Have you ever been in a room full of tension? Perhaps your temperature is rising or your face is flushed from someone’s comment. Some hope the tension will die down quick and we just live in peace. Others may add to the fire with strong remarks of their own. If you’re like me, you just enjoy watching tension build and internally laugh about it. I grew up with a lot of conflict around me so it doesn’t faze me. I will say that I have felt the other emotions I described as well, but not yesterday.
Since my deconversion, I have wanted to share more about my experiences. I obviously blog about it, but I enjoy talking about it more. I am fueled by public speaking and feel that I can communicate better in person. So I have been looking forward to yesterday’s event at the First Baptist Church. Two weeks prior to this, I was able to speak about my atheism to a graduate counseling class in a discussion of spiritual diversity. So I was slightly prepared for the Baptist church.
Originally, this event was meant to be a discussion but somewhere along the line it evolved. Now this discussion was actually the 2nd part of a prior meeting that the Michiana Skeptics had with the Revive Indiana people. That meeting led many to realize, we all have different definitions for different words. So, we had a 2-page outline of things to discuss. Issue was, we got stuck on the first point.
Before diving into the discussion, I do want to say my first impressions. When I arrived to the actual church property, I was intrigued by the almost hidden driveway. They have a huge sign by a driveway that takes you into a forest. But once you’re in, you eventually reach the church. It was probably the 2nd nicest church I have personally seen. The nicest was the Willow Creek Community Church.
Anyways once I was inside; I was greeted and given directions on how to navigate my way through. I reached the 2nd greeter, Pastor Chris. He had a Captain America shirt and I joked with him on how this facility would be a perfect place to have a nerf war. He began to laugh and agreed. We small talked for a bit and honestly, I really came to like the guy. I wish I had him as a youth pastor when I was growing up. He ended up being one of the moderators for the discussion and did a good job on giving fair chances for people to talk.
The group itself was probably about 25-30 people with an almost even split between skeptics and Christians. I knew few of the skeptics and luckily my friend Philip came with me from Andrews. So I didn’t feel like a complete stranger. Once we all settled in, Chris got our attention and passed the baton to Fred, the other moderator.
So we were lead to the first question. How do we define faith? Skeptics’ opinion is believing without evidence, which is kind of backed up by Hebrews 11. The Baptists’ is believing with sufficient evidence. For about 5 minutes there was a disagreement and then a handsome, young man (me) suggested that we define evidence first… so we did.
It seemed like a great idea to define evidence but it lead to more disagreement. We became stuck on objective vs subjective evidence. Being once a Christian, I understand how important these subjective experiences are, which is attributed to God. Honestly, it’s really the only “evidence” that Christian have. Melissa from the Skeptics group suggested that other religious people have the same experiences for their God so it really isn’t a reliable source of evidence. The Christians disagreed and said that we need to focus on them and not other religions since they aren’t being represented.
As if that disagreement wasn’t enough, this guy kept saying how subjective things cannot be measured. That’s when that handsome guy spoke up again. I mentioned how the Psychology (the program I studied) is a discipline precisely for subjectivity, mainly behavior. This lead to another disagreement, which Chris said that Psychology was the study of the soul… facepalm. Philip (who is another Psyc major) broke down the history of Psychology and how it came from dualism and Platonic thought… went over their heads. Chris and some other random guy (lets call him Lt. Surge) both said, “no we disagree (to facts)”.
During the disagreement on Psychology (which none of them had any clue about but randomly knew all about it) Lt. Surge went up to the front with a marker in hand and drew a box on the drawing board. He said that we skeptics were stuck in this box and don’t think outside of it. It was pretty condescending but honestly I almost laughed at the ignorant statement. So know we are debating about if we are in a “box”.
This box issue led to other issues and I think at this point there were under-toned attacks made from one camp to another. Nothing over the top or blatantly rude but still enough to inspire one Christian guy to say we need to stop misrepresenting each other and learn to forgive. At that point I called him out and said how they started the whole box thing which fused much controversy. They apologized and took down the drawing.
After that, the convo became relaxed and dwindled to an inconclusive ending. We did agree on minor things and to meet again. We were all able to talk after wards with one another which I got to know Chris more. From my part and the hope of other skeptics is to honestly build a community with more Christians despite our differences.