Conversations with an Atheist

This week, I had the opportunity to talk with someone who is a “devout atheist” about what he believes. It was an interesting conversation to say the least. I learned several things about my faith, myself, and what I believe because of it.

1. Faith And Belief Is Not For Those Unwilling To Lay Aside Their Own Knowledge and Intellect 

Faith in God means we don’t always understand the way everything works; that we may not always have the answers to every single question. But that’s ok. I don’t have to understand the way the world works. As long as YHVH does, I’m ok with that. This doesn’t mean we stop our pursuit of knowledge or wisdom, it simply means that we recognize our limited abilities and that we can only take ourselves so far. Because really, isn’t it just pride to think we could ever have all the answers anyway?

We should also recognize that the wisdom and knowledge we pursue as believers is not the same wisdom the world seeks after. The world seeks after its own wisdom. They seek to have the answer within themselves. We, as believers, are seeking after YHVH’s wisdom. He tells us in His Word, “Your ways are not My Ways; your thoughts are not My thoughts. My thoughts are higher than Yours.” As believers, we are first seeking the One who has the answers and second we are seeking His wisdom. The world is primarily seeking the answers within itself and apart from God.

In case I haven’t made it clear, let me clarify what I am and what I am not saying: I am NOT saying that as believers we give up our right to think or to be intelligent or to seek answers. God tells us in Hosea 4:6, “My people die from lack of knowledge.” I am NOT saying that believers can’t be intelligent or smart or should just give up trying to learn altogether and just accept what they are told. I AM saying that as believers, we should accept that we won’t always have the answers and what we believe won’t always make sense to nonbelievers. However, that’s kind of where faith comes in. It’s not a cop-out answer, it’s just the way it is.

2. No Matter What Reasons You Give, To The World It Will Always Sound Like Gibberish

Yeshua tells us that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we are to become like children. Think back to when you were little. It was much easier to believe in “fantastical” things and to believe in the things you didn’t fully understand. Again, going back to my previous point, this doesn’t mean that believers should be ignorant or simply accept whatever they are taught; rather, that we believe human wisdom and understanding can only take us so far and we must leave the rest up to faith.

Because of this belief, there will never be an argument that will appease an atheist or an intellectual who is relying solely on their own understanding. Our beliefs and our faith in the unseen will never make sense to those who rely on their own strength to comprehend. But guess what? It’s not supposed to. The Word constantly reminds us that the message is for those “who have ears to hear and a heart to understand.” This means that not everyone will “hear” or understand the message. That’s ok. It’s not our job to be the Holy Spirit and convince others of God’s truth. That person may come to believe in God one day but it will be when they have a personal encounter with God, not when your words or defense of faith is perfect.

I love the way Frances J. Roberts puts it in “Call of the Turtledove” in Come Away My Beloved:

The voice of the Bridegroom is calling His Bride. It is the call of love, and those who truly love Him will respond. Those whose hearts are fixed on things above will not be held by worldly entanglements. Those who are listening to the voice of their Beloved will not be deafened by the cries of men. In a world filled with noises, each demanding attention, they will hear him. Another stand besides them and hears only the voice of the preacher. Another may be giving attention to the opinions and arguments of men. But you need not fear that you will miss it. Be it ever so soft, you shall hear. Your heart shall hear, and your heart shall leap with joy.

3. God’s Truth is Not for Everyone

Here is where I’m going to get emails and calls…but stick with me on this one. Like I said before, a person might come to develop a relationship with God when they experience a personal encounter with Him. However, some people may never have this experience. Or if they do, they may chalk it up to something entirely different than God.

At dinner, my “devout atheist” was asked if he had ever had a spiritual or supernatural encounter. He responded with two stories. The first experience he admitted was definitely of the supernatural but it was not enough to convince him that God is real. The second example was in moments of complete contentment and happiness. He said that in those moments he desires to attribute it to something beyond himself and wonders in those moments if there is something more to life, but eventually dismisses the feeling altogether and instead decides to attribute the feeling of happiness to himself.

My point is that some people, even after having spiritual encounters, will still refuse to believe there is a God. That is their decision. You cannot do anything to change that. If someone is so prideful that they can experience God and desire to believe in Him but continue to fight it, then nothing you say or do is going to change that person. Again, only the Holy Spirit can do that. The Word also tells us in Revelation that even in the last days when the earth is being destroyed and the world is crumbling before their very eyes, there will still be those who refuse to acknowledge or humble themselves before God.

4. It Truly is Pointless to Argue With Someone Who Has No Desire to Have a Conversation

The Word tells us not to engage in pointless arguments that only bring division. This is a healthy boundary to have in your life in any relationship. If a conversation is clearly going nowhere and its going there fast, then stop. Clearly it’s of no benefit for either party…unless of course the person you’re engaging is thriving off the conflict, in which case you should really really stop the conversation. Besides the fact that it is a waste of time to engage in pointless arguments that lead nowhere, you’re only going to push them further away from the truth and deeper into their own beliefs. The more you challenge someone, the tighter they will hold to their beliefs. So if your goal is to be a witness, share your faith and then leave it at that. Don’t get yourself into a conversation where it benefits neither side and doesn’t bring glory to God.

