I heard from Leah the other day! You might remember that she is my husband Butch's 18 year old cousin who asked me to watch The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel. (Initial post which started because of a Facebook exchange (discussed here)) and (Second post)
One of my friends recommended this article and podcast episode from Brian Dunning: Emergency Handbook: What to do when a friend loves woo. After reading this article I reflected on Leah, her beliefs, her lifestyle and her happiness. I had never had the intention of deconverting her, and I'm glad I replied honestly with facts to what she wanted me to watch. I think that it was a good way to handle it. But while I waited to see if Leah replied, I decided how I'd handle seeing her over the holidays. I didn't really expect to get an email reply after several days went by.
I decided to come up with one sentence to let her know that there was no pressure and we didn't have to talk about religion again if she didn't want to. I never came up with the best wording, but I was looking for a way to let her know it was water under the bridge, and that I wanted to focus on our relationship in a positive way, that was what is important to me, not our religious differences.
But she did reply. It wasn't what I expected. Somehow, she turned around what I was saying about the video to being questions I had about Christ, that I was seeking answers to. So she was seeing me as lost and confused while I see her as indoctrinated and, well, delusional. How interesting! So here is what she said:
Know that 1) regardless of if you were family or not, nothing you could say would change the fact that I love you. Being family is merely icing on the cake. 2) You are not at risk to "deconvert" me. I have had too much happen in my short life already to confirm what I believe to be true for you, or any one else, to ever take that away from me. The faith I have in Jesus Christ has never been stronger, and I am completely sold out and in love with Him. It would take a lot more than a lengthy email or two to even put a dent in my relationship with Christ.
Second, I would like to state, wow - I'm impressed with your research, not that I really expected anything less from you, but I'll be honest... I have still not had time to fully go into what you looked in to, and gave me to look at. I'm hoping over break I may find a little time.
However, reading just your comments on the film, I can see where you are coming from, and I'm sorry. I understand your frustrations against Strobel, and I feel like I may have pushed you even further away from Christianity and that was never the intention I had.
I wish I could offer you some clear and definite insight into your questions you had that were as follows:
"If what he said was so powerful why did it take so long for anyone to write it down or even mention him? Also note that Jesus himself didn’t write a single word down. I am pretty sure that most scholars agree that the authorship of the gospels has not been established, and that the people that wrote them were most likely not disciples."
I, however, as you know, am not a theologian by any means, but these questions were the topic of concern at a recent gathering I attended not long before you sent me this email. If you would like, I would love to bring them up to the person who did address these in detail so that I can give you the answers that Christian theologians bring to this debate without me trying to recite it to you and getting some of my information wrong.
What I would can talk about is my relationship with Christ. I would love to answer any questions you have about my person walk in my faith or anything of the sort. I'm sorry I'm not as Biblically grounded as I wish I could be to give you all the information you are seeking, but as I said, if you would like to ask those questions, I know someone here who has gone through seminary and is constantly studying up on the Bible and has so much knowledge he's always willing to dispense if that should ever interest you.
And I guess if you got this far, you'd like to know how I wrapped it up with my reply:
I will say the same to you as you said to me, I'll always love you. You're such an awesome person and I am really glad I'm part of your family. :)
Don't worry, you didn't push me further away from Christianity or religion. I am very happily free of any gods. I spent several years learning all I could about Christianity and Judaism, and a bit about Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism and other religions as well. I found them all to be of human origins and realized I was an atheist around 2000. I didn't stop trying to understand though. I kept learning. Since then I've read even more of and from religions around the world. I've discovered even more of the wonder and beauty of the natural world and how we come to understand it through science. I've come to realize that everything we've ever discovered and investigated scientifically (with proper scientific methods) has shown that the universe is 100% natural. No supernatural has ever been found. So watching some condescending idiot lie and twist facts and information in a video is surely not going to change how I feel about Christianity and religion.
I wanted to tell you, Leah, you are what I would consider a good Christian. And I totally respect you for that. I think of your mom and brother the same way. You are good people, doing good things for other people. You have a big heart. You don't seem to get bogged down with the negative stuff in the Bible. You seem to have picked out the good messages and you actually walk the walk and talk the talk.
While I don't think we need the bible to live good lives (it certainly isn't the best moral guidebook), I respect that you have found a way to get goodness out of it and that you are an honestly good Christian. In fact you could easily be a Christian Humanist. I think you are even if you've never heard of Humanism.
I don't think it's necessary for you to pass what I brought up as Strobel's errors on to your seminary friend. They weren't questions that needed to be answered by you. They were points where Strobel had failed in his arguments. They were for you to look over to see both sides to how he constructed his story falsely.
I'm not a theologian either. So we don't need to go any further with it. Plus, I have a friend who has gone through seminary twice who is willing to answer my biblical questions. Oh, and yes, while he's a biblical scholar, he's also an atheist. (He got rid of his faith after successfully going through 2 different seminaries and being a pastor for about 3 years).
Thanks for the invitation to talk to you about your relationship with Christ. I might do that at some point. If you ever want to know about atheism or Humanism, Butch and I would be happy to talk to you as well, of course.
I've enjoyed this discussion. The door is open for us to have others in the future if you like. You can talk to us about anything, religion included. We're always going to be here for you.
~So there you go. I don't think I got anywhere. And I'm sure Leah probably feels the same way. At least we opened a dialogue about religion and atheism, something that we didn't have before. If you have any thoughtful questions I could ask her about her walk with christ (who is invisible, untouchable, doesn't answer prayers better than chance, and doesn't respond when spoken to [sorry, I can't help myself!]), let me know!