Monday, February 9, 2009

Coffee with Darwin

Sunday afternoon I was supposed to have lunch with a friend. Things didn't quite work out as planned and it turned out I needed to kill time before we met. Since Starbucks was across the street from our meeting place, I decided to hang out there while I was waiting. Now usually, I am always prepared for a little down time, meaning I always have something in the wings like work, books, etc. to "make use" of the time as if having unpurposeful time is a crime. That day, however, I left my Emergency Time Consumer Kit, aka my Beatles bookbag, at home. So no books. No iPod. No work. So what does an avid reader do with time on her hands and no books to read? Read people of course! And I don't mean the magazine.

My company consisted of a lady entertaining two small children and a distinguished looking man absorbed in his laptop which was covered with I Love the Rockets and Colorado University stickers. Darwin, name aptly changed, sat across from me a few minutes later. He became engrossed in his book. I had out my Bible and the sermon notes I had just taken from church service. I got up to get a straw and when I came back I noticed that the title of his book said GOD, in bold letters. I don't know what made me do it, but I asked "Good book?" He said "Oh yeah, GREAT book! It's about how physics totally disproves the existence of God." Uh oh. What had I gotten myself into? If I would have looked a little further I would have noticed that right under "GOD" it said "The Failed Hypothesis". What to do now? Pray that God would just give me the words to say. Oh and a few prayers in hopes that I was not speaking with a nuclear physicist or something that would totally blow me out of the water in intellect. Thus the conversation began...

Me: My husband loves to read books on the topic of God and science, but he's on the other end of the spectrum. We believe that science reveals God's beauty and that it is further proof in a Creator. Can I get the title of the book? He's always looking for books on the subject...

Darwin: Oh sure. I'm an atheist. I don't believe that science and God can go hand in hand at all.

Me: Oh really? Why is that? (praying)

Darwin: I just don't see any evidence for it. And believe me, I've looked.

Me: Hmmm...honestly I don't know how I would make it through the day without that faith. I'm curious, what do you live for? (oh my gosh I cannot believe I just said that...why oh why did those words come out of my mouth? Was I trying to make this guy go home and make sure his will was in order? Preparing for him to be offended...still praying and now sweating)

Darwin: I live to be a good person and make a positive impact on the earth. And I think the God of the Old Testament was horrible and I don't want to be anything like him. I believe if Christians actually ever read their Bible they would lose total faith in a God who would do things like that. No good can ever come of religion or of a belief in God. God is just something people came up with to cope. I've read tons of books on the subject from the standpoint of science. (at this point he's becoming quite involved and worked up, obviously passionate. And I'm also sure at this point that he hasn't entirely read the Bible, but maybe just parts)

Me: So you believe that left up to our own devices the world would be a better place?

Darwin: Certainly. 0.05% of the population are atheists and within that population you see the lowest incidence of crime. Why? Because we have ourselves to be held accountable to. You have a God that's there to forgive everything you do, so you just go ahead and do it knowing that you will be forgiven.

Me: How do you measure what is good? Where do you get the standard? (asking Darwin questions seemed the best course of action as he would not let you get a word in edgewise. There was probably a lot more said in these paragraphs, but it was so much to remember)

Darwin: I just try to eliminate human suffering. If I can do that, then I'm a good person.

Me: Do you believe in an afterlife? I mean, do you think you will get a reward for this? Why be a good person? Why bother?

Darwin: No, I don't believe in heaven or hell. I don't know what happens. I try not to think about it. Maybe I'll turn into a tree or a bug or maybe fertilizer. (never answered as to his motivations to be a good person)

Me: What's the biggest reason you don't believe in an afterlife? Most religions do.

Darwin: I just don't think I'm that special. (this to me was very sad, my heart hurt)

This conversation went on for 45 minutes. We talked about everything from heaven and hell, to the purpose of life (which in the long run I don't think he believes he has purpose), to the Bible being infallible. He seemed to not have a clear understanding of the Bible and abused a lot verses by taking them out of context and misquoting. When he would reference verses I would go to them in my Bible and he would say "Well, I'm not sure the exact chapter..." He said it did not matter to him what I believed. Finally, I started wrapping it up, but was struck by one fact...

Me: You seem to have quite a well-versed opinion on God and seem to have read a lot on the subject.

Darwin: Yes, I've read book after book on the topic. I've read science books, religious books, I've talked to Rabbis, and posed questions to Catholic priests. I've done my research.

Me: So, I'm just curious, if you really don't believe there's a God and are perfectly satisfied with life and that answer, why are you reading a book entitled "GOD"? Why bother if you're sold?

Darwin: Pause. A lot of pause. Mumbling. I just like, uh, the uh, going back and forth.

Me: Oh, I see it's the philosophical debate itself, not the question then?

Darwin: That's right. (I'm getting up to leave at this point when he stops me and he's quiet for a moment)

Darwin: I'm envious of people that can believe. I think it's good. I would believe if I could.

Wow. After 45 minutes of all this and it's finally out. We got up to leave. Darwin challenged me to go to a certain website to look at certain places in Scripture that he believes are frought with error. I agree, on one condition. If I have homework, he's going to have an assignment too. I challenged him to really read through the New Testament. To read about the Jesus he was quoting and see if it added up to a God incapable of love. He promised he would. He walked with me to the door and said that he had a wonderful talking with me. He said he was going home and would talk with his wife about our conversation. He said that if he saw me again at the Starbucks he would have read his assignment and would come up and talk with me about it. And he told me to enjoy the day. He was one of the nicest people I have met.

In our conversation, we talked little about anything personal. I found out he was originally from New York and had moved to Texas at the age of 23 to play in a country band. His parents were atheists and when he tried to be friends with Christian kids they pushed him away because of his lack of faith. Their parents would not allow their children to come near him. I could see the hurt in his eyes. He was an outcast as a child. What if a loving Christian parent would have befriended Darwin at a young age? If a Christian parent would have invited him over and believed that they would have had an impact on him rather than the assumed reverse? What if someone would have given him hope? Somewhere along the way, he's received the message that Christians are to condemn, not to love. He's right in asking the question. Why are atheists giving more to charities than Christians? Why aren't we always the first ones to step up? Why do atheists have to fill our gaps in the way of giving? I was deeply convicted. Where did we lose sight?

"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that other would do to you, do so to them.

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-36 - the words of Jesus Christ

Please say a special prayer for my friend, Darwin.

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