Wonderful. History has proven theocracy to be the ideal form of government, to be sure. However, IHOP doesn't really let this wonderful theology shine in their ministries to the young'uns, so the fine folks at the Kansas City Atheist Coalition put together an event: "Santas for the Separation of Church and State". I made my own Santa-y appearance:
Here are some of my more memorable experiences of the night:
Aren't Atheists Trying to Use the Government to Force People to Not Believe?
This came from a twelve-year-old kid. According to him, atheists were trying to force God out of the school by teaching evolution and the Big Bang Theory. When I asked him what about those preclude the existence of God (I, personally, think that adding God into those equations is unnecessary clutter, but the theories themselves do not preclude the existence of a god), he told me that, when a student expressed belief in a god, the teacher called the child stupid for such a belief.
I told the kid that the teacher was in gross error for such an action - gods, be it a discussion for or against their existence, don't belong in public school science classrooms. I went on to explain that a government that takes the stance of "there is no god" is about as bad as a theocratic government. That stopped him for a bit, it seemed - I think he expected me to extol the bravery of the teacher for taking a stand against the mongrel Christian hordes. I like to think I may have dissolved some of the false impressions the kid had about atheists.
There Can Be No Absolute Truths Without God
This one came from a guy I talked to toward the end of the evening. We were talking about morality and atheism (more on that later), and he made the bold claim of, "There can be no absolute truths without God."
This seemed like a rather weighty statement, so I gave the following example: if I drop a ball, it will fall. Barring the possibility of the nature of gravity changing on our planet (which seems negligible, and this gentleman seemed to agree), this is an absolute truth, and there's not a mention of a god. The conversation that followed this example went similar to the following:
- Me: "There. That is an absolute truth that has no part of God."
- Him: "But God created gravity."
- Me: "Equally, the evidence supports that I created gravity." (thus, there can be no absolute truths without me)
- Him: "But the existence of gravity preceded you."
- Me: "Oh, but this is merely one of my many physical manifestations. I came before gravity."
At this point, he simply looked annoyed. He quickly changed the subject.
If I Were an Atheist, I'd Just Kill Anyone I Wanted To
This is a another form of the "objective morality" argument, with a twist: the same aforementioned gentleman insisted that atheism had less value than his Christianity because, if he were to become an atheist, he'd just go around killing people and taking their money because there was no absolute moral authority telling us what to do and not to do.
He was having none of this "secular humanism" business - atheism is worthless because, if he turned into an atheist, he would be self-serving nihilist because, as so many theists like to point out, without the threat of Hell or the promise of Heaven, there's no higher purpose, no reason to do anything for anyone other than yourself.
Bear in mind that this man also said he wasn't likely to "take a bullet" for anyone else, since he values his life above everyone else's (I find it odd that someone who believes in an everlasting afterlife would be that concerned about shortening their time on this planet). He expressed disbelief that any of us atheists - whom he described as "empty" - would take a bullet for a friend, family, or someone whom we might never have even met before. Ultimately, I suspect his determination of "atheism = self-serving nihilism", like so many who come to the same conclusion, is a projection of his own selfishness onto atheism.
If Evolution Favors Only the Strongest, Why Do We Have Such a Variety of Leaf Shapes?
This was posed earnestly by a kid amongst a group of really awesome conventioneers: if evolution only favors the strongest/fittest, why do we have multiple tree leaf shapes? Why hasn't only one tree leaf shape risen to the top, dominating the rest and wiping out the competing tree leaf shapes?
The simple answer, of course, is because trees didn't evolve that way. Of course, that's boring, uninformative, and didn't address the core problem with this question, which was a fundamental misunderstanding of the dynamics of evolution and natural selection.
I explained to him that the case of a single leaf shape would only emerge in the event that trees were actively seeking out and destroying competing trees, or that there were insufficient resources to support so many trees. As it turns out, there wasn't any natural factor that eliminates all but the "most optimal" leaf - in this case, the environment was "nice" enough that merely being efficient enough to survive on the nutrients available was sufficient to withstand the force of natural selection. Thus, as long as a mutation of a tree leaf did not hinder the ability of a tree to collect water of synthesize nutrients from light, that leaf configuration was likely to be able to continue existing.
Ultimately, we didn't change anyone's mind from Christianity to atheism, but, then, that wasn't the point of the evening. The point was to raise awareness of IHOP's stance that religion and state should be one, and we definitely did that - many people, unsurprisingly (due to IHOP's PR white-wash), were unaware of IHOP's dominionist stance, and that changed tonight. It's all about planting seeds...