A) Agnostics Vs. Atheists, From a Christian Perspective and B) Is Atheism Technically a Faith-Based Religion?

I’m not trying to convert atheists to Christianity; I’m trying to convert atheists to agnosticism.

Maybe somewhat surprisingly, I am actually not the kind of person who participates in pointless debates.  Granted, I’ll observe them, but I won’t join the heated discussions myself.  One of these classic debates is when Christians try to argue with atheists.  I remember one time on a church mission trip in high school I witnessed one of our youth group’s leaders yell to a guy at Wal-Mart during an emotional exchange: “Well buddy, one day you’re gonna finally meet God and see that He’s real and when you do, I hope you bust hell wide open!”  For what it’s worth, the atheist started it by loudly scoffing at our youth group’s Christian t-shirts which explained we were in that city to help with construction in low-income neighborhoods and also to lead Vacation Bible School at a local church in Phenix City, AL.

But still, that story shows how neither person was there to even defend their own beliefs, but instead to try to prove that the other person was a fool.  Therefore, it’s safe to say they both successfully proved their point.  It was a win-win situation.  Technically.

It has been my observation that agnostics (people who admit they don’t have the answers when it comes to the afterlife or the existence of God or how we all got here, but are willing to admit there’s a chance that just like any explanation out there including atheism, Christianity could be right) are respectful and overall cool people.  Typically, from my experience, agnostics do not have a general attitude that comes across like they are smarter or better than those who do believe in God.  It seems that truly they have no agenda to convert me to a state of doubt or unknowingness.  And I like that.

atheist/agnostic/deist

Generally (but not always), my experience observing atheists typically means they openly mock the “blindness, arrogance, and lack of ability to think freely” of those who do believe in God, specifically Christians.  Of course, this only fuels the emotion of certain Christians who sincerely belief, yet fail to recognize that while Jesus did say to go forth and tell the nations, the Bible also teaches against arguing with a fool– whether that fool is an atheist, another Christian, or the host of a political talk show.

I don’t see how it’s my place to try to convert someone who not only clearly demonstrates they are not interested or are not at all open to the idea, but who also mocks my efforts or even my lifestyle, stereotyping me because I am a Christian.  When it became clear to Jesus that His own people, the Jews (especially the Jewish religious leaders), had officially rejected His claim to be the Son of God, He then focused His time and efforts elsewhere- to the rest of us Gentiles.  Jesus didn’t waste energy on those who wanted to argue with him.  And interestingly, He didn’t waste energy on trying to prove them wrong.  He just simply walked on.  Nice move, Jesus.

Since it’s not a Christian’s place to argue with someone who doesn’t believe or to try to belittle those who belief differently, I would like to expect the same amount of respect from atheists.  It’s this simple: I do not believe I am better than anyone in this world, no matter what they do or do not believe. If I did, I would be contradicting the beliefs of my own religion.  Again, in turn, I would like the same treatment from those who do not believe the same way as me.

It’s pretty clear to me that both Christians and atheists have given themselves a bad reputation in the process of trying to prove each other to be wrong and to be idiots.  For example, there is a facebook group called “f— Jesus Christ” (I am of course censoring the actual name).  Obviously, that group started quite a stir, some Christians started creating groups like“ban the facebook group ‘f— Jesus Christ’”.  Therefore, hundreds of Christians have joined that group and as they have done so, it proclaims on their facebook profile and on the status feed which all of their facebook friends see that “(So-and-so) has joined the group “ban the facebook group ‘f— Jesus Christ’”.

As a Christian, I feel bad enough even typing the censored version of the name of the original facebook group.  So I definitely don’t want it repeated all over facebook.  Again, even though Christians are standing up against some offensive atheists who created the group, they have ended up defeating the purpose by not only bringing attention to their cyber bullies but also by wasting their energy arguing with fools.  No one wins; instead they just get upset.  I guess the thing about this story that makes me the most curious is this: Why would an atheist hate Jesus Christ or curse Him?  How can you hate or curse something that truly doesn’t exist?

Ultimately, the atheist who started the facebook group ended up having his or her wish granted: Christians got upset and in turn may have said some less than nice things towards atheists on facebook.  Because if a Christian can be made to look like an unstable, hate-speaking person, the atheist wins because it in essence shows the Christian to be a hypocrite- since the angry Christian’s  demeanor is not in accordance with how Jesus taught His followers to behave.  But again, this whole thing just goes to show that none of this is even about converting anyway; it’s about proving the other to be wrong, and therefore to be an imbecile.

