I was having an online discussion with an atheist I've had occasional back-and-forths with for a few years, and he trotted out this line:
I don't want my philosophy to comfort me, I want it to tell me the truth at all instances.You know, I suspect he thinks this would upset me most because it supposedly reveals the hypocrisy of people of faith. Namely, that of supposedly being concerned with people's "greater good," to the point of ignoring their earthly needs. He thinks faith breeds fatalism, with regard to making the world a better place. What really upsets me is that he still has this wrong view of faith, despite months and years of telling him the truth.
When I see a dying, starving person, I don't want to see a person going to heaven. To me, that is one of the most sinister lies and I wouldn't want my children to believe this about a person in strife. Strife is a REAL thing, and for me, it is something that does not end in heaven or hell. Truly, I am only comforted by atheism to know that the REALITY of life, including a dying and sick world, is a real one. I can't do anything about this dying and sick world except be my best, but at least I know it isn't a fight of devils and angels--rather in humanity's control.
I believe life comes once, I don't want to be a good person because I will be tortured and my skin burned off if I don't. That's not morality for me.
Here was my full response:
I can tell you what, [opponent], when I see people dying it doesn't comfort me to see people going to hell. That's what motivates me to reach out to them with the Gospel lest they perish in vain.Every day, 200,000 people die. Realizing that so many people are slipping into eternity without you having even the slightest opportunity to do anything about it is distressing. It's not comforting at all. What is comforting in moments of realizing that, is that God is sovereign. Simply, He's in control. You don't have the responsibility over all those people. God will ensure that there are Christians strategically placed just where He wants them, to be salt and light for a dying world. And guess what? You are the one that He's handpicked to do just that, where you are.
[Opponent], being a good person won't get you into heaven. You're already going to hell because you're INCAPABLE of being a good person. This is what you don't get. We Christians don't behave morally because God threatens us. We do good in grateful response to the fact that He saved us from hell even though we did not deserve to go to heaven. If you think we do good to bribe God you are mistaken. That's not Christianity, that's works-righteous false religion. Don't die twice for a straw man.
So the understanding that the world is perishing and I have a part to play in saving it motivates me to be more aggressive in spreading the Gospel. I'd gladly take the risk of being seen as "one of those crazy Christian nutjobs," than to make people feel comfortable even as their eternity is in peril. My conscience won't let me accept quietness. I must speak.
What saddens me so much is when guys like him say that they don't think it's legitimate to be good because otherwise you'll be tortured. I TOTALLY AGREE! That IS illegitimate! And it isn't the Christian way! We don't do good because God is threatening us. We do it to repay Him with gladness for everything He has given us. We honor Him out of love, not out of mortal terror. I wish my opponent would understand this...
I think he chooses to believe that because it makes it easier to reject the Christian faith. But if you're offended by something that isn't actually Christianity, and you turn around and reject Christianity, you've made a terrible mistake.
The Straw Man Fallacy is the logical misstep of misrepresenting what you're arguing against. Then you defeat this 'straw man' and claim to have defeated what you were arguing against. But if you don't ever attack the actual position, you can't ever defeat it, and so you're never justified in rejecting it. That's the mistake my opponent made above. He's right to reject what he describes, because a belief system that makes God out to be an extortioner is clearly false. Sadly, he makes the error of asserting that this is the Christian faith, and this is not so.
I said 'don't die twice for a straw man,' because hell is referred to as the "second death." (Revelation 20:14)
It's not worth it to go to hell because you insisted on believing a lie. The character Yossarian in the novel Catch-22 was having a debate with a lady friend of his, and though they were both atheists, the woman was upset at how Yossarian characterized God--angry, mean, stupid, evil, etc. Yossarian reaches a compromise by saying, "the God you don't believe in is not the same God that I don't believe in." (That's paraphrased).
My atheist friend, the god you don't believe in is not the God I believe in. Repent and live.
~ Rak Chazak