Monday, September 10, 2007

Perhaps a Better Title Would Be...

...I Reasoned Myself Away From God.

I eagerly began reading I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing faith through the eyes of an atheist's eyes about a week ago. You can read here how I found the book and the reviews I read if you did not catch my earlier blog post.

As I read the first part of the book, I thought I would be moving it to the "Good Reads" section along the right hand side of my blog, but then I got into the "critiques" of the churches Mr. Mehta (a.k.a "the Friendly Atheist") visited, and a knot just grew in my stomach.

The first part of the book was quite eye-opening and exactly what I had hoped it would introduction to Hemant Mehta, an explanation of the eBay auction that started this book, a brief history of what led him to be an atheist (a well thought out route) and a glimpse into what it is like to live as an atheist in America. He shared the "challenges" he and other atheists face living in a "Christian nation", the biases he has experienced and a description of how he feels most Christians perceive atheists.

Two thoughts crossed my mind as I read Mr. Mehta's life story (the little bit he shared in the book): 1) he is a person I would enjoy sitting down and talking with and 2) I firmly believe that had he been alive in Jesus' lifetime, he would have sought out Jesus to talk with him. Mr. Mehta seems like the most open-minded atheist I have read or conversed with on the Internet (granted, that is not a huge pool!).

But once he got into the real "purpose" of the book, to share his experiences, insights and thoughts after visiting at least 15 Christian churches, my hopes for the book were crushed. I was pretty sure, based on the fact that this book was touted on the Rant and Reason humanist blog I frequent, that the author was not converted after visiting these churches. But I hoped, obviously against reason, that the author's responses would be different than those of the few atheists/humanists I have chatted with online.

To say I hoped, against reason, is kinda ironic in this case because I believe "reason" or "logic" to be the atheist's "god". And that is what crushed me as I read about Mr. Mehta's visits to various churches. He did make a number of comments that were helpful in understanding the way a non-Christian who has never been in a church would perceive certain things that go on in a church. But much too often, he just missed the point because he funneled everything through the filter of reason and logic.

Please don't get me wrong...I believe my Christian faith to be very reasonable and logical, but the Bible plainly states: Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Those to come to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6...and the verse from where I get the root off my email address). The Bible also says in Romans 8:5, For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.

Since I have taken so long to get to this point, I will leave you with just two examples of "missing the point" in this book. The first small example was when he was talking about the different forms or "moves" in Christian worship such as lifting one hand, lifting two hands, holding the hands over the heart, pointing toward heaven, hands raised but elbows to the side, etc. His observation: "were people trying to "out worship" those around them?" I suppose it is possible (I have seen some kooky Christians), but the comment also serves to show he has no understanding of a personal relationship with Christ that would draw one to raise hands in worship or hold one's hand over his/her heart.

The second, and last example I will share was his stressing of the physical to the exclusion of the spiritual (which is only "logical" to an atheist who does not believe in the supernatural). For instance, he stressed many times how he was impressed with churches that met real, physical needs (which we should do). However, he seemed to see no value at all in new churches being planted. His view was that resources should be used to feed people instead of build churches. Obviously the church should meet the physical needs of those we are trying to reach with the Gospel, but Mr. Mehta missed the point...we believe there is value in teaching someone about Christ and saving his/her soul from hell. While we should not preach without meeting needs, he thought the church would be better off meeting needs only. And there is no "logical" way to explain it to him.

I said the latter part of the book left a knot in my stomach. I say that because it was just a repeat of my limited interaction with atheists/humanists. There is no way to "debate somebody into heaven". And yet, those who have thought their way into atheism (that is, who have considered the options and found atheism to be the best answer), seem willing to accept nothing less. Mr. Mehta claims if he saw a miracle in person, that would be enough to cause him to convert to Christianity. Yet I believe everything he says in his book demonstrates that he would find some "natural" way to explain it and would find no need for faith.

And that is what puts a knot in my stomach. I had hoped to better understand people like the author of this book and those who write for Rant and Reason. I think I understand "their world" a little better, but I don't think I gained a thing to help reach them for Christ.

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