Friday, July 17, 2009

Encounter with a Proselytizer (Part Two)

I apologize for the length of time which has elapsed since Part One. Thank you for waiting!

I received a phone call when I was at home several days later from the pastor of the church which handed me the brochure about Jesus.

I struggled to think of something coherent to say to the preacher on the other end of the line. Here I was, talking to him directly. What was I going to say? Was I going to make a fool of myself?

I told the pastor that I had been handed the glossy bulletin, that I had read it, and that I decided to call the included number to discuss some questions I had about the information in the brochure.

For my first question I stammered, "What does your church think about the Bible?"

He relayed to me the teachings on Biblical inerrancy: that everything in the Bible is truth, and that the Bible is internally consistent. The preacher also mentioned that his church exclusively uses the King James Version of the Bible.

I asked him why the church uses the King James Version? He replied that the King James Version used direct translation from the "original" languages of the Bible. I did not proceed further with this because I am not knowledgeable enough about the history of the Biblical documents to contend with his claims.

Another angle which my conversant preacher had emphasized about the Bible was that it contains God's messages. It was given to humans, but God had written it ahead of time, so the Bible was God's perfect word to humanity.

I decided to ask the pastor about certain tenets of Biblical morality. I discussed certain acts of genocide and crime in the world today: Serbia/Kosovo, Rwanda, etc.

Did he agree that these acts were wrong? Yes, he did.

I then cited the book of Joshua: the slaughter of the various tribes of Canaan whom the Israelites supposedly displaced.

If the Bible condones an act of terror that we agree is untenable, then why should I follow its teachings as a moral guide?

The preacher directly informed me that the slaughter of these peoples was really the work of God, not the Israelites, and that they were really evil, anyway.

I asked the pastor, "If God told you to murder someone, would you do it?"

He retorted that he would never murder someone, but if God murdered someone, he would understand why God did it.

Just as God slaughtered many of the Canaanites for their immoral ways, God could similarly "send judgment" to many Americans today for the current state of our immoral society.

But the bottom line, the preacher reasserted, is that Jesus saved us, and God sent the Bible to us. The real important point is whether I believe that or not.

"Do you believe in God?" he stated sharply.

"I don't know," I answered.

"You don't know? But the Bible is God's Word!" the pastor responded. "This book talks about Jesus and why he came, so Jesus was either telling the truth or he was a liar. Do you believe what the Bible says about Jesus?"

"What if the people who wrote the Bible made up the stuff that Jesus said?" I inquired.

(My query was ignored and previous assertions were repeated.)

"How can you not believe the Bible?" he asked incredulously. "It contains the words of Jesus. Do you believe them?"

"I could write a book about President Obama and say that he said something, but that doesn't mean he said it," I retorted.

My acquaintance was not amused by that comment. He abruptly ended the conversation.

"Look, if you don't understand this about the Bible, I can't even talk to you."

I thanked the preacher for the discussion, and hung up the phone.

Maybe I should've used some other analogy besides Barack Obama...my second thought was Harry Potter...never mind.

Some conversations are doomed to futility.

16 comments:

Robert Madewell said...

Teleprompter,

Most of these guys are not interested at all in discussing differences. All they care about is whether or not you will believe exactly like they do. If you don't believe exactly like they do, you are a "them". And a "them's" opinion means nothing.

However, that has never stopped me from talking to them.

Teleprompter said...

Robert Madewell,

I resent the categorization of different people as "us" and "them". This is why I agree with you that dialogue between people with different beliefs is critical. Even if fundamentalists refuse to listen to me, they know that I exist.

It is because I am maligned for existing that I continue to make my existence known. Somehow the stigmatization must end.

Ketan said...

Teleprompter,

What surprises me is the pastor you talked to wasn't even sophisticated in countering simple atheistic assertions!

I thought, 'religious leaders' as I call them must have kept abreast with the latest theist v/s atheist arguments doing the rounds. But that also didn't seem to be the case!

I'm not sure if to be relieved by the fact that most of the religious leaders can be easily beaten in argument or be alarmed by the flimsiness of the grounds on which general public keeps on believing these religious leaders as well as the scriptures!

Robert Madewell said...

The "us and them" mentality that I see all the time from fundamentalists is not limited to Christians vs. Atheists. Many fundie groups consider other fundie groups as "thems" as well. If the fundies can't respect other kind of fundie's beliefs, how can I expect them to respect the beliefs (or non-beliefs) of those who really disagree with them. Ever since I have identified as an atheist, this has been a major headache of mine.

Here's a blogpost of mine that illustrates that.

Here's the pastor's reply.

Uruk said...

Teleprompter,

I recently had an similar experience where someone started up a conversation with me only because they wanted to witness to me.

