Sunday, February 24, 2008

And Yet I Didn't Find You

From my various readings (and attempted debatings) on the internet, I find myself genuinely grieved by the attitude of my atheist brothers. The mildest attempt to invite them to think more seriously about the arguments in favor of theism, and more critically about those in favor of atheism, are generally met with complete incomprehension, contempt, the spouting of worn-out, philosophically invalid cliches, general derision, and often, after a furious display of intellectual superiority, the immediate demand to rigorously prove everything under the sun. It is my fervent wish for these brothers that they avoid finding themselves in the following logically possible position:


A Parable

SCENE: The last day. The atheist soul finds itself face to face with The Lord, and the following dialog takes place, between The Lord (J), and the atheist (A):

J: Depart from me. I do not know you. You have spent your life diligently avoiding me, and now I shall fulfill this wish for you.

A: But Lord, I spent my entire life diligently searching for you, and expended a great effort, but I didn't find you.

I took the utmost care in my search! For instance, I cannot count the number of times I demanded a proof for your existence from a blog comment.

Yet none was forthcoming.

I diligently read from a wide range of arguments, counter-arguments, and opinions. I read everyone from Dawkins to Harris to Dennett, to Hitchens, casting my net wide.

And yet I didn't find you.

I scrupulously and skeptically examined and criticized every jot and tittle of arguments in your favor (always with the background premise that you do not exist--because I had the absolutely pure and virtuous desire of achieving complete logical rigor), while-- always making sure I held the same background premise of your non-existence in order to be consistent--hastily, triumphantly, and whole-heartedly embracing any argument not in your favor that looked good at first glance.

And yet I didn't find you.

I studiously sought out and catalogued evidence and arguments against your goodness, while ignoring all evidence and arguments in favor of your goodness (because I wanted to err on the side of caution, given the stakes).

And yet I didn't find you.

I limited my queries exclusively to only the wisest minds on the internet, such as those at Panda's Thumb, Pharyngula, Talk.Origins, and Internet Infidels. I limited my fellowship only to other earnest seekers on those sites. All minds inferior to these, I stayed away from, unless to mock.

And yet I didn't find you.

I'd ask theological questions of these inferior minds, and when they offered theological answers, I mocked them. Because theology is not science.

And yet I didn't find you.

I searched carefully amidst all the material beings of the universe.

And yet I didn't find you.

I insisted upon seeing you as nothing but the conclusion of an argument, and never as an actual person I could query for myself and come to know.

And yet I didn't find you.

I studiously avoided anything resembling an attitude of hope that you might exist, because I did not want to bias my careful search in any way.

And yet I didn't find you.

You see, I earnestly and honestly searched for you with all my heart and with all my mind and with all my strength.

And yet I didn't find you.

The truth is, there was just no good evidence for you.

J: Amen, amen. I say to you again. I do not know you. Depart from me.

Atheist begins his recession to an infinite distance. He can be heard murmuring.

A: This isn't fair! Nobody ever warned me about this! If you designed everything, WHO DESIGNED YOU?!? Prove to me that there is not a teapot orbiting Saturn! Where are Thor and Jupiter? I want to worship them! You can't have made me because I have a back-ache and almost choked on food once!...I demand an appeal! Take me to see the Flying Spaghetti Monster!!...I don't see Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or any invisible pink unicorns here, so why do I see you?!?...I didn't need you to be good! And I was good!! I stood up for a woman's right to choose! I stood up for sexual freedom! I....never...hated...anybody....who....didn't...deserve it!!


I do see the above as a logical possibility. And I would not wish it upon anyone. I appeal to atheists to take the question much more seriously. And to take the stakes much more seriously. For those who think they've "seen through" or "refuted" Pascal's Wager (which is not a proof of God, but merely advice on where to place the benefit of the doubt), please reconsider. And if none of the above resembles you in any way, then no harm, no foul, and no worries.


Bryan said...

Nice... I enjoyed it. I got here become someone posted it as a comment here:

As for your mention of Pascal's Wager in your conclusion, I find it particularly impelling given what Paul tells us in Romans.

Warren said...

You've got a lot more patience (and love?) than I do, trying to argue with atheists. Never having gone through an atheist stage, I can't relate. But I think the number of true atheists is quite small compared with the number of people who believe in a sort of vague, warm and fuzzy pantheism or paganism. This was my own case prior to my conversion, and THESE kinds of people I can relate to.

My wife is one of these as well - the problem with her is that she's also an embittered ex-Catholic. Do you have any experience and/or advice for reconciling such a person with the Church? I'm stumped so far.

Matteo said...

Pantheists are much easier to deal with, because they do have a real enthusiasm for the transcendent. I went through my own very intense pantheist stage for about ten years. One of the primary factors in my Catholic conversion was someone showing me that there is something much deeper going on, mystically speaking, than pantheism ever comprehended. But I was already a mystic at that point, anyway, and not a materialist.

As far as embittered ex-catholics go, I don't have any experience or recommendations, other than to avoid arguing her back into the Church. She somehow has to taste the beauty of it again. Perhaps if you could get her to spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, honestly pouring out her outrage and bitterness upon The Lord? I will pray for you and your wife.

Matteo said...


Thank you for the link. I took a quick look at it and am intrigued to fully read it and the comments, but won't be able to do so until I return from a ski trip on Thursday...

Bryan said...


I don't have any first hand experience with what you're talking about, but one possibility of a culprit could be a concept called 'spiritual personality.'

What I mean by that is this... some people are just built to worship a particular way. For instance, my skin crawls if I have to go to a service that has a lot of active popular music with a band or something like that. I'm not saying that that is a necessarily 'wrong' way to worship, I am saying it makes me personally uncomfortable and I don't like it for myself.

I could see something like that for folks who grew up Catholic with all the traditions. If that's part of the problem, and you can decouple the idea of Christianity in head from all of the dogma and traditions unique to Catholicism, that may be a start.

A simple way to do that would be to get her eyes on a resource that doesn't address things from a denominational distinctive point of view. I'm thinking of something like C.S Lewis' Mere Christianity. I have no idea what particular denomination of church he attended, but I highly doubt it was the same one I do (I'm a member of a Reformed Presbyterian church, a fairly small denomination). That being said, his book deals with Christianity in a way that gets right to the meat of what it is foundationally and at its core.

If suggesting that as a read seems like something that would be too overt of bothersome to her, maybe there's another option. I just finished reading 2 of the 7 books in the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis to my almost 4 year old daughter (The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe & Prince Caspian). Even though the books are written for children, and to help children gain a better understanding of some core Christian concepts... I was amazed at how edifying they were for me personally as I was reading them to my daughter. It helped me to consider certain portions of my faith from slightly different angles than I had before, in very productive and good ways.

So, if you have children, this may be something that could help her along.

Warren said...

Matteo and Bryan,

Many thanks for your thoughtful and helpful comments!