In the September 21, 2011, Sioux Falls Argus Leader,Billy’s reader is a college student with a roommate problem. The reader says, “It took me about two minutes to discover that my college roommate isn’t only an atheist, but he’s also very aggressive about it. Should I move out and find a roommate who won’t constantly make fun of my faith in Jesus?” You can read all of Billy’s answer here.
There are several troubling aspects to this question. The first is the somewhat old-fashioned idea of random roommates. Most schools now have computer services that allow students to read the profiles of others and pick someone compatible. Is it possible that Billy’s writers needed a confrontational atheist and their school memories included a surprise assignment?
The second aspect is the concept of the aggressive atheist. What symbol does the atheist wear on a neck chain that proclaims his lack of belief? Is it as confrontational as the crucifix I see so many teens wearing as bling? Is it as confrontational as the two tiny feet in a lapel that represent an aborted fetus? Perhaps, the atheist roommate has a T-shirt with an image of the twin towers and the line from John Lennon, “Imagine no religion?”
Finally, there is the aspect of the atheist making fun of faith in Jesus. A Christian child, growing up in a Christian family, living in a mostly-Christian community would perceive the religions of others as fair targets for mocking, but his own religion is supposed to be respected. Many times, I have heard Christian students joking about the ideas of Islam or Hindi or other “foreign” religions. The aspects of Christianity that are silly to a Muslim or a Hindu are completely logical to a child indoctrinated in Christianity from the time language, but not reason, is acquired.
My warm circle of friends contains many believers and non-believers and I have many more of each as Facebook friends. The only aggression I have experienced from any of them was one jerk who refused my FB friend request by saying, “I hate atheists,” and calling me a foul name.
Billy’s response to this student is to suggest making lemonade. Billy says, “…has it occurred to you that God actually may have put you there so you could be a witness to your roommate of Christ’s truth and peace?”
How does one do that? When I see nice people or people doing nice things, I don’t assume they are Christians. The student will have to become obnoxious and aggressive. “See the nice thing I did? I did it because I am a Christian. I wouldn’t have done it if I weren’t a Christian and afraid of spending eternity in God’s flaming hell.”
And what happens when the atheist does something nice? Will the Christian student recognize that a godless unbeliever can be a good person? When the students watch TV together and see all the mayham and carnage caused by religious warfare, will they also witness a lack of conflict caused by atheists? What lesson is to be drawn from those examples? Maybe Billy’s idea of witnessing will backfire?
Even the act of witnessing by doing good deeds goes against some parts of the Bible. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Isn’t doing good deeds and witnessing for Jesus boasting? “I’m saved and you’re doomed.”
Billy proposes that the example of the Christian student is more powerful than any argument. Billy considers what it will take to change the mind of the atheist: “Will it be intellectual arguments that state the case for believing in God, or seek to demolish his own convictions? They may have their place — but in reality, the one argument he can never answer is the fact of a life that has been changed by Jesus Christ.”
What intellectual arguments are you talking about, Billy? Should the Christian student propose the argument from beauty? “Sunsets are so beautiful they must have been created by God?” Perhaps the Christian could make the argument from design? “Everything is so complicated it must have been designed – by God.” How about “Everything has a cause so the first cause must have been God?” Many non-believers and believers do not accept these arguments as valid.
The non-believer has only to respond with the questions of evil and the wimpy arguments of the believer dissolve. (If God is all-good and so loves the world why is there so much evil in the world? If God is all-loving why is He sending billions of His created humans to hell?)
What, then, is the “…life that has been changed by Jesus?” Has the Christian student given all of his riches to the poor? (Mark 10:21) Has the student sold his garment to buy a sword? (Luke 22:36) Does the student hate his mother and father? (Luke 14:26) Is the student so afraid of punishment after death (Matthew 8:11-12, Matthew 13:41-42, Matthew 13:49-50) that he spends all his waking hours praising the very God that will throw so many God-created humans into the hell He created?
The most telling paragraph of Billy’s answer is when he discusses what he considers to be the cause of the atheist’s aggression: “… often an atheist who loudly and vigorously defends his disbelief does so because down inside he’s actually insecure and uncertain.” Change the word atheist to Christian, the word disbelief to belief and view the statement as an outsider: “… often a Christian who loudly and vigorously defends his belief does so because down inside he’s actually insecure and uncertain.”
How about it, Billy? Do you fall to your knees and loudly proclaim your love of Jesus because you are insecure and uncertain? Or is it just your personal fear of hell that keeps you prostrate and praising your monstrous God?
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