This is part 1 of a fictional dialogue between two friends: a Christian and an atheist. I’ve written this to provide answers to those Christians who I know personally and who wonder about my position with regards to my unbelief in god(s). I don’t speak for all atheists, so corrections to what I've written are welcome. Sam is a fictional character. Thank you to Cori who provided ideas for this dialogue as well as constructive criticism. Enjoy!
Kevin: Hello Sam. How are you doing? Why do you look so down?
Sam: Hi Kevin. I just came back from a church meeting. We had a discussion about atheists and atheism. I can’t understand why so many people don’t accept the fact of God’s love, and why they have such anger towards God. I feel such an incredible burden for those people.
Kevin: Sam, I know we’ve only known each other for a few weeks, and we’ve hit it off really well over this time. But, I don’t know how to break this to you … I am an atheist.
(a moment’s silence)
Sam: An atheist? But how can that be? You are such a nice guy!
Kevin: Well, I try to be (laughs). Look, its okay. Despite the much maligned label, I’m not a Christian bashing kind of person. I’m your normal, average guy. I just lack belief in God’s existence, that’s all.
Sam: I’m sorry, but I’m completely surprised. I never knew that about you. I assumed that you were going to your own church. Wow! I can’t say I’ve ever met a self declared atheist before. I’ve got so many questions to ask you, if you don’t mind.
Kevin: Sure, I don't mind at all.
Sam: If you’re an atheist, why do you say that God doesn’t exist, and why are you so angry at God?
Kevin: These are good questions! Firstly, I don’t make the claim that God doesn’t exist. Secondly, I’m not angry at God at all; I mean, how can I be angry at something I don’t believe exists?
Sam: Let me get this straight: you lack belief that God exists, but at the same time you are not claiming that he does not exist? That doesn’t make sense to me.
Kevin: At face value it does seem confusing. But look, I think that to effectively answer all your questions, we have to start at the beginning. We have to ask: what is atheism?
Sam: Rejection of God and his love?
Kevin: That is an interesting definition, but it is not the one that I subscribe to. Do you know what the word “theist” means?
Sam: A theist is a person who has some belief in a god. I am a theist, for example.
Kevin: Yes, you are. So are Muslims, Hindus and any other individual who believes in some supernatural deity. Well, the “a-“ prefix in the word atheism simply means “non-“ or “not”. Simply put, an atheist is “not a theist”. In its basic form, atheism is not a belief; it is an absence of belief. It is an absence of belief in the existence a supernatural deity or deities. That is all.
Sam: I see.
Kevin: The word atheist has become falsely associated with immorality and arrogance. Despite what many may claim, I believe atheism says nothing about the personality, moral status, political affiliation or character of a specific person. It simply refers to their lack of belief in gods.
Sam: This is fascinating! I’ve got so many questions to ask. If you don’t believe in God, what moral system do you use? How can you find meaning in life? What do you believe will happen to you when you die? Why don’t you believe in God?
Kevin: Gosh, those are good questions! I’ll have to answer them one at a time. It’s going to be a long night, though. Coffee?
To be continued. . .