Argument With A New Friend

“It is so simple for you, isn’t it?” I snapped, “Brought up in this utopia of yours, ensconced in the bosom of a well-defined moral universe. You have your rules, your directions all laid out before you, easy to see, easy to follow… you have no idea what it means to not know what is right and what is wrong.”

“I don’t think it’s all as simple as that,” he shot back, “and I don’t buy this line of bullshit, either. I know you know right from wrong; it’s all through everything you’ve written, in your journals, on your web site. Or is that all a lie?”

“It is the end result of thirty-five centuries of fear, mistakes, loss, and horror. You have your moral certainty handed to you on the platter of a Judeo-Christian heritage, and you presume to judge me? I think not.”

He laughed, “Princess, I’m not even a believer…”

“No? Are you a hypocrite, then? Do you believe for an instant that this affected disbelief somehow erases a lifetime of conditioning? That it makes you a creature separated from all those about you? You asked me before what I see in you- I see a man who believes. You may have no truck with the churches built by men, but you have an intimate knowledge of the God whose laws form the bedrock of the nation you call your own. Deny it. Look me in the eyes and tell me that it is categorically not so. Do that, and perhaps I will believe you.”

He nearly shot that argument straight back at me, but then he hesitated. I could see the wheels working in him and I had to suppress my urge to smile. Instead I turned, taking my eyes from his face and looking out the window over snow-covered city streets. In our short time together he had learned how adept I was at guessing the thoughts of those whom I know. By looking away I was respecting his privacy

“I don’t believe in God,” he said, his voice firm, “but I do believe that there were great and wise men in the world, and that Jesus was one of them… This does not make me a hypocrite.”

“No,” I agreed, “it does not. But how did you come to know of Jesus? How did you come to know of the bible? Or these other great men you speak of?”

“I was taught, obviously…”

“Yes, obviously.” I turned to face him again. “I was taught nothing. What morality I learned centered on obedience and survival. Had I been in the Levant perhaps things would have been different, but mine was a world of pagan disciplines, if any at all. Try to imagine it, if you can, and then remember- that is the foundation of my beliefs. If you are going to fear me, that is the reason to fear me.”

4 Responses to “Argument With A New Friend”

  1. Welcome back. And always remember, pagan is as pagan does. So do you make libation to the Great Mother of All?

  2. It always makes me wonder when people say they don’t believe in God, yet believe that Jesus was a great wise man.
    As many times as Jesus said He was the Messiah- how can you not believe that and still respect Him?

  3. Jesus never claimed he was the Messiah.

  4. I long ago abandoned worship. My only nod to my past beliefs comes in the date I chose for my birthday, the Vernal Equinox. Well, that and the occasional libation offered to the thundering sky. By my count I am approaching 3531; however, this number is debatable. As I noted before I could be off by up to a century either way. I spent a very, very long time in near-total isolation- some 600 years by my reckoning. I am certain some time slipped by unnoticed during those sixty decades.

    As to the notion that accepting Jesus as a wise man might be difficult to justify in light of his position within the Christian faith- I take no issue. The mere fact that some twenty centuries after his death he is still discussed in any fashion certainly lends some credence to the claim to wisdom.

    Still, one is forced to recognize there is a great deal of room for doubt in the recollections of his life. We have the written words of some who purport to have witnessed his teachings, likely recorded in ancient Greek, or Hebrew. Such writings were presumably then taken and melded in to a narrative recognized as the New Testament of the Bible and this in turn was translated to Latin. We know that in the 15th century Thomas Linacre did compare the New Testament of the Roman Catholic Church (the Latin Vulgate) with much older (and closer to source) documents in Greek and did pronounce, “Either this is not the Gospel, or we are not Christians”. Such revelations drove Erasmus to produce a corrected version of the New Testament, translated in to Latin from the Greek. It was this act, and the fortuitous arrival of the printing press, that set the stage for the actions of Tyndale and Luther to carry such revolutionary force.

    My point in this admittedly condensed review is that even given the reversion to the Greek texts in recreating the New Testament, such translations were at the mercy of the biases and desires of individual men. The King James Bible so many are familiar with is then rendered as yet another translation derived from what is itself a derivative text, even at its source. To the best of my knowledge (I have never looked in to this so I could quite easily be wrong) there are no original texts of the Gospels. Given that, we are left with the likelihood that attempts to speak authoritatively on the Christ’s pronouncements, or lack thereof, in regards to his Messianic nature are at best problematic.

    The point I attempted to make with my young friend was simply that his Atheism could not erase his upbringing. The rejection of the spiritual, mythological, or superstitious underpinnings of the civilization within which he resides in no way negates the effects the knowledge of such things have wrought upon his understanding of the world. Even those raised as Atheists by even the most rabid of Atheist parents are still steeped in a culture nourished on Judeo-Christian notions of morality and Justice. Honest Atheists know this and accept it. Angry Atheists in general attempt to make it not so. Theirs is a fool’s errand, to say the very least.