I just think that if I were an atheist, I truly wouldn’t care what other people believed.  It wouldn’t even be worth talking about.  There wouldn’t be any emotion or passion invoked when I thought about it.  It would be that simple for me.

The problem with my hypothetical example of me being an atheist is this: Being an atheist truly requires having faith in the unseen and in prehistory.  And the way I see it, it takes much more faith to believe in nothing than it does in something.  Not to mention, it has been my experience that atheism is a vehicle (or Trojan Horse) for Evolution and Darwinism.   Therefore, I see atheism as a religion based on faith.

But agnosticism, I respect.  Because I’ve yet to meet an agnostic who mocked me, spoke to me condescendingly, or was passionate about their view.  And they never tried to convert me to Darwinism; because just like they can’t prove or disprove there is no God whom they can not see, it would take faith to firmly believe in Evolution.  I am actually fascinated by agnostics, because they evidently have no faith in the unseen or unknown or physically improvable.  I don’t see how they do it.  It seems that goes against how we were wired as human beings.

I see atheism as a passionate, organized religion.  But agnosticism- I just don’t know how to classify it.  The combination of faith and passion is a clear sign of a religion; most atheists I have met in my lifetime clearly possess both.  Agnostics, on the other hand, are not passionate about their non-belief and truly appear to have no faith.  Like Penn said in this candid and honest YouTube video, if a person truly believes in their religion, they should share with it others.  I guess that’s unless you’re an agnostic, because there’s no big idea to prove- not even Evolution.  But it seems to me like atheists want to preach their “nongospel”- and that sounds like religion to me.

Maybe the ultimate irony here is that I realize it could be pretty easy for any blog sniper to come across this article and miss the whole point.  Maybe a reader’s perception could cause them to believe I have found a way to cleverly be condescending towards atheists while ironically preaching that we should Christians and atheists should treat each other with respect.  (But I don’t think so- I’ve made it pretty clear that overzealous Christians have mishandled the situation too and have definitely been in the wrong by being rude and condescending towards atheists.)  I could see how the exact kind of overzealous person I refer to in this post (whether they are a Christian or atheist or political talk show host) could find a way to get upset by the words I’ve said here today and be inspired to leave a three paragraph-long comment using my words (in sarcastic quotation marks and out of context, of course) to try to start a religious debate or character-bashing session.

If that’s the case, I promise this: I will not retaliate.  I will not defend myself.  I will not reply to your comment.  Because then I would without a doubt become my ultimate worst example.

But… if you’re just dying to leave a comment on this one, what I would rather you do is debunk is my claim that because atheism requires faith and has passionate believers (and often has an agenda based on its own bible: the teachings of Evolution), atheism is therefore an unofficial organized religion.  If you want to leave a comment about that, I may be inspired to debate you, with all due respect.



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The Cultural Identity of Being “Born Again”

I actually come across as pretty normal on the surface.  But recently, I have realized that I’m not simply a religious guy, or even just a Christian… I am one of those evangelical fanatics- basically another version of Kirk Cameron.  So now, I take this opportunity to come out of the closet and accept my social label as an official Born Again Christian.


“Even though I see fundamentalist Christians as wild-eyed maniacs, I respect their verve.  They are probably the only people openly fighting against America’s insipid Oprah Culture- the pervasive belief system that insists everyone’s perspective is valid and that no one can be judged.”

-Chuck Klosterman, in his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

It wasn’t until recently while finishing the final chapter of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs that I finally realized I am part of a subculture of Protestantism which outsiders label as “Born Again”, which from what I gather, was a pretty popular term back in the 1970’s.  This whole time I’ve been calling myself a Christian, but now I fully understand that just doesn’t cut it.  “Christian” has become such a generic term these days.  Jesus is officially a household name now. While Jesus may be Ashton Kutcher’s homeboy, it’s safe to say that the relationship I have with Jesus Christ is much different than someone just using Jesus as a funny pop culture reference on a t-shirt.

By reading about myself from an outsider’s perspective (Klosterman identifies himself as a mix between a “bad Catholic” and an agnostic), I am able to understand my cultural identity in a way I never have before.  I get it now: I am a fanatical Christian.  Every thought pattern in my head eventually comes back to Jesus being the savior of the world and my desire for people to know Him.

I find it extremely important and relevant to quote a paragraph from Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs:  “There are no other subjects, really; nothing else- besides being born again- is even marginally important.  Every moment of your life is a search-and-rescue mission: Everyone you meet needs to be converted… Life would become unspeakably important, and every conversation you’d have for the rest of your life (or until the Rapture- whichever comes first) would really, really, really matter.  If you ask me, that’s pretty glamorous.”  For me, calling myself a Christian doesn’t simply mean that at some point I came to the realization that I belief Jesus is the son of God, which would be the simplest definition of the word Christian.  Instead, I live a seemingly curious and quirky lifestyle as it relates to my relationship with Jesus Christ.

