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Youth Group with Baptists

If you  recall from my very first post here on Teen Skepchick, A Weenie Roast with Baptists (if you don’t recall because you haven’t read it I suggest you do before reading this) where I described an up-close and personal encounter with a group of people that were my political and religious opposites in every way. I’m pro-science. They’re anti-science. I’m an Atheist. They’re devote Christians. I don’t believe in magic. They do and so on.

Although my friends encompass a large political spectrum and I have quite a few after school activities, skeptical topics don’t come up as often as I’d like for more regular blogging. I could seek out craziness on the internet but somehow things on the internet just don’t feel real. There’s a certain separation between the person writing and the person reading that allows things to be said that would otherwise never get said. I remembered my weenie roast fun and all the blogging fuel I got from it and I made a polite inquiry to my friend (dubbed for this blog) Sarah about her youth group. She said they were having a game night at a certain date and time. Another friend of mine and I go to this game night with Sarah and surprisingly nothing out of the ordinary is said.

The next school day I tell Sarah I had fun but I was disappointed that nobody said anything crazy. She said if I wanted to hear something crazy I could go to her youth group meeting (I’m not paraphrasing, she used the word crazy). This sounded like just my sort of thing so I did some schedule rearranging to work it in.

On the night of the event I went to the church. Most of Sarah’s youth group remembered me while I wasn’t sure which ones I had met before. (Hey, they were all wearing coats last time.) We filed into the youth group room. The youth group leader came in, a man with dark hair,  in his twenties, who insisted upon being called Jack. (Hey, look, I’m one of you. I’ve got a first name!) The meeting started with making a list of joys and concerns. This was uneventful.

Afterward, a youth mentioned something they saw on the history channel. This set Jack off on a rant. What I could make of it was that the people who make those shows (about research to see if the events of the Bible could and did really happen) are a bunch of intellectuals that don’t start with the premise that the Bible is the true word of God and that’s why they’re wrong. I wanted to say to him that he’s just dismissing the evidence those shows present because it conflicts with his ideology. But I didn’t want to reveal myself as being a staunch skeptic too soon.

Next he asked us if we wanted to talk about anything we read in our Bibles. The youth group got quiet and looked at their shoes. (As teenagers do when asked to participate.) I went through a phase where I had every intent of reading the Bible all the way through and then the Koran and so on. I made through the first 15 pages. I’m really glad I did because now I can use it to ask a really thorough question. I say to him that I was reading my Bible one day and it said “Suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over a man, but  to be in silence.” (I didn’t really get that far. I saw that passage on a t-shirt but what I said is almost true.) I asked him what it meant. I had a pretty good idea of what it meant I just wanted to see how he would attempt justify it.

Jack, in a round-a-bout and tongue fumbling sort of way (I don’t blame him, he was put on the spot), explained that at the very beginning Adam was created to be dominant over Eve. That’s why God went to Adam when he discovered the fruit from the tree of knowledge had been eaten. Went on to say that, in a marriage, if the man wasn’t dominant over the woman it would be chaos. Like how the youth group would be chaos if he wasn’t there to lead it. I asked him if a man always had to be the leader or if a woman was incapable of leading.  He said something along the lines of a woman could if they had to but a man being dominant was God’s will. He went on to tell the boys in the room that being the head of the household was a heavy responsibility. They had to answer for their family. There’s a lot more of this conversation that I’m leaving out since I have article length to think about. It took up most of the time they had for talking about things we read in the Bible.

The youth group has a thing called “Talents for Christ” where they sing and play instruments in the name of their lord. They practice during youth group and I was invited to sing along with the choir. As the music was  brought out I asked Sarah, who I was sitting next to, if she agreed with the stuff Jake said. She did. I was a little surprised that a woman would have that opinion but not very considering Sarah’s other odd beliefs. I asked her that, if she got married, and her husband became abusive, would she still submit to him? First she said that she would never marry someone like that. I volunteered that he was nice at first and became abusive later. She said she would stay with him and hope that things would get better: “Have they been telling you that?” I said, “Dear God!” She just looks at me uncomprehendingly.

I asked Bethany, the same Bethany I debated with the whole weenie roast, good times, the same question I asked Sarah. She said that she’d get help from her church. An alright answer, better than Sarah’s. Next I am given free ice cream by the youth group leaders. Which I thank them for. Then, after everyone is finished, a folder with music. I very quietly sang along, hoping not to ruin the beautiful harmony. After choir practice was over, and youth group as well, I think of a really good question to ask Jack. Assured that he won’t mind, I went over to him where he was standing in the back of the room.

I knew this would be my last chance so I pull out the really big guns: “Something has been bothering me for a while.” I said, “How can a loving god allow so much suffering?” I know I’m not the first to think of this, but it’s still a really good question. He says it has to do with free will. I asked him to explain. He told me to image little robots living on a near by table top. He asked me, if I was there god and I forced them to love me, would I be satisfied with that? I told him that what he claims God does isn’t free will at all. It’s like a husband saying to his wife or children, “Love me or I’ll beat you.” It’s not a choice at all. What God does is even worse because he says, “Love me or I’ll torture you forever.” But Jack seemed to think that choosing between loving God and spending an eternity screaming in a fiery lake is free will.

There was really no point in trying to convince him. Though I was going to try, but my mother had come in without my noticing. She told me it was time to go. Slightly embarrassed I thanked Jack and left. It seems like every time I spend time with Baptists I encounter beliefs I thought were reserved for the ancient past and internet crazies.

