A few days ago we received an email with a four page Word doc attached. The email addressed us politely and personally, so I thought it wouldn’t be nice to ignore it.
Messrs. Dillahunty and Glasser:
I see you on You Tube and like your way of thinking about the Bible. Please review the attachment and let me know what you think.
In the book I wrote How to deal with life: Genesis Simplified I also express a different view of Genesis to make it more meaningful. If you should like a copy, I will send you one if you give me an address.
The author in question is Sam Chacon, and just to be nice, here’s Amazon the link to that book. I anticipate helping Sam to make approximately zero sales, but you never know.
So the attachment, as I said, is four pages, about 2000 words, and very definitely will count for most people as a candidate for TL;DR. I toyed with the idea of posting it in full, but in the end I decided to just post the first few paragraphs, then relevant highlights that I’m responding to. Hope you don’t mind.
GOD IS REAL
July 13, 2013
In God the Designer’s name, Dear Friends:
This is an important message: God wants people to establish a personal relationship with him.
It is extremely noticeable that spirit dynamics are changing in a huge way. According to John 12:31, Lucifer is prince of the world. As Evil, he and his angles are stronger and more active than ever as evidenced by the killings that are taking place and youngsters that are leaving their church for many reasons after finishing high school. One teen left the church because the monsignor of his Catholic church told him that if he played with Protestant boys he would go to hell. This remark made it clear that Catholic leaders have a problem interpreting the bible. Mathews 5:44 says, “Love your enemies.” Protestant boys were friends, not enemies. If he were to love his enemies, why not love his protestant friends. The teen decided to skip the church and deal directly with god.
So, yeah, it goes on like that. And on. And on.
Here’s what I wrote back:
Thanks for writing. I looked over your document, and it doesn’t seem to me like you have much experience communicating with atheists. You spend a lot of time explaining what you believe, i.e., “Lucifer is prince of the world,” “Adam and Eve disobeyed God and they did not repent,” “God exists as energy “there are many gods and each one has a name related to what each one does”, etc, etc. What’s missing is a plausible reason why you would expect us to believe those things.
[There follow some more excerpts from the message]
To communicate with god, what one needs to do is ask God to reveal himself to him, or her. The author did that in 1950. God revealed himself in different ways. The first time was in the Kumsong Valley, Korea. At the battle front, one day, in the winter of 1951, the author was an assistant platoon leader reviewing bunkers and foxholes and talking to soldiers and planning the best lines of fire. As he stood next to a foxhole, something told him to jump into it. As he jumped, a bullet passed about a foot above his head.
About a month later, around noon, he was with a squad of men on patrol about one hundred yards in front of the front lines. To observe more terrain, he maneuvered into a standing position against a steep side of a hill covered with snow. No one was above him, but somehow, snow fell covering the breech area of his rifle. To clean it, he took a step backward; as he did, two bullets hit where he had been standing. He received an honorable discharge in 1952.
Then a different event happened in the summer of 1954. Around 10:00 a.m. he decided to go shopping. He got in his car parked in the driveway. He was about to insert the key into the ignition slot when a voice in his head said, “Do not, move the car.” It was so strange—it had to mean something, like when something told him to jump into a foxhole. He stepped out of the car, looked around, saw no one, and went back in the car. As he tried to insert the key into the ignition slot again, the same voice told him, “Do not, move the car.” This time, it was exceptionally strong. He then looked under the car and saw the neighbor’s four-year-old boy sleeping against the left front tire. He took him to his parents, went shopping, and forgot about it.
It seems that you believe it because you had a number of subjective experiences which you interpreted as the voice of God speaking to you. In many cases, the “voice of God” appeared to be giving you good advice, such as,
- Feeling paranoid about getting shot in a war zone, and acting on that paranoia correctly.
- Having an uncomfortable feeling about moving your car, then checking and discovering that the discomfort was justified.
- Becoming skilled in a profession.
- Deciding to go to the library in order to learn more about a subject you are curious about.
While trying to be careful of your feelings, I have to say that none of this is particularly convincing. A lot of people could have the same things happen to them, and simply chalk them up to “intuition.”
To put it another way, throughout people’s lives, they have all kinds of feelings and inner voices telling them what to do. Occasionally, they make a lucky guess. Occasionally they make a very lucky guess, good enough to save a life. Of course, the guesses that happen to be good ones are the ones that make you sit up and take notice, and then you file them away in your list of good stories for your entire life. We rarely notice the misses.
For instance, if you had gotten in a car, and suddenly had that nagging “DO NOT START THE CAR” feeling, but then you checked and there was nothing there… you would have shrugged, driven away, and forgotten about the incident entirely. It’s only when an event seems really surprising in hindsight that we make up interesting explanations about it.
All I’m saying is that however important those events might have felt to you at the time, to an outsider they are not very convincing evidence of an all-powerful being.
In one section you say, “The question atheists ask is, ‘Why does not God just show himself?'” I feel like this question is completely missing the point. Atheists aren’t demanding that God perform parlor tricks for them. What we’re asking is, “Why would anyone find claims about God persuasive in the complete absence of evidence?” As a response to this question, you tell another personal story about how you went looking in the Bible for an interesting verse, and by golly, you found one. Like the other examples I listed above, it may have seemed like a cool story to you at the time, but I’m not impressed.
I am in no way saying that “God” is obligated to pop in for a cup of tea every Thursday. I’m just saying that, lacking any kind of really solid demonstration, Christians are often force to resort to describing voices in their heads, or giving God credit for finding their car keys, or seeing God’s work in something they were able to do for themselves
To understand why this isn’t convincing, imagine how you would feel if, for example, a devout Muslim told you that he prayed toward Mecca, and he thought he heard God list some chapters in the Koran, and the Koran said something really poignant about Allah. If you heard that story, probably you would agree with me right away. The Koran wasn’t written by God. The passage they found so great was written by humans with delusions of grandeur. And praying towards Mecca means jack squat to us, because Mecca has no magical significance.
If you give some serious thought to what you would think about a Muslim who wrote you a letter similar to the one you sent us, I think you’ll have a clearer understanding of why your presentation needs some work.