You’ve probably heard of “Catholic guilt” or maybe even “Jewish guilt”, but I need to introduce something called “Born Again guilt”.  Because we truly believe that Jesus literally meant it when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through Me,” we carry this burden of wanting every person we meet to “have a personal relationship with Jesus” like we do.  We sincerely believe that by trusting in Christ as the redemption for our naturally flawed nature and by loving serving others as ourselves, we will be part of the Heavenly Kingdom when Jesus returns as the King.  Sounds pretty sci-fi, yes.  But so does every religion, including atheism.

It’s no secret that I find reasons to insert random facts about the year 1983 or to tell which actors are Jewish or relate the Rubik’s Cube to everyday life.  That’s just me being me.  But I am also constantly looking for ways to write about or at least mention Jesus in ways that are subtle as well.  I realize that if Scenic Route Snapshots was simply me preaching, I wouldn’t be getting between 600 and 1,000 hits each day.  Instead, I write about whatever off-the-wall thing is going through my head that week.  And if it’s possible to show my faith as relevant to the subject as my faith is relevant to my life, I won’t shy away from mentioning it. I would love to sit down with people and discuss my relationship with Jesus on an everyday basis.  But I know that often, that isn’t practical, and therefore not possible.

Kirk Cameron is the official mascot of Born Again Christians. Just ask them about a movie called Fireproof or something called "the love dare"...

Everyone I know, it seems, already understands why Jesus died on the cross. That cultural familiarity with Him, in American, often can be the thing that keeps people from seeking Him in their lives beyond a basic understanding.  It’s hard to tell people what they already know.  So when I write and when I am involved in seemingly surface conversations with people, I try to find ways to point the thought process to my faith somehow- even it’s simply using the word “afterlife”.

How can you tell a Born Again Christian (also referred to as “saved” or “evangelical”) from other deists who use the term “Christian” to describe themselves?  Here are a few red flags to look out for:

They attend a “small group”. In addition to regularly attending their church on Sunday, many Born Again Christians meet once a week (in groups of around 6 to 10 people) at someone’s house for about two hours to study the Bible together and pray.

They strive to study the Bible and pray on a daily basis. In addition to their weekly small group meeting, they also study the Bible and pray privately as well.  Sometimes they refer to this as their “quiet time”.  Many of them can be seen doing this during their lunch breaks at work.

They avoid using profanity. This is often a way they recognize each other.  This means they also refrain from saying “oh my God” as well, as it profanes the name of God to matters that are not holy in any way.

They use the word “blessed” to describe their life. It’s a way of glorifying God in a non-churchy sounding kind of way.  Also, when you leave a message on their cell phone, they end their “sorry I’m not here right now…” spiel with “have a blessed day”.

They truly believe that sex is for only for people who are married to each other. Even if many of them largely contribute to the high viewership of the reality TV show The Bachelor, it’s understood between them all that they collectively do not approve of the “overnight date” episode with the “fantasy suite”.

They politically identify as Republican, or are part of the newer, cooler, independent version called the Libertarian Party. If nothing else, these two political parties typically support the Pro-Life movement whereas the Democratic Party is at best indifferent on the issue.  For Born Again Christians, abortion is not up for discussion or debate.

They take the Bible as literally as possible. Jesus was literally born from a virgin.  Jesus literally multiplied the fish and the bread.  Jesus literally came back to life after these days in the tomb, etc.

They do not believe in Evolution. In particular, the theory that humans evolved from apes. Intelligent Design is instead their theory of choice.  Here’s the 101 on how the dinosaurs fit into Noah’s Ark.

They often refer to Jesus as “Jesus Christ”. It’s almost like “Christ” is Jesus’ last name.  Really though, it’s a Born Again Christian’s subtle way of distinguishing Jesus as the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament, as opposed to just a historical rabbi who happened to be a “good teacher”.

I'm not Mormon, but I feel like I can relate somewhat to their cultural identity and displacement in society.

So if you know someone who contains at least two or three of these attributes, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a Born Again Christian. Like Kirk Cameron, Sarah Palin, and President Jimmy Carter, they are the ultra-conservative Protestants.  They seem to blend in with society at first glance, but once you get to know them, you’ll notice the underlying behaviors that set them apart from standard Christianity- like a Mormon, only without the added teachings to the Bible or the crazy mad dancing skills.  (Derek Hough, Julianne Hough, and Lacey Schwimmer of Dancing with the Stars as well as Heidi Groskreutz and Benji Schwimmer of So You Think You Can Dance are all Mormon.)   For some humorous characteristics of Born Again Christians, check out this blog by Jonathan Acuff, called Stuff Christians Like.

