The Atheist Letters: A fire-side chat

by Don Hartness

I’ve been waiting for you.

Here, let me get your coat…pull up a chair…No, no, not that one – you can have the plush chair. Comfy? Thirsty? I have a whole fridge full of drinks – whatever you want. Hungry? I got snacks – chips, crackers, cheese, various meats, whatever you want. Please, make yourself at home. My home is your home.

What’s that you say? Oh no, I didn’t invite you to evangelize you. I have far too much respect for you to do that, even if such a thing were possible…but I’ll get to that. I know what you are used to dealing with from those claiming to believe what I believe, trying to laughably convert you through subversive means. It would be hilarious, if it weren’t so sad. If only they knew what you knew, right?

No, the truth is, I empathize with your agnostic and atheist views. You see, recently I went through a personal experience that made me seriously question my beliefs. It’s that experience that moved me to invite you here. I figured we could sit by the fire, enjoy each other’s company, and have a chat…

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Last week, I had an epiphany.

It came while responding to Howie on his “Truth is Elusive” blog concerning a philosophical question called the Euthyphro dilemma. When I saw what I perceived to be an oversight in his presentation, I made a quick comment, and then moved on to the next item in my news feed.

His oversight turned out to be my misperception. One question led to another and I soon found the need to write an essay just to explain my argument (“damn you Philosophy!”). Before I began yet another writing task on an already overloaded plate, I clicked on the Wikipedia link he provided…and discovered that my argument had already been made by another. Using my own words.

All across the Web, theists and atheists are debating, arguing, ranting, and even raging at each other, citing this quote, that argument, or this “proof” either for, or against, the existence of God.

As I waded into the sphere of debate, something occurred to me. No matter how unique I believed my slant on a given argument to be, not only were those arguments made before (and this I knew) but, in the dawn of the new information age and the plethora of blogs in cyberspace, my arguments were also said in the same words I would have used.

This realization begged the question:“Why write?”

I once again looked back at the reasons for starting this blog. I realized that, through slight and imperceptible degrees, I had lost my vision for this blog. It was never about discussing philosophical arguments for my beliefs, or about refuting atheistic arguments against my beliefs. Been there, done that, with the typical stalemate the result…

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Did you know that I almost de-converted?

You see, the question over whether or not to believe is not a mere philosophical question. For me, my very existence is wrapped up in that question, as I have literally put my life on the line regarding this question. Not too long ago, I looked back on my life, openly questioning the pain and suffering I endured.

At the same time, I was reading your arguments against my faith and, for the first time since I first believed, I truly began to question my faith.

The result? That’s the story I want to tell you…

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The themes may not be unique, but each person has a unique story to tell. And mine is a bit more unusual than most.

Why write? Because I have a story to  tell you.

This series is not about trying to convert you, or convince you that theism is true, or that I am right and you are wrong, or any such silly nonsense as that. However, that’s not to say that I don’t have desires as to how this will affect you. So, in the interest of full disclosure…

“What are your desires?” Well, they are twofold.

First, I hope to show you something. I hope to show you that, although you are completely correct that theism leaves a lot of unanswered questions, so does atheism. Although I’ll explain this through the course of my story in the posts ahead, ultimately, I hope to convince you that atheism is not the end point of the journey; it’s only a milestone in a much grander adventure. In short, I hope to encourage you to move onto the next leg in the journey.

Second, if the above fails, I hope to convince you that, although philosophical arguments regarding the existence of God are useful for strengthening one’s mind and analyzing one’s beliefs, they ultimately offer no answers. To put it another way, although my story will not move you to theism, my journey, and what I learned from it, also prevents you from moving me to atheism. If you understand my story, you’ll eventually move on from arguing, and I will still achieve my first hope.

Where you go from there will be the next chapter in your story.

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