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Lyra Lynx

Lyra Lynx

9 Comments

  1. March 30, 2010 at 5:02 am —

    I must say I admire your ability to engage in this sort of activity. I’m afraid I’d get seriously angry and/or go straight into rabid atheist mode. Actually I know I’d get seriously angry. Serenity now! Serenity now!

  2. Lyra Lynx
    March 31, 2010 at 8:27 pm —

    I have to say I’ve gotten pretty close to going into rabid atheist mode. Though staying out of it is not as hard as you might think. Mostly right after hearing something inflammatory I’m just shocked. Later, I think of clever responses. The hard part is not saying them to Sarah when I see her at school.

  3. exarch
    April 1, 2010 at 10:06 am —

    I think exposure is a big factor in triggering “rabid atheist mode”.

    The more you hear the same old tired argument, the more you impatiently jump to the response “geez, people still believe that nonsense?” Even though for the person who just came up with it, it might be the first time they’ve ever heard it or they just came up with it and think it’s brilliant.

  4. April 13, 2010 at 11:45 am —

    One of the most frustrating things, IMHO, is when you start noticing that many of the religious counters to arguments you might make are little more than cookie-cutter responses, lifted from standard apologetics by folks like Josh McDowell or Ray Comfort without anything resembling independent thought or (gasp!) research behind them.

    It gets quite clear at that point that those folks aren’t so much trying to convince you as they are trying to convince themselves.

  5. SteveT
    April 16, 2010 at 10:59 am —

    I’ve actually read some pretty well thought out arguments that reconcile the idea of an all-loving God with the existence of so much human suffering. Sounds like Jack was just trying to parrot something he really didn’t understand. Sadly, the crap-to-quality ratio in Christian apologetics is VERY high. If you are really interested in the topic (and it IS a very good question), I would encourage you to read what Greg Boyd has to say on the subject. You may well not find his arguments compelling, but at least you will have had the chance to hear the arguments from someone who knows how to think.

  6. exarch
    April 21, 2010 at 10:30 am —

    The best way to tackle this stuff is not to try and pose an un-answerable question to trip them up, or trying to get the religious person to use logic (because they can’t, or they would’ve already dropped half the BS they believe in). What you want to do instead is saddle them with a seed of doubt. Something they don’t have to respond to right away, but which might ultimately make them realise the circularity of their reasoning.

    Because in my opinion, most religious people haven’t fully considered all the consequences of the stuff they believe in. One thing’s for sure: you don’t become an atheist because one day you simply decide to be one (contrary to what some religious people may believe). It’s definitely not about the liberty to have sex as you please (which some of the hornier clueless fundies think is our reason for being).
    Rather, you become an atheist because at some point after a lot of introspection, all of the arguments in favor of the existence of god turn out to be nonsense, and you suddenly realise that perhaps god could be scratched from the equation altogether. And when you do, the universe doesn’t grind to a halt, but the next day is exactly the same as the day before, except for a figment of your imagination.

    In other words, don’t say “how can you believe this when science says that …” or “such-and-such contradicts itself in the bible, …“, because those are essentially the same old tired arguments us atheists keep pitching their way, and which (they think) they’ve already settled (using bad logic). It puts them in the same rabid mode we get to when a fundie dredges up that dead horse again.

  7. Lyra Lynx
    April 21, 2010 at 11:03 pm —

    I usually try to plant a seed of doubt by asking questions that fource them to justify their belief. Right away they might give a standard cookie-cutter answer as if it solves everything but I hope they go home and think about it. Like how I go home and really think about what they say.

    Part of my asking questions is to make them think but mostly it’s to sharpen my own understanding of their arguments. Maybe my arguments and their counterarguments are tired and old but they are brand new to me. Everytime I debate with them it sharpends my critical thinking and makes me analize my own beliefs. Even if that’s all I’m doing it’s reason enough for me.

    By the way this Sunday I might be going to Sarah’s church for the Sunday service. I make no promises but visit again early next week and you might just see the third part to my With Baptists series: “Church with Baptists.”

  8. exarch
    April 26, 2010 at 5:19 am —

    Lyra, you posed a good question, sorry if that wasn’t quite clear in my response.

    But it’s rather clear that ‘Jack’ is more or less a lost cause, while Sarah and Betthany are still at the point in their lives where they could change their mind without having to throw away many years of emotional investment.

  9. Lyra Lynx
    April 26, 2010 at 8:15 pm —

    I agree that Jack is a lost cause. I realize that my response made come off like I was offended by your comment, exarch, but I wasn’t. It was actually very intelligent. I certainly am not a master at persuading other people to see the world as I do and I really appreciate when people give me advice.

    It’s always a struggle, for skeptics especially, not to come off as condescending at other opinions. And of course the moment you raise your voice you’ve lost the argument. I work hard to maintain a polite and inquisitive attitude when asking my questions. I usually ask Bethany and people my age because, like you said, there is still some hope that they will change. (Also my arguments are new to them.) When they don’t have an answer they tell me to ask one of the adults. So I decided I would. Just to see what their arguments are.

    I don’t really intend to make any head way with a lot of them. Even the teenagers because they’ve had their parents opinions drilled into them their entire lives. My real goal is to persuade fence-sitters on the internet.

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