22 February 2009

Forgive an Atheist Today

Today's reading for the last Sunday before Lent is the following (from USCCB):
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days,
it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them,
not even around the door,
and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
"Child, your sins are forgiven."
Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
"Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.
Who but God alone can forgive sins?"
Jesus immediately knew in his mind
what they were thinking to themselves,
so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
'Your sins are forgiven,'
or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk?'
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth"
—he said to the paralytic,
"I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home."
He rose, picked up his mat at once,
and went away in the sight of everyone.
They were all astounded
and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."

In faith sharing between masses at my Church in Baltimore, we discussed forgiveness.

The topic of the Amish in PA and the forgiveness of the child murderer came up. I then talked about the Atheist debates I heard with Christopher Hitchens. In every debate, Hitchens asks this question, "Name something that a believer does that an Atheist does not do." (Not the exact wording) He says no one ever answers this question. I would like to answer.

Unlike most, Christians have the capacity to forgive seemingly unforgivable crimes. The Amish forgave a man who slaughtered many of their children. How is this possible if not for the faith that we have in Jesus: Jesus calls us to forgive those who sin against us and God as he forgave, forgives, and will forgive us.
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
'Your sins are forgiven,'
or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk?'


Someone in the faith sharing group said that someone asked them, "Prove to me that God exists."

This reminded me of The God Delusion of Richard Dawkins that I read about a year earlier. He thought that God did not show enough evidence of his existence. Furthermore, he thought it very improbable that he existed due to the similarity between God and the Ultimate Boeing 747: God is much too complex to exist. (I will get to this quandary and others in future posts when I continue to go through the book.)

I told the person in faith sharing that the burden of proof for the existence of (any) God was on the Atheist because the Atheist was asking the question about God's existence. Further, the inquirer was awaiting a reply. The fact (evidence) that two people are conversing shows that something had to create everything in order to make the conversation possible. It is the Atheist's burden to prove that something that is commonly called God (that was not created and that created all of the universe) did not create the possibility for the conversation.

There is no leap of faith required to believe in God. The only leap of faith that is required is for a belief in a particular revelation, or tradition of this God's particular attributes (besides creating the created universe).

The ultimate reason, I see, for people to avoid believing in God is to enable them to do whatever they want under their own power; they want to be released from any responsibility since they're just doing what they were materially evolved to do (without God there is no morality).

Ultimately, Atheists will call good actions bad and bad actions good. Does Christopher Hitchens think that forgiving the child murderer is good? Doesn't he think it better to have the Amish get revenge: eye for an eye, and so forth?

Imagine a world, not where there is no religion (or no sin), but where people forgive as Jesus forgave us in our sin.
For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5: 6-8

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