m not playing this game of yours. Either make your case or we’re done.

Please note how he keeps trying to bring the conversation back to his comfort-zone talking points. The next exchange consisted of 2 YouTube videos.

Steve

Jake

I do NOT believe that atheists are necessarily more intelligent that theists. I do believe, however, that most atheists are better at using critical thinking skills. A person who thinks critically demands good evidence from good sources. I do not believe that Christianity has good sources or good evidence. I do not believe that subjective feelings and perceptions are good sources of universal truths.

I would encourage you to look at this short video:

Steve

He offers his personal opinions as facts and offers no counter-proofs to debunk what he is criticizing. He sneers at what he clearly does not β€” and does not want to β€” understand.

IOW, his diatribe is the purest form of bovine scatology.

On a more personal note, I have a question for you: what is your motivation for attempting to “convert ” me to your viewpoint? I’m not talking about the surface goal of winning the argument. I’m talking about what is driving you to win it at all?

A Christian would evangelize because of the Great Commission: what commission are you obeying and whose is it?

Jake

I believe that I am involved in one of the greatest movements of all time: the debunking of religious superstitions. Religious superstitions are the cause of much of the world’s suffering.

Please note the grandiosity of his response. He portrays himself as a huge intellect on a great crusade to save “we the ignorant” from our pathetic superstitions (Romans 1:22)

Steve

If you were attacking Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, or Mormonism as religious superstitions, I could understand your process, although I don’t agree with where you would take them conceptually. They are all pernicious, especially Catholicism, Mormonism, and Islam.

Do you go to blogs about these religions to make converts to your viewpoint? I would bet good money you’re not!

Given your background, you singling out conservative Christianity from of all the available targets makes your motives highly suspect. You appear to me to have a bitterness and resentment against conservative Christianity driving you to focus solely on it to the exclusion of all others.

Such an impetus completely negates any altruism you may claim for your efforts.

Motivation matters.

Jake

I am an ex-member of a cult. Someone helped me escape from the cult. I am helping others to do the same.

If you found out today that Alexander the Great did *not* sack the city of Tyre, how emotionally devastated would you be? Now, compare your reaction to that news to how you would feel to find out that Jesus of Nazareth did *not* rise from the dead. If you are surprised but indifferent to the first news, why is your reaction to the second news not the same?

I suggest that it is because you are heavily emotionally invested in the outcome of the second alleged event. That being the case, is it really possible for you to be objective when examining the evidence for this alleged event?

Steve

The existence, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (aka the Christ Event) is one of the best β€” if not THE best outright β€” documented events of antiquity, so I’m not worried about specious claims to the contrary, regardless of the credentials of those who utter them.

As for my emotional investment, eu contrere, I am heavily invested in a real, live relationship with a real, live Savior, something you have clearly never experienced, so you are incapable of fathoming such anymore than a man born blind could understand a sunset.

Just because he cannot see one doesn’t negate the fact they exist.

And he can regard all ancient and modern accounts of the existence of sunsets as superstitious nonsense or personal opinion but his lack of perception has no bearing whatsoever upon reality.

BTW, you dodged my question concerning the other world religions, all of which can definitely be regarded as “religious superstitions.” How much time do you spend attempting to “rescue” devotees of those false belief systems vs. conservative Christians? I predict the answer to be zero, which continues to give me pause concerning your motivations.

My current evaluation of those motives still stands: you are bitter and resentful of the fact you felt excluded from the joys and other benefits of being a Christian believer. You strove and strove and strove, trying to be “good enough” to qualify for God’s love and blessings, rather than humbly acknowledging your inability to meet His standards, then submitting yourself to Him and receiving His love and blessings as gifts given by His unlimited and unwarranted favor.

IOW, you completely missed the point of the Gospel and you are now attacking both it and those who believe it based upon your personal misconceptions of what Christianity is all about.

This is truly tragic.

The Good News is God has not rejected you despite your angry, hate-filled rejection of Him. He still loves you and wants to demonstrate His existence, love, mercy, and grace towards you personally.

