A Productive Talk With A Theist

25 May, 2008

One of my friends is an Anglican priest.  He is also an excellent mechanic (which brings in the money).  We were talking yesterday about Biblical Literalism and some of the odd conversations he has had.  Some of his comments were wonderfully thought-provoking (the quotes are paraphrased, my memory is not what it was back when I was . . . something).

The Bible is like a telescope.  From the outside, it looks perfectly normal, but everyone who looks through it will see something different.

He recognizes that the Bible is a result of (by his own estimate) about 1700 years of study, additions, redactions, and mistranslation.  The fundamentalists want to use a version frozen in one tiny moment of time.  One of my favourite tweaks when discussing religion with a true fundamentalist is to ask which version of the Bible they use.  It never fails to be interesting.

See that cloud?  To a fundamentalist that cloud is the entire universe.  Nothing outside of that cloud or that book matters.

And that cloud is dark, scary, irrational, contradictory and mysogynistic (as well as a whole bunch more).

I was at a convention and was waiting to speak.  The minister next to me was going over his notes out loud.  His talk was about reconciling contradictions in the Bible while stressing that since this is God’s unaltered word, all Christians must never study the Bible critically, that with faith it is clear.  I pinched his sport jacket and asked “Linen and Cotton?  Should I kill you now, or should the whole convention stone you?”

He also said that, during the dinner the next night, they served shrimp and crabcakes.  He had his whole table (save one literalist) laughing as they tried to decide whether they all had to kill each other.

I enjoy my conversations with this Anglican minister.  He knows I’m an atheist and still accepts me as a person.  Discussing religion with him is a joy.  He is intelligent, well-read (religion, biology, evolutionary theory, history), and open to differing ideas.  He is offended by ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegience, ‘In God We Trust’ on our money, and prayer in school.  He discusses rather than argues.  He’s still a theist, but, as he puts it, I’m an atheist, so it evens out.

I recognize that, for my lifetime (and barring some totally unforeseen event), theists will be the majority in America.  America needs more theists like this Anglican mechanic.



  1. Conversations like these are great and all too rare.

  2. It’s nice to meet theists that you can actually talk to and reason with. Both tolerant and logical. It’s interesting to hear your Anglican friend speak of fundamentalists in this way.

  3. Chappie: Gives me hope.

    Ted: When he gets going on a rant (history, cars, religion, you name it), he’s a hoot.

  4. I’d be interested to know what he thinks happens to non-believers when they die. How does he feel about trying to save your immortal soul?

    I once had a friend who was also an Anglican Priest – he doesn’t talk to me know I’m an atheist – care to swap?

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