Home > Humble Beginnings > An Atheist and a Preacher Chat over Coffee.

An Atheist and a Preacher Chat over Coffee.

Session one

 

Due to the length of time we talked and the vast, somewhat disparate spectrum of material we covered I will make several smaller posts, rather than one large post.

 

So, I met with The Pastor (TP) for the first time today.  We met at a local coffee shop in our town.  We spent over 90 minutes gently jousting most ideas back and forth and some other’s with conviction that you would expect from and Atheist and a Baptist raised Methodist Preacher.  There were moments that we chided one another’s beliefs and assumption, occasionally even laughing at each other, as well as, with one another.  But in general the meeting was congenial, expository, cursory and yet ripe with promise for future focused discussions.   And there was NO talk of Hell, Damnation, nor of my lack of baptism!  I mention this because I very plainly told him that I am an Atheist, always have been and likely will always be one. 

 

When we first met in the parking lot we said hello and shook hands.  TP apologized for being a few minutes late, mentioning that as soon as he was preparing to leave his office, ‘everybody needed something.’  I replied ‘they were probably wondering why you wanted to hang out with a heretic like me!’  He chuckled and responded ‘I didn’t tell anybody about you.’   We collectively chuckled and the tone of the meeting was now set.

 

I will start with what is probably the most contentious and obvious disagreement we had. Keep in mind, I like this guy, and I can’t wait to have another, more focused meeting. 

 

One of the take home messages that I found sort of irritating was that he iterated several times that he does not consider me an Atheist.  His impression is that I am a ‘Seeker.’  So, naturally I asked him what he meant by the term seeker.  TP seemed to confuse my desire to take an interest in learning more about the Christian faith with my true intention, which is to learn more about WHY people adhere to the Christian faith.  The fact that I am a scientist seemed to strengthen his argument.  His impression is that I am searching for ‘The Truth.’  Frankly, I am seeking answers, but I am not seeking them in archaic textbooks about heavenly deities or mortal God-men.  I am seeking answers through, at times, laborious study and repetition of outcomes.   

 

After talking with him for a while, I think I understand the Christian Mind (the sane ones at least) a little better.  For TP anyone with curiosity, virtue, good moral character, etc can only be doing God’s work.  The argument would be that the opposite actions would be inherently evil and therefore Satan’s work or more politely, separate from God.   For a non-theist like myself, I really am only doing what comes natural to me without ever once pleading with God for direction, special treatment, wisdom, safety…etc. 

 

Lastly for this post, I did ask him bluntly if he was feeling apostate toward his religion.  He smiled and we chatted a bit, but you know he never did say no…

 

Anoat

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  1. August 26, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Hey, thanks for the update! Really cool stuff.

    “I didn’t tell anybody about you,” is an interesting remark. If I meet with a pastor from my old church, I would fully expect a number of people to be informed, so they could be praying for the conversation. But I am sure a Methodist pastor is more liberal and maybe less inclined that way than my experience.

    For TP anyone with curiosity, virtue, good moral character, etc can only be doing God’s work. The argument would be that the opposite actions would be inherently evil and therefore Satan’s work or more politely, separate from God.

    I think that is a reasonable analysis. Starting with the “God shaped hole” presupposition, everyone is looking for something to fill their neediness for God. And inversely, if he thinks you are a good guy, cognitive dissonance would keep him from thinking you are doing Satan’s work, so God must be at work in drawing you in your seeking. I think it is wishful thinking on Christian’s part, that anyone interested must be “seeking” and not just plainly curious about the way things work in life.

    feeling apostolic toward his religion
    Do you mean “apathetic” or something like that? Or “Apostate”? In my church background, apostolic means something entirely different.

  2. jocelynstorm
    August 26, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    This seems to be a very nice story unfolding. All of the atheists I know or have come in contact with are angry, bitter and very defensive about their stance. Your story is a refreshing change. I look forward to reading more.

  3. Anoat Ozzel
    August 26, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Yeah, the word I used was Apostate. I asked him if he were Apostate. I changed the wording in my blog! Thanks for catching this.

    I REALLY like the ‘God Shaped Hole’ theory/explination. What a great mental image.

    I am glad you enjoyed this. I really was surprised how well the entire discussion went. I have 5-6 more topics that I want to expound upon.

    At the end of our conversation we decided to exchange emails and cell numbers (he had mine apparently). We agree that we should each read a text from one another’s “Faith.” Ewwww, such a slimy word, I know. I bet you can not guess what he would like me to read…duhh. Any suggestions for readings to suggest to him. I think a lot of the hard lined atheist reading would be counterproductive.

  4. August 27, 2009 at 2:03 am

    Indeed, that pigeon-hole of “ah, you are a seeker — I believe you will one day find.” Is a comfortable little label for the Christian to stick on us. They don’t realize we are “EXPLORERS” not “seekers”. And we are exploring their delusion to see how it serves them.

  5. August 27, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Interestingly enough I am an Explorer and I am a Seeker. I just found that the shore of Christianity wasnt where I wanted to land. 😉

    Nothing wrong with thinking and searching for creation or creative force. The problem starts when you “know” you found it. lol.

  6. Anoat Ozzel
    August 27, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Jocelyn,

    Thank you for the comment. My Atheism has evolved over 3 decades of exploration, self correction and a never ending thirst for new ideas. I don’t mean to sound too self aggrandizing, as I am sure in 10 years the things I write and say today will sound rudimentary and unpracticed. When I was a young man in my late teens and early twenties I was actually very angry with God and his followers. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I was actually just retaliating to a bunch of pompous, high and mighty jerks that were sanctifying fairytales. Once I realized this, my focus became more of exploration into why and how so many folks believed these tales. I tend to be a very sympathetic Atheist; even my wife is a church going Christian!

    I hope you continue to enjoy my stories as the Blogs role out!

    Peace,
    Anoat

  7. Anoat Ozzel
    August 28, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    TitforTat
    I am in complete agreement!
    To paraphrase a Tool Lyric ‘I’m a Thinker and a Fisherman.’ Life has always presented a constant source of wonderment and mystery. The more refined my research techniques have become the more I realized that I actually know less and less. This actually gives me comfort that it’s NOT all figured out. There are still vast bodies of knowledge yet udiscovered ( I hope!)! Finite and supernatural always seemed like such a boring, simplistic way to see the universe!

    Peace
    Anoat

  8. August 28, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Any suggestions for readings to suggest to him. I think a lot of the hard lined atheist reading would be counterproductive.

    I think I forgot to get back to you on this, unless I commented elsewhere, I forget. What a great opportunity you have recommend some reading, I love doing that with my friends.

    I gave a couple pastors at my old church copies of the preface and introduction of Kenton Spark’s “God’s Word in Human Words.” It is a book by an evangelical who is making a case for the validity of historical criticism of the bible without giving up the Evangelical Faith. Really challenging to biblical inerrantists/literalists, but I suspect your friend may already line up with what he writes.

    It is hard to say without knowing just where someone is at. Guess you have to pick your issues / areas. Michael Shermer’s book, “Why People Believe Strange Things” (paraphrase) is a great book on critical thinking without being antagonistic towards religion in my opinion. There must be something good about homosexuality in the church. Scott McKnight does a good job with women in the ministry in The Blue Parakeet.

    I haven’t really read a lot to challenge liberal Christians, generally I’m just fine with them and they seem to do a good job of listening to me so I haven’t worried about it.

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