That’s the God I serve.

Jake

You cannot have a “relationship” with someone you have never met, seen, touched, talked to, or heard speak. Yet can’t even claim that you have a pen pal as Jesus never wrote anything addressed specifically to you, Steve. The fact that you emphasize this alleged relationship is good evidence that the primary reason for your belief in Jesus, the resurrected Lord and Savior, is due to your emotions and your subjective perceptions of “miracles”. Subjective feelings and perceptions are not good sources of evidence for universal truth claims. You are operating under a comforting delusion, Steve, no different than the child who has invented an imaginary friend with magical powers for companionship and a sense of security.

Steve

You are still dodging my question about your lack activism against other religions.

As for what you just wrote, all I hear is a blind man griping about sunsets.

Jake

What have you done in the last 12 months to share the Gospel of Jesus with a Muslim or Hindu? Please be specific.

The truth is this, Steve: You have no more evidence for the existence of your imaginary friend than does the emotionally disturbed child who has invented an imaginary friend. Until you can provide better evidence than warm fuzzy feelings and perceptions of miracles (magic), no one should take you seriously about your “relationship” with the resurrected body of a first century peasant.

Steve

Whether I have witnessed to any Moslems or Hindus or not is beside the point entirely. You’re deflecting my question yet again. Who I witness to or not is not and never has been on the table. I’ve asked you twice who other than conservative Christians have you targeted with you activism and all I get is you squirming over there — which I find highly amusing, frankly!

As for the rest of your diatribe, all I’m still hearing is blind person complaints about sunsets. You have consistently ranted about my beliefs, proclaiming supposed facts without having presented a shred of “evidence” other than another so-called expert who said pretty much the same kinds of things you have, all of it bereft of a single rational argument. Those who believe something is impossible should not interrupt those who are actually doing it.

I challenged you to make your case and you have thus far epically failed to even come close.

Come on! Is that all you’ve got?

Jake

We are getting nowhere.

I leave you with this: Millions of people of many different religions believe that they have experienced miracles due to prayer to their god or gods. So either Jesus is answering EVERYONE’S prayers or these answered prayers are nothing more than coincidences. Our beliefs should be based on better evidence.

I encourage you to investigate the topic of “critical thinking”. There are good books on the subject and even short but powerful Youtube videos on the internet. I hope that it will help you see our world in a clearer light.

Steve

We are getting nowhere because I refuse to play your game and it frustrates the fire out of you. I keep asking you probing questions which you consistently refuse to answer because either you cannot bring yourself to take the long hard look inside yourself required to answer them or you are so lacking in self-awareness that you cannot even see the need to answer them.

My faith has been challenged time and time again by both circumstances as well as fellow humans and I have come through those all challenges with my faith not only intact, but stronger. Thank you for being the latest such instance in the last 46+ years.

I will be praying for you to have a supernatural encounter either the Most High, one which you will be totally unable to explain away intellectually or dismiss as indigestion.

If you ever want to re-engage, you know where to reach me.

Jesus loves you!

Jake

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Here he points me his own blog article contesting the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.

Steve

Evidently some atheists think there is enough proof!

In Summary

Please note how he repeatedly makes truth claims, yet nowhere in this entire exchange did he once present even one shred of evidence backing them. Yet amazingly, he repeatedly portrays you and me as lacking critical thinking skills!

I invite you to read the rest of my series on critical thinking and evaluate both his and my assertions using the criteria you find there, then make your own determinations.

I have not linked to any of the atheist books or articles he listed in his email because Google and other search engines use links from outside websites to determine the “importance” of a site’s or book’s content — I simply refuse to give such drivel even the merest shred of credence provided by my linking to them. If you want to read and evaluate them for yourselves, even a cursory Internet search on the topic of atheism will give you far more content than you could possibly read in a year. I made that one exception here because it is typical of the empty posturing found in militant atheists and is indicative of the poor quality of sources Jake was depending upon.

Thanks for reading!