Martin Young
Martin Young

Coffee with an atheist

Hey there! How you doing? I’m sorry you turned down my invitation to meet over coffee. It seems you’re really annoyed by me, when we’ve never met. I would like to understand why. It’s much easier to dislike someone when you know nothing about them.

Please be assured I have no intentions of arguing. I would far rather explain why I think the way I do, because I feel very deeply the atheist accusations that believers like me are “deluded, mentally ill, deranged” — just to name a few of the names I have been called.

I would like to try to show you that I am none of these things. My faith came first through a long, hard, cold-hearted look at the world as I know it and understand it, using all the scientific knowledge that I have, and fitting it to how I have come to understand the Bible. I have found far more agreement than disagreement. This is not to say that I understand it all, but the general trend is towards more and more compatibility. I really hope you could understand that, to see me and others like me not as blind sheep that have been led astray. And it works for me — it really does!

So when I learn that geneticists now know that every human being alive shares a common father in the past — ie a “genetic Adam” — I find it very exciting, seeing the Bible suggested something very similar. I revel in hearing nuclear physicists speak about infinite parallel universes — if that is true, there is one that is perfect in every respect, and another that is the worst of all places — heaven and hell. And perhaps another where the Flying Spaghetti Monster rules the skies and Dawkins is wrong.

I would like to apologise to you in person for the actions of “religious” people who take the principles of whatever religion they subscribe to and manipulate and adapt them towards their own ends. They ignore the tough commandments and follow the easy ones. The toughest commandment I know is “Love your neighbour as yourself”. It is an unconditional command, irrespective of who your neighbour is and what he or she believes. If we all followed that, there would be no need for armies, police forces, jails, traffic cops … or lawyers.

It’s much easier to take “Thou shalt not kill” and stand outside abortion clinics protesting and harassing, in some cases — oh, the irony — even killing! Believers should all take note that Jesus hated the religious with a passion — he reserved all his anger for those who inflicted their beliefs for their own ends on a world that suffered as a result.

I also apologise for the religious exceeding their mandate. Churches and religious groups are very good at doing this. You see, we don’t understand yet that the rules for “good Christian living” or “good Muslim living” that extend beyond common law should apply to Christians or Muslims alone. They don’t apply to those who are not a member of that religion. They are exempt from them. So the “rules” about sexuality and relationships don’t apply to those outside faith, and the “religious” have no right to demand that others live by them. It is not our mandate, neither should we judge those who live by their own societal rules. “Judge not, lest ye be judged” is so easily forgotten.

I understand that you are pissed off by the harm religion has done to the world. I can only agree. My perspective is that this is man’s innate tendency to mess up at work. That we as a species have progressed at all is dependent on relatively few exceptional individuals and leaders who have raised us all up beyond the general morass. Religion is unfortunately the same. I see just as you do terrible examples out there. But for every ten there is one who will define excellence even here. The challenge is in finding that one person and seeing his or her legacy dominate.

Are you a golfer? If I were to judge golf by the amount of time I spend in the rough or the mud looking for my ball, and by what it costs me, I would think it is a pretty terrible game. It’s the example of the exceptional golfers that define the sport for what it is. Especially when you consider that the perfect score for a round would be a hole-in-one on every hole, and that will never happen. Similarly I judge my faith by the object of my faith, not by my fellow followers. You have the right to be critical of believers who mess up, especially those in leadership. My hope is that you would rather judge them and me by our actions more than by our beliefs.

Unlike you, I cannot base my world view on reason and logic alone, when at the very essence of the world, the quantum level, reason and logic fall apart. Our universe began in a Big Bang that emphatically violates the laws of thermodynamics — I believe such a massive miracle (by definition) allows us to believe in smaller ones, and even the occasional huge one. The conclusion that this leads me to is that the world, the universe, our existence, our consciousness, and our future are mysterious beyond comparison to what we already know.

So I am willing to expand and explain my life, my consciousness and awareness way beyond what we “know we know, and know we don’t know” to the realm of what we “don’t know we don’t know”. Here is where my sense of wonder and faith lies.

So it would be good if we could have coffee together. You may like me, and I have a feeling I would like you. We could get along, and not let our differences separate us. So why not?

And I’m paying.

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