Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My problem is...

Over the past weekend I had a memorable encounter with an acquaintance. I helped this fellow out and he proceeded to bless me and give praise to the lord. He identified himself as a devout christian. He said god would be kind to me. I said, "I don't know about that"

He seemed perplexed at my response and wanted to make it clear that I would be rewarded for helping him. He said, "Don't you think god will be kind to you?"

"I don't think about god", I replied.

He paused. He seemed confused. He then asked me a more direct question...

"Don't you believe in god?"

"I don't believe", I said.

At that moment, his face took on a tortured expression. His wince expressed a deep pain. He seemed to be experiencing angst. In an instant he was resolved to enlighten me.

"Have you read the bible?", he asked.

"Yes", I replied.

"Then your problem is", he said with pity, "that you read it like a newspaper"

He proceeded to tell me how he reads the bible, how he prays and how he has the feeling of god inside of him. I listened very carefully to him expound his religious view. It involved the force of god in battle with the force of evil. He was very animated - he spoke with emotion. For a couple of minutes he delivered his speech and I listened quietly - paying close attention to his words. Although he did not come outright and say it, he implied that horrible things happen to those who do not believe in god. Part of this involved his motivation to do good in the world - that is, in order to get to heaven. I spoke -

"So you act righteously and believe in god in order to go to heaven...in order to get something for yourself?"

"Yes!", he emphatically responded.

His honesty was refreshing. I would have delved deeper into this response but he quickly continued on about the rewards he was to reap in the afterlife. All the while, birds sang in a nearby tree and the green grass was brilliantly lit up by the warm sun.

"Your problem is", he empathetically stated, "that your culture has raised you to believe that god doesn't exist"

"I don't recall claiming that god doesn't exist", I replied in order to correct his misconception.

He stalled. Again, he appeared confused. Disinterested in clarification, he proceeded to explain what my problem is. He told me how I was raised in a godless culture. This was my problem and was why I didn't have the "feeling of god" in me. He knew I was raised in north america but nothing beyond that. I was curious as to how he had put together this image.

After some time, he seemed to have said everything he wanted to say. I told him I needed to run and thanked him for the conversation.


Blogger aNDy said...

That seemed to me like a mono-versation ;-)

This resembles the conversations I have with many devout religious people (many of them are family). These people are always trying to explain to you why the circle is circular!!

First, it doesn't need explanation!
Second, any explanation is simply meaningless!
Third, I don't really give a cent why it is circular!

But honestly, it is still better than listening to the news, especially in my country :-)


Blogger Gnuosphere said...

"Circle". Indeed.

When I was living in Beirut, I worked with someone who was also a devout christian. He had come to work as a teacher whilst in his spare time try to convert "them" into christians. He was very keen to have a dialogue with me regarding religion. We decided to hold most of that dialogue over email - to slow down the pace. After a few exchanges he told me he no longer wanted to talk about religion as my "questions" made him "feel uncomfortable". That was never my intent. It was unfortunate that he no longer wanted to discuss.

Several months ago, I had a pastor ask me - regarding religious identity - "What are you?" When I told him "a human being", I think he thought I was joking or being flippant. I was, of course, trying to point something out but then clarified that - in regards to religious identity - I am nothing. He said that that was impossible and that I can't be nothing. He even cracked open a dictionary and tried to define me. I found it interesting that he denied the possibility of having no psychological identity whatsoever.

I'll never forget...his exact words were - "You can't be nothing!"

Blogger aNDy said...

A few years ago, I wrote something that I never published on my site (It was something ispiere from Amine Maalouf's "on Identity" book I read in 2003). But the "You can't be nothing!" cry of stupefaction reminded me of it, so I posted it today on my weblog. It makes a nice compliment to this post.


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