5. God Doesn’t Need You to Defend Him

You will never convince someone that YHVH is loving or just or true or even real for that matter, if they truly don’t want to be convinced of it. But guess what? YHVH doesn’t need you to defend Him. This is something I have been struggling with lately, “Am I doing a good job of defending who YHVH truly is?” YHVH used Roberts’ “Sing, My Children” to deeply minister to me when I was struggling with this.

Do not be concerned for My reputation. I have withstood many storms, and I will survive this one. Human strivings are like the waters around Gibraltar. They have beat upon the rock, but they have not changed it. I am not disturbed, and I forbid you to be anxious.

You can stand your ground and stand firm in your faith, but like I said before, no matter what argument you try to use it’s never going to make sense to them…if they don’t want it to make sense. Do you know why? Because you’re not the Holy Spirit. Only God can convict someone’s heart and only His Spirit can stir someone to believe. Your job is to be a vessel and speak only when He gives you words to speak. If you don’t have the words and the person clearly doesn’t have an interest in learning about what you believe, it’s as foolish as “throwing your pearl to the swine.”

Arizona’s S.B. 1062 Bill Protecting Christians Doesn’t Give Businesses License to Discriminate Against Gays and Spanish Jews in New Mexico pt.3

Discrimination or Freedom: Agreeing to Disagree

So today, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed Christian business owners the right to refuse to provide services for gay weddings. Brewer, who spent several days considering whether to sign the bill or not, said, “it had the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways that we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want.”

For those of us here in New Mexico, we saw this issue rise up a few years ago when the New Mexican photographers refused to photograph a gay wedding. And more recently, a Christian bakery in Oregon was found to have violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 when they refused to bake the cake for a gay wedding.

In the Oregon case, the subsequent investigation found, “that the bakery is not a religious institution under the law and that the business’ policy of refusing to make same-sex wedding cakes represents unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation,” said Charlie Burr, a spokesman for the Bureau of Labor and Industries. Under state law, the complaint against the bakery now moves into a period of “reconciliation”. If they can’t reach an agreement, formal civil charges could be filed and the Kleins (bakery owners) could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said their desire is to “rehabilitate” businesses like the one owned by the Christian couple. “Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that folks have the right to discriminate,” he told the newspaper. “The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate.” Aaron Klein said there will be no reconciliation and there will be no rehabilitation. He and his wife will not back down from their Christian beliefs.

Widespread praise and celebration over Brewer’s decision to veto the bill has erupted all over the internet and social media. Many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, have written their support for Brewer’s decision and have cited the need to love and accept everyone as a valid reason to veto the bill. People are calling for the “discrimination, segregation, oppression, public shaming, and hatred” of gays to stop.

And that’s where I have a problem. Do we use these terms too loosely? Our society does not hate, oppress, shame, segregate, or discriminate against the LGBT community. The last time I went into a restaurant, I did not see a section labeled “gay section.” I do not see water fountains with signs posted “for straight people only.” We don’t require homosexuals to pay different taxes or to sit in the back of the bus or prohibit them from a certain career field or from pursuing a college education. We embrace people of all colors, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, and religion and encourage them to pursue the American dream.

We are told to be “tolerant” and “accepting.” That’s fine. We shouldn’t hate anybody. And, yes, we should love everyone as Christ loved us. But to love and accept people doesn’t mean you have to agree with or condone every single decision they make. Yeshua loved everyone He came across but He also told them “go and sin no more.”

We are told to be tolerant and accepting but where is the tolerance and acceptance for those who believe homosexuality is wrong? Because I think it’s wrong I am somehow hating and discriminating and oppressing the LGBT community? Where’s the love and acceptance, people? You don’t have to agree with me, but you do have to respect my decision and view-point….just like I respect yours.

Which brings me to my next point. If we must respect everyone’s personal decisions on how they live their lives, why is it that this private-business’ decisions are not being respected? One of the benefits of owning your own business is that you get to set your hours, make your own rules, and decide how you will operate your business. You also get to decide with whom you and your business work. If a consulting firm, for example, decided that they and their potential clients would not work well together, they have the right to turn down the business deal.

I mean, really, if we let the free-market system work and enough people simply stop frequenting these business who refuse to be a part of gay weddings, then won’t they go out of business all on their own? It’s economic Darwinism. Let it happen.

So here is the question: Where do we draw the line? At what point are privately-owned businesses exercising their religious liberties or violating the civil liberties and “discriminating” against potential customers?

I am concerned that the message being sent is that civil liberties trump religious freedoms. And that’s a dangerous and slippery slope to go down. If one liberty trumps another, what’s to stop our other liberties from being taken away? Free speech? Freedom to practice religion the way we see fit? The freedom to own a gun? The freedom to choose how we raise our own children? And who gets to decide which liberties take precedence over another? The government? Is that really the best solution?

Now, to all the believers out there who feel guilty or embarrassed about their belief that a business has a right to refuse to participate in gay weddings: Don’t let others bully you into thinking that you are somehow a bad Christian and that you are not “showing the love of Christ.” That’s not hate…it’s simply a choice to disagree. Sharing the love of Messiah means that you don’t judge the LGBT community. That you don’t hurl hate-speech at gay people. That you don’t condemn at every opportunity. It is not our place to condemn or judge anyone. 

However, showing people love doesn’t mean you now have to participate in or agree with their life choices…whatever they may be. When did “love” come to mean “approve?” You don’t have to agree with my decisions and I don’t have to agree with yours. We do, however, have to respect each other’s beliefs and sometimes, that simply means agreeing to disagree.