Old Cantankerous Atheist @ Starbucks
A similar debate can be found when I was at a winery:
I was at Starbucks and overheard a conversation (more like a monologue) between an elderly gentlemen, 55[+], and a kid about 19-years old. The 19-year old was sitting in Starbucks reading his Bible when an older man sat next to him and almost “strategically” started conversation with him. As I eavesdropped after hearing key words that sparked the historian & philosophy guy in me (WWI, WWII, Germany, creation, evolution, Bible, God, Christopher Hitchens, and the like). What finally drew me into the conversation after listening to it for about 10-minutes off to one side while I was studying on the other-side (multi-tasking) was when the old guy, whom I had already realized was an atheist making a “coffee career” out of shaking 19-year olds faith, said:
“I don’t know how anybody today can believe in the Bible.”
At this point I asked if I could join the conversation, the answer was an emphatic “yes” from the youngster. After some feeling each other out in conversation… for instance, he liked Christopher Hitchens work on atheism but not on the stance against Islamo-Fascism, I liked Hitchens on his war stance but not on his atheism. I probed a bit to see if this “scientific” (his words) gentlemen looked at any other issue but his own, so I asked since he enjoys Christopher Hitchens so, I wondered if he listened to any of the debats he had with persons on the topic of his atheism? The answer was “No.” I asked if he had read any defense of the Judeo-Christian faith since he so vehemently opposed it – to the point of railroading youngsters in a coffee shop, the answer, “No” of course. I am sorry, but I make it a point to know and understand someone else’s position before I assail it. This “straw-man” approach will come up later.
I knew he had views on
- An aside here: after I quoted a few thinkers on the subject he gruffed that this is why he doesn’t like talking to “people” like me, I talk of what others say and this makes me look like an idiot! This will come up later.
I responded with that the Declaration smacks of religious philosophy, the Constitution was written with Natural Law in mind, Natural Law from the Judeo-Christian standpoint, and that I was religious and I vote, so there isn’t separation of church and state! There just isn’t a
I merely challenged him to read the original state constitutions of the thirteen colonies and then say what he said (I didn’t inform him what those state constitutions said, but I will here for the reader):
Usually my main point by showing this is that in the least there is a disconnect with what the authors of the Bill of Rights thought was the separation of church and state versus say, silver haired atheist guy sitting in Starbucks. But in his case my point is also that the founders didn’t abhor religious ideology nor philosophy (see another blog on this topic: Who Did the Founders Quote Most?).
The old-man spoke of there not being absolute truth (a self-defeating statement), and if there were… who’s truth would it be, he challenged. I asked the young Christian kid if his laptop was on-line, so I pulled up a quote and read it aloud to the old-man after introducing the fact that Fascism never “lived” in
I pointed out that his view on truth fits better with Mussolini’s vision rather than the Christian’s vision.
Right around this junction is when he got a little miffed and threw out the most common objection I come across, one that is almost childlike in its emoting factor. You see, people rarely ever really think about what they say, nor do they follow what they say to their logical conclusion. He said he:
“Doesn’t like religion because it has killed more people than any other ideology.”
Another way of putting this statement is that he:
“Rejects the Christian faith and chooses his non-belief because of all the death Christianity has caused.”
You are wrong. And if I may show you how, if you take, for example, the 7 Crusades, the 3 Inquisitions, and the Salem Witch Trials, and ad all the people killed in the name of religion during those endeavors, the World Book Encyclopedia puts the number at a high of about 100,000 people killed. Since he is an atheist, I am sure he knows what the “father of the ‘God-is-dead’ movement” said on this matter? Nietzsche said that because God has died that the Twentieth-Century was going to be the bloodiest in mankind’s history. This nineteenth-century “prophet” was right. Just in the twentieth-century alone, non-God/secular movements have killed over 100,000,000 people. Some say 166,000,000 or so (see figure 1.2).
My point here is two-fold. If you want to throw around numbers in some kind of blame game, lets do it, because the deaths caused by people who misuse their position in no way deals with whether or not that position is true or false. Secondly, if one rejects religious philosophy because of the deaths it has caused, how much more must one reject non-faith -- realizing that non-faith has killed more people in 100-years than all religions did in the 1900-years preceding it.
He then mentioned that Christianity was acting against their stated goals in killing people. I agreed! Only in the Bible do you have an example of a person who lived a life that the Christian can use as a reference point to re-align himself morally to. I mentioned that a major museum had to cancel a speech by Nobel Prize winning co-founder of the Double-Helix in DNA (one of the most important scientific discoveries ever) Dr. Watson. Why? I asked him, he didn’t know. I told him that it was canceled because Dr. Watson believes the Black people have evolved from a separate branch on our evolutionary tree and are less intelligent/evolved than the Caucasian races.
I continued. This is what Hitler wrote about in Mein Kampf, that using
The conversation wagged on for a bit more. I defended theistic thought at times – not wanting to inundate this angry man with “Biblical thinking” as much as I wanted to challenge his foundational thinking on certain topics. Hitchens came up again as did the
He asked, with this commandment wrongly understood in mind, if I condoned the killing in
I mentioned that I have read Hitchens’ book God is Not Great, and almost every other atheist/naturalistic epitome written from ancient Greece up to the present, has he (I asked again) read any one good defense of the Christian Faith? Like, Unshakeable Foundations by Norman Geisler? He responded that he didn’t have the time nor will to read such stuff. (In other words, he was a closed minded bigot who went around arguing his point of view to the exclusion of all other points of view.)
I said “such thinking on your part would… well… makes me think you were an idiot.” And on that note I left for work. Ouch!