My Conversation with an Atheist

Recently my friend Tom and I decided to have a chat. . .Being friends since Year 5, we’ve known each other for quite some time. However, when it comes to our worldviews, we’re on complete opposite sides of the spectrum. I am a Christian and, well Tom, he’s. . . I’ll let him tell you. . .

Zoe: In a few sentences, what do you believe?

Tom: I believe that we as humans are a species that has evolved over billions of years to, you know, rise to the top of a food chain, biologically. We look after each other and we work together to ensure that we have the most comfortable and profitable lives that we can. And I don’t think that there is a God or any sort of higher being that has controlled that. I believe that we are responsible for each other, and that’s nature’s course.

Zoe: What do you think your purpose is? What keeps you going each day?

Tom: My purpose is to make the lives of others better than they are; better than they would have been without me. And practically, that involves making people smile, helping people when they’re struggling … that’s something I do because I believe that it’s right, and simply it just makes me and others feel good. That’s what makes the world go around. That’s how we ended up being the species we are. And, well, I see my own personal purpose as setting goals; setting things that I can achieve that make me feel happy and make me feel valued in a community. I want to smile and laugh and experience because one day I’m going to die, and I want to make sure that when that moment comes, I’ve lived everything the best way that I possibly can.

Zoe: You’ve talked about being a good person and that being a part of your purpose. So, why is it important to you to be good to others? Why is that the right thing to do? 

Tom: Well, it’s partly that that’s the way I’ve grown up and that’s the people I’ve surrounded myself with. But also, it stems from a biological sort of will to be what we call good; that is, it comes from very simple chemical reactions in our head. If I hurt someone else, that’s not going to make them feel good, and that’s not going to make me feel good because I’m not helping us survive. Whereas if I help someone up or help someone through a bad day that’s helping them to feel better, which makes me feel better, we survive. And so that’s where human morals ultimately come from; it’s sort of the process I follow. I see that when I do things that are good it makes me feel good and makes me want to do it more. I think it’s fairly simple that way.

Zoe: How do you view Christians and the way they live? Including where their morals, purpose, etcetera come from. 

Tom: Well, the morals I very much agree with, I’ll start with that. And I think that in today’s world the impact of the Christian society is a good one. I don’t really care where it comes from, but I see Christians helping each other and helping other people because they’re good Christians to praise a God, and, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter whether He’s there or not; it’s a motivation for people to act well, and I see that that helps the world go around.

Zoe: Following on from that then, what do you think about Christians in controversial contexts? Like when Christians are on the opposite side it seems to society?

Tom: To be honest, I think that comes from, and I think most Christians can agree with me here actually, misinterpretations of the same story. And that’s honestly how we get thousands of religions in the first place. And it’s people that see things in a different way. It’s all stories, and they apply in different ways to the world we live in now… The only time when I think this comes to a place where it needs to be stopped, and where I think it gets too far with things like this, is when it’s used in the way that it shouldn’t be. So when the Christian society is able to build a hierarchy through people like priests, and that hierarchy isn’t used the way that it should be, which is spreading the word of God. There have been some cases over the past few years especially where it isn’t good.

Zoe: So then how has going to a Christian school impacted your worldview and who you are, considering what you’ve said thus far?

Tom: Well, I think it’s good to start off with saying that I very much agree with basically all Christian values. You know, in not being an awful person, I think it’s good to treat your neighbours right and look after your family and forgive your enemies if they show that they’ve fixed themselves and all of that. Going to a Christian school has helped me to enforce all these values… I’ve learned values that regardless of religion are essentials to be a good person. So, it’s been a great impact for me going to this school.

Zoe: That’s so good to hear. Okay, now for some more specific questions. What do you think happens after death? I was told not to start with this question!

Tom: Oh no, yeah that’s not a good starting question. But look, I don’t know, obviously – no one knows, although there are some good estimates. On this world … [once you pass away], hopefully, if you’re a good person, you’ll be remembered, but you’ll also be forgotten. And without opening another question, that’s the hard truth that creates religions. That’s the truth that people can’t accept. It’s also what inspires me to live a great life. It’s the knowledge that one day, despite that, yeah, people will love me, I’ll be forgotten eventually. And it’s hard to say what happens when you die. I could be completely wrong. We could all be completely wrong. You know, maybe I’m going to die, and I’ll meet the gates of God and he’ll say “You’ve been a great bloke. Do you see me now?” and I’ll say, “Yes”. Maybe I’ll see Allah or maybe I’ll see Zeus, and he’ll say, “Hi” and I’ll believe him then. Maybe I won’t see anything. You don’t know what happens. All I know is that, yeah, you die. I don’t think anything will happen, but I am more than happy to be proven wrong.

Zoe: On another more specific topic, what do you think about prayer? Do you pray? If so, why?

Tom: Well, I sort of see prayer as just tied in with most religions, who technically in one way or another pray to a God. It’s a way for you to communicate with God. I don’t pray. I have prayed a few times. There were some awful times when I prayed and I said, “If there’s a God up there, please help me… If you’re the powerful person I’ve learned that you are, I will open my arms and give you everything.” And I didn’t hear anything back. I had to fix it myself. And that was fine, you know – I’m a lot better person because of it. So, no I don’t pray… I did it as a last resort.

Zoe: That is all the questions I had for you, but is there anything else you wanted to share? Any take home message?

Tom: I suppose I want to reinforce that – and this is a message from me, but also from most non-Christians – I am so more than happy to be proven wrong. And this is why I’ve had talks with Mr Noble, and I’ve investigated it with, honestly, as best as I can, open arms… obviously there is still a bit of bias. But I am so happy to be proven wrong… I am in no way opposed to the way that you live, and I’m not going to judge you. I have Christian friends and I treat them the same way I treat my non-Christian friends. I’m going to judge you based on your character, and I’d expect you to do the same for me. You live your life the way you want to live it, and if that makes you happy then so be it. And I expect the same back. I expect to learn about Christianity, but I don’t expect the forced “you should be a Christian” which I’ve most of the time not received, and I’m really happy about that. But yeah, that’s pretty much all I have to say.