Conversation with an Atheist

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, August 18, 2016 3 comments

by Steve Risner

I would like to begin a series today that was inspired by a conversation I had with a “Catholic atheist” that I graduated high school with. He was very excited to comment on a thread I was following about this terrible thing we call Christianity and how intellectually superior he was to all of that. In fact, it seems like he frequently likes to make comments, sometimes that are not even connected with the thread, with the specific purpose of mocking God or followers of Christ. I saved a few of his comments so I could respond when I had the time. It later occurred to me that many atheists make similar comments, and others may benefit from seeing what I believe are reasonable responses to such things. During this series, I may specifically answer his statements but I retain the option to expand on his statements or, if it seems appropriate, I may restate his remarks to fit with a more universal atheist comment. I plan to never misrepresent his statements and will likely include his statements verbatim in each installment of this series. We'll start at the top and work our way down. I hope this series turns out to be useful for you.

"I believe our individual consciousnesses and existences are finite, and instead of basking in an afterlife that, without evidence, likely does not exist, I do not want to waste more time on theological ranting and raving than is necessary." This is ironic. He's preparing to give me a very long response to a few statements I made concerning my faith but wants me to believe that he's not concerned with the topic because his time is short. He claims that there is no evidence for the afterlife, which in my opinion is not true at all. Most often when an atheist makes a claim about evidence, they are doing two things: 1) they are saying they don't believe in something because there is no evidence, even when they believe a great deal of other things without evidence. The difference is they want to believe in their atheism, so they will toss aside their need for evidence so they can believe in that while mocking or scorning the believer because they don't have evidence; 2) they really are saying that there is no evidence they are willing to accept. Most often, when the claim is made that there is no evidence for this or that, what is really being said is that although they may be presented with a large amount of evidence, they reject it all or will ignore it.

I have chosen to use what I believe would be more in line with the atheist's beliefs concerning evidence and science in this discussion for the most part. We’ll move on to what the Bible says later in this blog post. I don't want to put any more weight on this evidence than is necessary. My only goal here to expose the fact that the atheist is not correct—that there are several different lines of evidence for an afterlife. Veridical experiences are interesting and actually have a great deal of scientific research behind them. These are experiences where a person has an out of body experience and sees themselves from above. They can recall very specific things happening that they couldn't possibly know about while they lay dead on a table. There are many cases of this happening—far more than you'd think. There is enough support for these happenings that there is currently a study known as the AWARE study that is investigating these events. It's an interesting topic.

There are also Peak-in-Darien experiences. This is when someone claims to have a vision of those who have passed on before them. What is compelling evidence is that sometimes a person that is believed by everyone involved to be living is seen. This is often troubling to those in attendance. The thing that is interesting is there are a great number of cases where the person seen, who is thought to be living, had actually recently died and no one had yet been informed. That seems very curious to me.

There are also other cases involving mediums and the like. To be perfectly honest, I believe quite strongly that any such activity is directed by demons that are imposters. They are feeding information that will give the medium credibility and nothing more. What this does support, however, is that there is certainly evidence for a spirit world so to speak. Dr. Sam Parnia is an expert in the field of after death experiences. His contention is that it is "ludicrous" to believe that visions reported by those who have died and been resuscitated could be low level brain activity. It's true that Dr. Parnia does not support any supernatural explanation for these events, but it does open the possibility for the afterlife. He does believe that the consciousness can live on beyond the physical body. Some scientists hypothesize consciousness doesn’t arise from cell activity alone—potentially meaning our minds don’t always need a body to function. That's interesting, isn't it? Dr. Steven Laureys, who does not believe in the afterlife at all, has found some interesting evidence to support Dr. Parnia's contention that these visions and so forth are not hallucinations or low level brain activity. Generally, a vision such as a hallucination will fade quickly over time. Unanimously, in every case Dr. Laurey studied, he found that regardless of the length of time that had passed since the near death experience, the memory was sharp and fresh like it had happened yesterday. This stands as evidence that these experiences were not made up by misfiring neurons. It's actually difficult to believe that a brain that is deprived of oxygen for an extended period and is reported often times to have no activity whatsoever could retain vivid memories. Perhaps people do have hallucinations while they are laying dead on a hospital bed. But to think their inactive brain could recall what those hallucinations were is laughable, really.

Please keep in mind that I am not pushing for any of these experiences to be accepted as anything beyond curious things concerning an afterlife. They are what we would call circumstantial evidences. I am only offering these things up as a stark contrast to the claim that there is no evidence for an afterlife. On the contrary, there is ample evidence. How we interpret it is up for debate, sure, and I'm not suggesting anyone should take these things at face value or to their grave (see what I did there?).

Something else that this skeptic says is one of the pitiful things we often hear from atheists is that life is hopeless, pointless, and when we die we turn into worm food. There is nothing else. What a terrible way to view the world and to view your own existence. The Bible offers us so much more than that. Christianity's response to death is to fight its tyranny with a message of hope and purpose. In fact, the Bible is truly a love story that shows us the victory we can have as created beings over death and destruction. It's the story of life's victory over death and the destruction of death through the cross of Christ. According to God's Word, death was not meant to be part of life but is proof positive that something is really wrong here. Death is the result of rebellion against God. Christ has won the victory for us over death.

The Bible speaks quite clearly of life after death. In fact, we are told that all human beings—whether a believer in Christ Jesus or not—are eternal beings. This means that once we are conceived, we never cease to exist. We may die on this planet physically, but our essence—our spirit, the stuff that makes us "us"—lives on. There are only two destinations, according to the Bible, for that departed spirit to exist. It can exist in eternal paradise where we forever will bask in the presence and glory of the Almighty God. Or it can exist in eternal separation from God in a place of eternal torment. There is no other alternative the Bible offers up. Jesus frequently talks about life after death, as does much of the Bible. And since it's insane to even consider that life and the universe miraculously birthed itself we must believe in some sort of Designer. That Designer is a spirit and has created us—mankind—in His image. We carry the image of God with us and, therefore, have a spirit as well. That spirit is truly what makes us who we are and is what will live either in eternal paradise or in eternal damnation. This atheist is choosing to exist in eternity in a place meant for eternal destruction and this is an extremely foolish decision, in my opinion.

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Steve said...

I would like to clarify that this "Catholic atheist" is called this because he referred to himself this way. I don't believe Catholics are atheists. In fact, I'm not sure why this particular atheists uses this terminology. He's clearly not a Catholic of any sort.

QuantumGreg said...

Steve, he probably means "all-embracing" or "universal" or "liberal" or "broad" when he uses the word "Catholic" because that's literally what it means. Plus since he most likely believes himself intellectually superior (as every atheist I've ever talked to does), he is using the word "Catholic" to mock as well and to stir up all the "religious" folks by putting it with "atheist."

Steve said...

Thanks for commenting, Greg. I really appreciate you taking time to read this.
My friend works at a Catholic school, so I think he needs to be Catholic to keep his job. Perhaps he was raised this way, as well--Catholic I mean. But I'm pretty sure he refers to himself this way simply to keep appearances up, if you follow me.

Thanks, again!