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I had dinner with an acquaintance last night. This girl doesn’t know too much about my personal beliefs and my involvement with non-religious groups, but she does know I’m an atheist. She’s a Christian, though she defines that loosely and doesn’t believe in organized religion.

Our conversation eventually came to what our respective beliefs are.

This girl was telling me how she had met a guy who changed her life a few years earlier. They met by chance at a shopping mall when she was with her friend. I say “by chance” because that’s what I would consider it. Had she not gone shopping, or had she not been in that store, she wouldn’t have run into this guy. However, she would say this meeting was due to God’s guiding hand.

I’ve had similar things happen, too, where something seemingly random happens and it changes the course of my life. I’ve held a part-time job that I love for almost five years now… I got the job because a friend mentioned in passing that she was thinking about applying there.

The entire eBay thing happened due to a number of small things that had to happen for everything to pan out as it did… Jim Henderson won the auction at the last second… a reporter from The Wall Street Journal took a chance that I was serious about what I was doing, which opened the media floodgates… the list goes on.

As an atheist, I’m content to say this is all a coincidence and there are any number of things that could’ve happened and I just happened to go down one specific path.

So I tried to tell this girl that I thought her run-in with the guy in a mall was a coincidence. She didn’t buy it. Besides that instance, she said, there were a lot of things going wrong in her life, and after meeting him, a lot of that turned around. It had to happen for a reason, she said.

At this point, I could think of a lot of reasons to explain why it was a coincidence and if she had really wanted to turn her life around, she would’ve done anything to change it. If she didn’t meet this guy, she would have found another way.

But to say all that, I felt like I would come off as a pompous ass.

So I let it slide.

We kept talking, and when she told me how she felt organized religion was wrong, I asked her why she still labeled herself as a Christian. She said she believed in the Biblical story.

Again, I thought of lots to say, but I kept my mouth shut at this point.

She asked me how I could honestly not believe in God. I responded by asking her how she could deny that the Gods of Hinduism (for example) were true. Essentially, the response she gave me was that those Gods were just silly.

I wanted to say that that was what I felt about all Gods.

Instead, I said the standard line about how it’s easy to dismiss “other” Gods and atheists just take it one step further.

I don’t think she understood me. We changed the subject.


So to recap, I knew what I would say if I wanted to “evangelize” my atheist views. It wouldn’t even be that extreme. I knew what I would say if I simply wanted to be a “good” atheist. I even think my responses would have been decently thought out and logical. But I didn’t do that. I had no reason to make her think she was wrong, and maybe I was flattering myself in thinking that anything I said would change her mind. I almost felt bad challenging her when it was clear that she felt God changed her life for the better.

I don’t know how other people (atheists?) would’ve responded.

Should I have been more representative of the atheistic outlook? Or was it ok that I didn’t say all that was in my head at the time…?

[tags]Christian, atheist, God, Jim Henderson, The Wall Street Journal, Hinduism, religion, atheism[/tags]