Very odd for me to be on the receiving end of proselytizing after abandoning the Christian faith.

The fellow witnessing to me gave me a religious tract. There was no phone number or church invitation. Had there been, I personally wouldn't have the nerve to call a church and debate with the pastor anyhow. But, I've wanted to at times.

I admire you're willingness to call the church.

The responses from the pastor really show how religious superstitions can plunge a person into mental darkness. Funny how the pastor claims he would never murder anyone, but God would do it. Yet, God often "needs" or "uses" a human instrument to accomplish his alleged will or judgment.

So, the preacher would never murder anyone he says. But, he would allow himself to be an instrument to God's will-- no?

That sort of clouded judgment can become quite harmful.

Geds said...

I did not proceed further with this because I am not knowledgeable enough about the history of the Biblical documents to contend with his claims.

If you're actually interested to learn for future encounters, Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus is tremendously useful, an easy read, and I found my copy at a Borders bargain books rack for, like, $4.99 or something. Good times all around.

The interesting thing is that the KJV is actually one of the worst translations. It was a sloppy attempt to make a new translation from the Greek, but when the guy who put it together realized he didn't have enough stuff he just took a corrupted Latin version and plugged the holes. That is, if I recall correctly. I know the shenanigans were similar to that, even if I don't have the details exactly right.

Most of these guys are not interested at all in discussing differences. All they care about is whether or not you will believe exactly like they do.

It's fascinating to get that from people I used to go to church with. My most recent attempted evangelist actually declared that we were never really friends even though we hung out multiple times a week for, like, five years. And after doing this he told me that he really wanted to hear all about why I stopped being a Christian, then proceeded to tell me that he thought my reasons for leaving were based on me not seeing true Christianity played out.

There was just so much solipsism I got angry. And then I realized I don't actually have to talk to him. I can just let him have a conversation with the completely unreal version of me that exists in his head.

veritas said...

The conversation began with a brochure that said "Have any questions about the Bible? We'd love to hear from you!" and ended with
"Look, if you don't understand this about the Bible, I can't even talk to you." That's rather telling.

ARISTIONO NUGROHO said...

Hi friend, peace...
I agree with Robert Madewell, "If you don't believe exactly like they do, you are a "them", who their opinion are nothing."
But your post very informative.
If you willing visit my blog, and read my post at http://sosiologidakwah.blogspot.com
And... if you love books, read The Holy Qur'an please...

theothermagdalene said...

Yeah, veritas hit it on the head. You were invited to ask questions about the Bible, but apparently this particular pastor only wanted questions from someone who already believed. Which makes one wonder why they killed trees to give out tracts that they weren't even prepared to go through with.

Point. He missed it.

Uruk said...

". . . but apparently this particular pastor only wanted questions from someone who already believed."

I agree. In a witnessing tract that I recently ran across, the text was only written to:

1. Convince someone who already believes (moot and redundant endeavor)

2. Convince someone who doesn't know why they do not believe (perhaps the reader is angry at god, angry at church, emotionally hurt).

In the latter case, one can't be angry with god if one does not believe god exists. And with those who feel emotionally torn, they might come to believe that religion can fix the hurt.

For me personally, religion makes the hurt worse. So . . . no thanks.

So yeah, religious tracts are a waste. They can't prove god's existence-- especially when someone has given deep thought to his or her atheism.

Gideon said...

"What was I going to say? Was I going to make a fool of myself?"

Oh, no... not YOU, Teleporter! You're right on! You're an Atheist! That's why your atheist-run world is so perfect!

It's us religious loonies that have it all screwed up. Never mind that it's always the Godless that screw things up, then try to blame God's people for their ineptness!

Know why I use the KJV? Because, it hasn't been watered down by some suck-assed editor or publisher, to please some irate infidel or politically-correct pseudo-Christian, who doesn't want to offend some Godless fool who thinks that man came from swamp gas, 500 gazillion years ago.

And, it's not an evil thing to kill those that are out to kill you... like those bastards the Israelites killed, under God's direction. He made them... He can destroy them. He calls the shots, not dummies like you, who imagine themselves as superior to the Creator of the universe.

Unlike that pastor, I never assume that an infidel knows anything at all, nevermind asking them if they believe in God! That's just asking for grief. No, you assume (and, I've never been disappointed, yet!) they are ignorant bozos, with bias and vitriol toward Christians, and, you go from there.

You stated that you didn't know if God existed... well, for someone that isn't sure, you go to a lot of trouble preaching against Him!

Oh, and thanks for the spew you and Quiff delivered over at my blog... interesting stuff! Nothing new, where atheists are concerned, but, interesting, nonetheless. It's got Quiff reading his Bible, even if he's only doing it to rub my nose in it. LOL!

As if he could!

Gideon said...

