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Jamie Johnson
15 January 2020

Conversation with an Atheist

A couple months ago, I had lunch with a young man who had for a while seemed unsteady in his beliefs. He had been raised going to a progressive church. And as a college student, he had considered faith in Christ. However, after more than a year of college experiences and a philosophy class, he had denied God and described himself as a nihilist. According to the Oxford English Dictionary and in the context of the conversation, nihilism is the "rejection of all religious and moral principles ... the belief that life is meaningless. ... belief that nothing in the world has a real existence." He preferred that term over atheist, but it seems that fundamentally they are the same. So, he and I had a conversation.

I asked a question of him that I ask often: "Why do we eat?" As he wrestled with fundamentally answering that question, we discussed it, and I finally pointed out that we are designed to rely on something outside of ourselves. We are designed to depend on something outside of ourselves. I indicated that this points to God. Yet, he denied God.

I asked about original cause, where we came from. He described an eternal universe that we evolved out of. I didn't get into macro-evolution and the problems thereof, but I did ask him about where the universe came from and how we now have specific designs, scientific laws and irreducible complexity in living organisms. He didn't have much of an answer, but described how some philosophers mentioned a driving forced called "the will" which has no will of its own. I still mentioned the lack of a feasible original cause and indicated only God makes sense as the original cause.

I then talked about faith. Reflecting on on the "Why do we eat?" question, I mentioned that we all have faith in something and I pointed out his faith in his strictly materialistic god -- a belief in an "eternal universe" -- and I pointed out his use of the word belief in some of his statements. He described the "Big Bounce" where this universe allegedly expands and contracts (It's a new theory) giving rise to life that evolves. I pointed out that it still fails to answer the questions of original cause and design/complexity/order.

He proceeded to be philosophical, seeming wise in his own eyes. He said that we create our own realities and everything is relative. However, I pointed at how there is a larger objective reality in which we all exist and while we have our subjective experiences, the larger reality remains (again pointing ultimately to God). I also mentioned that some subjectivity is closer to the objective truth. He said we create our own truth and that all is relative. I asked him if the statement "All is relative" is true. He said it was. I indicated that if all is relative, then that statement is relative, which means it isn't true. I negated the statement and indicated that the truth -- the objective reality -- is that some is relative. This also means some is objective. And relative or subjective truth is subject to absolute or objective truth. There's no way around it.

He pointed at a chair and said that we both have our own realities of that chair. I set up a scenario. I asked him, "What if I took an axe to the chair and hacked it to pieces and found only 6 screws holding the chair together?" I indicated this would lead me to 2 conclusions:

He gave me a response that was as meaningless as his outlook on life: "What is 6?" I looked at him in disbelief and he admitted it sounded insane (and it does and is). His statements show at least a philosophical break with reality -- a "philosophical psychosis" if you will. I asked him how I knew he was speaking words or sentences. He had no answer.

He said he didn't believe in good or evil or morals. I mentioned another scenario: What if someone stabbed me in the abdomen? Apart from the act of stabbing, think about what that involves: destruction to tissue, bodily damage, pain, stress and psychological reactions that can cause further harm. I mentioned this is fundamentally bad (and that implies fundamental good as well). Yet, he denied it. I brought up the atrocities of ISIS. He mentioned that such atrocities are "good" to them and "bad" for others, that everything is relative. I reminded him of how that cannot stand as that is the same as saying, "All is relative," which is demonstrably false as mentioned earlier.

I asked about meaning and purpose and he said that there really isn't any, that he just tries to get the most out of life. The sad thing is he is missing out. Jesus said in John 10:10 (NASB): "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." Meanwhile, his approach to life is a self-centered YOLO perspective that will come up short. I felt and feel sorry for him.

I shared the Gospel with him, that Christ offers us His resumé for ours if we believe and accept the truth of what He has done for us on the cross and in His resurrection. However, I also mentioned that it would take a work of the Holy Spirit for Him to believe in that. He said that there was nothing he could do about it. I said that in a sense I agreed with him, but that God can change hearts. The Holy Spirit is either in a person or not (and only the Holy Spirit changes hearts). I also mentioned that I cannot argue anyone into Heaven (and this conversation was an example of that).

While I mentioned that his following his current path would not end well in the end (in this life or beyond), he mentioned that death is not necessarily bad. That is true for those in Christ. However, it is the extreme of bad for those apart from Him.

We concluded soon thereafter, but I also said that despite what he decided or will decide, that I would love him. Please pray for this young man that he wrestle with the "gravels in his shoe" -- the undeniable larger, objective reality and the fallacy of "All is relative" pointing to absolute truth found only in God and His Word accessible by a relationship with Jesus Christ and the witness of the Holy Spirit.

I cannot argue anyone into Heaven. Only the Holy Spirit changes hearts. Yet, I spoke truth in love. May I be humble and listen more and argue less perhaps? Maybe I need to ask this young man more questions so he can wrestle with things. In the end, it isn't about me being clever. Rather, it's about Jesus and my willingness. May the Holy Spirit do the work I trust He will do.


How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
And how will they hear without a preacher?

Romans 10:14 (NASB)


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