“You gave your life to Jesus Christ… and you were not the same after that.” – “Not the Same” by Ben Folds


The Opposite of Evolution: Intelligent Design

 

I remember being in high school thinking, how can I honestly believe God created the Earth in 6 days when there were obviously dinosaurs who would have wiped man off the face of the planet? Dinosaurs that are inconveniently not mentioned in the Bible. So I decided to compromise: I convinced myself that they were not 6 literal days, but that a “day” was equal to millions or billions of years. That way, I don’t look like that naïve neighbor kid of The Simpsons whose idea of fun is playing Family Bible Trivia.

Then during my first year of college I had such an eye-opening revelation that I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.  A splendid epiphany of  relief and amazement.  Such a nugget of information that it literally changed the the way I see life as I know it.  That’s what happened to me in 1999. I learned how God actually could create the Earth in just six 24-hour days and how gigantic dinosaurs fit into the equation.

It wasn’t until Noah built the ark that it rained, for the first time ever.  That is a big deal. Genesis 2:5, 6- “…the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.”

From Adam to Noah (10 generations, as listed in Genesis 5) there was no rain. We also know from that chapter that men lived between 365 and 969 years, the average age of all 10 forefathers being 857 years old each. So the point is that before it rained, people lived a LONG time.  Over 10 times the average of what people live today.

So there had to have been many millions of people who were born and lived during just those 10 generations. Obviously there wasn’t birth control so just one man would have probably produced many offspring during his lifetime alone, then his children his children, and so on. That’s a lot of people living a long time…

So Noah was 600 years old when it rained for the first time. That’s thousands of years with no rain. Genesis 7:11- “In the 600th year of Noah’s life…all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.”  So there was plenty of water under the Earth (which watered it) and plenty above the Earth, which created a greenhouse effect. That’s part of the reason they lived so long. It was a completely different living environment. I haven’t even mentioned yet that the all people in the history of the world at that point were all vegetarians.

After the months of flooding were finished, God told Noah some history-changing news: “The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant” (Genesis 9:2, 3). So prior to this, they were only eating plants. Thousands of years and millions of people eating plants.

Not only did the people not eat animals, the animals did not fear the people. Comprehend this: vegetarians living amongst tame animals. Tame cows are easy to imagine. Even tame birds. But what about tame tigers? And bears. What about dinosaurs? Keeping in mind the environment of the world prior to the Flood was a greenhouse. It’s no wonder that ancient cave drawings have been found that show people riding dinosaurs. People capture in art what they value and what is familiar to them.

But how did a brontosaurus fit on the ark? The same way any large animal fit. Get ‘em while they’re young and small, of course. But by the time they got off the ark, and the greenhouse effect was gone, the survivors found a different Earth. The huge dinosaurs did not have enough to survive on.

The Great Flood broke apart Pangea, the land mass which made up all the continents. The zebras from Africa once freely crossed the then-nonexisting border to South Carolina. (Zebra skeletons have been found as far as Salt Lake City, Utah.) But they just couldn’t survive in the new land mass now known as America. The penguins in the tropics died off. The penguins in the Arctic survived. The kangaroos in the Russian tundra couldn’t survive, but the ones in Australia did.

And of course I was wrong about dinosaurs not being mentioned in the Bible. It’s just that the word “dinosaur” was not coined until 1929. Instead, there is a “leviathan” (mentioned a total of 5 times in the Bible: Job 3:8, the entire book of Job 41, Psalms 74:14, Psalms 104:24-26, and Isaiah 27:1). It refers to a giant see monster that is impossible to capture.

Another word for a dinosaur in the Bible is “behemoth”. It is mentioned in Job 40: 15-24 as a beast that was created “with man” (as in the same week, not millions or billions of years before.) The verses describe the creature having a tail of cedar; the behemoth’s massive strength is compared to God’s. I can’t think of any animal living today that has a tail anywhere near the size of a cedar tree.

This has been a briefing of the history of the ancient world. Should anyone worry about “carbon dating”, just keep this in mind: When Adam and Eve were created, they weren’t babies. They were “man” and “woman”. The animals and plants were also fully grown. So why wouldn’t the rest of the universe be fully grown as well? Something to think about the next time while during a tour in a cave there is a stalactite growing over a wooden sign that was posted 40 years ago which explains to you that it took thousands of years for the stalactites all around to grow.

walrus