Just a suggestion:

Why do you use that damned word verification shit? It only discourages people from commenting, when they have to type and re-type passwords a thousand times!

You that important that you think you're going to be spammed off the fucking planet, if you don't use it?

Get rid of it... watch your traffic go up.

Gideon said...

Btw... if you're "not sure", that would make you an agnostic, not an atheist.

You gotta work with 'em, Gideon!

*Oh, shit... there's that damned word verification crap, again!*

Teleprompter said...

Gideon,

So you believe that I think I'm superior to the creator of the Universe?

Let me tell *YOU* something, Gideon:

You have absolutely no compelling evidence that the being you worship exists.

It's awfully difficult for me to believe that I am superior to something which probably doesn't exist.

Furthermore, I don't assume that all Christians are ignorant -- I just assume that you're ignorant, because you have a proven track record of it.

Search my older articles. I've gotten along well with other Christians. But you, you're different. You think you know everything -- you think that YOU know the will of the creator of the universe. And this is based on what, Gideon?

What makes you think that whatever may be behind billions of galaxies -- what makes you think that YOU have any understanding of that whatsoever?

You think a being of such magnitude really cares what you and I are doing on one measly planet orbiting an average sun in a relatively non-descript galaxy? You really believe that?

Billions and billions of galaxies, each containing billions and billions of stars -- what makes YOU special?

Also, I am an agnostic AND an atheist. Atheism is a stance on belief -- Agnosticism is a stance on knowledge. I can't entirely KNOW for sure that there are no gods or higher powers but I live as if and I BELIEVE that there are none, and even if there are, I am 99.9% sure that your god character does not exist.

You think I want to increase traffic? Congratulations, you've just increased my traffic.

Gideon said...

Teleputz:

Nice diatribe, there, but, I think I've answered most of your questions in my comments on your last post's thread.

However, you are always accusing me of being a know-it-all, yet you seem awful dogmatic in your assertions that there is no God, or that He could possibly care about a bug like me in all the universe, yada, yada, yada...

Mu knowledge of God is based upon His Word's revelations of Himself and the Godhead. You are probably a victim of traditional hermeneutics, where man's wisdom replaces a simple "thus sayeth the Lord."

Whether you got along fabulously with other Christians or not is immaterial. Sounds like a lot of ego-stroking went on, and not much serious debate! You're right... I AM different, in that I don't subscribe to the modern, politically-correct notion that we all have to get along and go hopping and skipping down Mulberry Lane, together, like fags high on hemp! In fact, read your Bible, doofus... see any of that ridiculous behavior when Elijah smacked those arrogant cocksucker pagan priests on Carmel? Did Samson call for a group hug when the Philistines were causing trouble for Israel, or did he annihilate their arrogant asses?

Did David negotiate with Goliath, or did he bury a rock in the fucker's thick heathen skull?

Did Christ not lay the whip on those blasphemous sons of bitches trying to turn the temple of God into a First Century WalMart?

You haven't read your Bible, Telegroper, if you think it's all about love and kisses... where is that in the last days, when God fries all of you infidels for mocking and deriding the sacrifice of His dear Son?

And, THAT is what makes me so special, in His eyes, in all of this universe, you arrogant, egotistical infidel... the fact that I DO acknowledge and cherish His Son's sacrifice!

You better be sure!

Teleprompter said...

Gideon,

"However, you are always accusing me of being a know-it-all, yet you seem awful dogmatic in your assertions that there is no God, or that He could possibly care about a bug like me in all the universe, yada, yada, yada..."

I'm not saying that it's impossible that there is a God, or that it's impossible that a higher power could care about us; I just believe that it's unlikely. And why do I believe this? Because of the evidence which surrounds -- the nature and the qualities of our existence.

But you don't believe because of evidence, you believe because a Bronze Age told you that it was right.

Oh, by the way, Jesus said to *pray* for your enemies.

Martin Luther didn't think Revelations should be part of the Bible.

Jesus also told Peter to withdraw his sword when the Romans came to arrest him.

You claim that *I* don't know scripture? You claim that I know NOTHING about Christianity?

How dare you.

But you know what? It's easy to be a Christian. You can find enough contradictions in the Bible to support any view. Both you and the person who believes that it's not meant to be violent can find plenty of evidence to support your positions.

Certainly you've ignored most of Paul's letters, which directly contradict your beliefs? How many fruits of the spirit have you displayed in your life, in your interactions on this blog and in other blogs?

No book written by an all-powerful, all-knowing being should contain as many flaws and contradictions as the Bible does.

And you think I don't know what I'm talking about?

You know what, I'm putting my life on the line, and I'm not backing down. I really believe that Christianity is not true, and if the Bible were the only piece of evidence I had, I would still come to the same conclusion.