To: <darwin@atheists.net>
Subject: Reversal or how I stumped my minister when I was 10
Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001 08:03:35 -0800

Hey Darwin,

I have an interesting argument that I have successfully used to baffle
Christians and absolutely dumbfounded my minister when I was 10.  I use it
when the proselytizer in question makes the error of saying that I will go
to hell for being an atheist.  The argument that hell does not exist is not
enough to stump them, it should be but it is not.  Instead we need something
sharper that cuts right to the heart of their nonsensical beliefs.  I've got
one for you.

I have more or less read the bible from cover to cover (my favorite is
chapter is Revelation where our all loving deity kicks some serious ass). I
as most American children was forced to spend half of every Sunday in
church.  Not only was it every week, but my church was all day, 9:00 am
Sunday school, followed by 11:00 "service" (I always wondered why they
called it service when all we were doing was giving money to the minister)
that ended at 2:30, then we would go downstairs and eat at the church,
followed by another "service" from about 4 to 7 or 8 pm (giving another
payment of course to the church fund).  This torture, over a period of
several years gave me an opportunity to read.  The problem was that if I got
caught reading anything but the bible, I would get in trouble.  At the time,
I figured that bible reading would somehow help me to be a good Christian
and force me to beleive (which I did not after the age of about 7 or 8).

(Aside: another thing to get you to not believe real quick is to go to a
black church which I had the unfortunate time of attending for the first 10
or so years of my life.  The music at black churches is real nice and the
mood is festive, but if you have ever seen anyone "get the holy ghost" as
they call it, it is a bit like a possession.  The person looses total motor
control including over their vocal chords and begins shouting and "stompin"
their feet uncontrollably.  Seeing this as a 5 year old kid, I was horrified
and of course thought something was terribly wrong with the person only to
find out that a severe Tourette's inspired seizure is not only a "good
thing" to happen in black churches, but it means that you are somehow closer
to god, or more holy or more sanctified.  So naturally, people have theses
"seizures" or "get the holy ghost" in droves every week falling out in the
aisle and needing to be carried away not to be outdone by anyone else
because that would imply a less sanctified, further from god state.)

Anyway, sitting bored in church gave me plenty of time to read the bible.  I
began reading it at about the age of 7, and continued until about 10.  I was
already an atheist or at least a doubter at this point.  The funny thing is,
that I could not find a specific example in the bible that states simply IF
YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD OR JESUS, YOU WILL GO TO HELL.  There is no
inverse to John 3:16, no, "whosoever does not believeth him shall surely
burn forever" type of thing. (Aside: There are plenty of stories of people
disobeying a direct order from god, and examples of wicked people who did
not know god. and stories that tried to make the connection between
wickedness and not knowing god or Jesus, but no direct inverse in simple
terms like John 3:16.)  So it is still possible to obey all of the rules,
have absolutely no knowledge of god or Jesus or no desire to be "saved" by
him if such knowledge were obtained,  and still get into heaven.  (Aside:
This is also one of the ways later that another preacher explained how a pre
Colombian native American or ancient Egyptian could have gotten into heaven,
after I challenged him with this question along with the why is there no
inverse to John 3:16.)

The problem with this is, of course it is impossible to follow all of the
rules listed in the bible because many of them are contradictory and go
against human nature.  So you must go to church, pray, confess etc to ask
for forgiveness for breaking the rules that were broken in order to obey
another such rule, or to apologize for being human (which he supposedly made
you this way anyway..In his own image for that matter). This conundrum is,
as you probably know,  what perpetuates the religion and the institution
that is the church.

The argument usually goes something like this.

You: I am a proud atheist.

Follower: Blah blah blah, Jesus loves you, blah blah....etc etc. You are
going to hell

You: But the bible does not specifically say that if I do not believe I will
go to hell.

Follower:  Yes it does because of (insert nonsensical random bible passage
taken out of context)

You: But those are all metaphors and examples of people who most people, who
live in a civilized manner, would agree were
        fuÁked up, or people who broke a direct promise to god. They would have
probably been punished by some law by now       anyway, and I have made no such
promises to god personally.  None of the examples that you gave specifically
states  that I will go to hell with the same certainty as John 3:16 says
that I will if I do believe.

The follower will then go directly to page 666 of the Christian philosophers
defensive playbook and commit one of the many fallacies of logic.  Almost
always a non sequitir, but if it is a more educated religious  type (e.g.
minister) they will probably change the subject and try and figure out why
you are so angry with god (an obvious non sequitir, but a good tactic to put
you on the defensive.  Ironically, (and hilariously now that I look back on
it) at this point, my minister recommended to my grandparents that I be
BEATEN(!) when I used this argument! Probably the best way that I have ever
heard of to make children love jesus.

They will most likely attempt to draw some connection between knowing Jesus
or god  and living a good life AND will imply, or say directly that if you
do not know of these people you somehow cannot live a good life.  Of course
you can then describe many ancient cultures that practiced many of the so
called Judeo-Christian-Muslim values thousands of years before these
religions existed and how many of their beliefs come from these religions
themselves, thus ensuring pagans a place in heaven.  This does not sit well
with most Christians because they have this need to be special in the eyes
of some father figure.   Plus, it brings us back to the original argument
that if a single person even by accident lived a life like Jesus but did not
know Jesus existed or chose to ignore his existence (e.g., born in a culture
that does not worship Jesus) the bible does not say they would be denied
heaven, AND since you do not know how I or anyone else truly lives or
beleives you cannot say with certainty that I, or anyone, WILL go to hell
for being an atheist.  Therefore, it is possible that you may see me, the
"evil" atheist, someday in your heaven.  Of course at that point, I would no
longer be an atheist because god would have proven his existence to me,
which is all I am asking for before to begin with..PROOF...

 This is the most likely argument and usually the point where they become
angry and begin to swear at me, threaten me or give up and tell me that they
will pray for me.  I have not got much further than this with most
Christians (not tried yet on any Muslims or Jews because I have little
knowledge of the Koran, and have read the old testament don't understand
Jewish traditions)but this is usually about where it ends.

This strategy has worked for me for years.  It almost always comes back to
the original question, and it uses your opponent's philosophy against him or
her, which is always devastating.  I thought it would help some of you who
get into the occasional argument with the "rational" Christian.

H*****