On Wednesday night I had another evening shift at the state fair booth. It was a fairly slow night, though Dave and I did have a few interesting conversations near the end of the day. A couple of young people who appeared to be probably in their 20’s came by to talk to us. They came up and started with a question something like “Do you think it’s always irrational to believe in God?” My response was that people have their own reasons for the things they believe, and whether or not their belief is rational depends on their reasons for their belief. As the conversation went on, we ended up talking about evolution in relation to morality, slavery in the Bible (she cautioned against taking the verses from the Bible about slaves out of context but looked bothered when I asked if slavery is good in any context), whether or not it is moral for God to cause suffering to his creatures because he made them, and how I went from being a Christian to an atheist.
At one point in the conversation, the woman said that the problem with atheists is that we worry too much about evidence. That we should just believe in spite of not knowing for sure. When she said this I asked her if she believed in heaven and hell, and she did. (Turns out she was an Evangelical, though I’ve learned to make no assumptions about what a person believes without asking first. ) Then I asked her, assuming we are supposed to believe without really knowing, what if a person is a believing Muslim? Would God let this person into heaven for their sincere belief in the face of uncertainty? Her response was that the Bible says that the only way to God is though Jesus, and I made my point that it would be unjust of God to punish someone for believing the wrong thing when we are expected to just believe and not seek and require evidence. We need evidence to determine what is most likely to be really true, rather that just believing what we having been told is true in our childhood or by our culture. Seriously, when the stakes are that high we shouldn’t take chances, right?
I left the conversation with the strong impression that she has probably not had exposure to any religion other than the one in which she was raised. The way she went on about “the Bible says” and talking about what is “Biblical” and such gave me that impression as well. I asked her what her basis was for believing the Bible, and she didn’t say much in reply. Hopefully our conversation gave her a few things to think about, whether it motivates her to refine her belief or eventually leave it.