I’ve learned quite a bit in just two sessions of doing “the cookie thing.” First, I’ve found that people really enjoy talking about themselves (shocker) and about their beliefs. Second, I’ve found that almost everyone believes in some sort of “higher power.” It’s almost as if everyone believes in God, whether they know it or not, by default. I’ve only met one atheist so far, Gabriel (ironic, right?), and he made the typical empirical evidence spiel. He grabbed a cookie and jetted, so I didn’t get to talk to him much. However, we are Facebook friends now so maybe we’ll keep talking. I almost always try to mention the term “atheist” when the cookie recipient explains his/her beliefs. They don’t like me applying that term to them; for whatever reason, the title of atheist scares them.
Another thing I’ve learned is that some people don’t want to be sincere about this conversation right off the bat; but if you work them enough, they’ll open up. I’ve met two pastafarians so far; i.e. members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I’m not joking, that’s what they told me when I asked them about their beliefs; although I didn’t give them cookies until they were sincere about our discussion. One of the pastafarians, his name escapes me, talked with me for about 10 minutes. When we got down to the bottom of it, he really did believe in a Higher Power; but like so many, he lacked the Christian framework.
Once we established his basic beliefs, I asked him “Who was Jesus?” I got the usual “teacher,” “good man,” etc. All of the people I talked to said something along the lines of teacher, careful to allow his existence but deny his deity. I asked one of them how we know these things about Jesus, he told me “The Bible.” It’s odd to me that he would respect the historicity of The Bible but deny Christ’s deity. At this point in the discussion, I try to work in the Gospel. I usually say something similar to, “If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, Christianity is false; if He did rise from the dead, Christianity is true.” I haven’t had one person dispute this point. This is where I bring in the martyrdom of the disciples. I explain that the disciples genuinely believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and they all eventually died for this cause. Now, why would they all go to their graves defending Jesus if he had died and stayed dead? What motivation do they have for this? There was no pay, no glory, no physical benefit to preaching Christianity in the 1st Century. One answer I got to this argument was, “Because they wanted to force their beliefs on other people.” I told him that he was very much going against the scholarly grain when he held this belief, but he seemed to like that. He was the constantly sarcastic type. Overall, this approach seems to work pretty well; it makes Christianity sound more reasonable.
Disturbingly enough, I’ve met three people who were not Christians, yet grew up in church or currently go to a church. One of them told me he was a Catholic, but not a Christian. This was an odd, sad discussion. We established that this title of Catholic was more of a culture title than a reflection of his beliefs. He didn’t like the way the catholic church “crammed their beliefs down your throat.” I asked him (Omar) if he believed in God, he told me, “If there is a God, He just wants to watch us squirm, or He’s too lazy to help.” What a depressing view to hold. Omar is currently looking to Buddhism, and he seems to like it. In Buddhism, you control your own destiny. I tried to make the case that if Karma were real, then successful evil people would not exist. He replied, “Karma doesn’t happen instantly; it might take a while.” There are too many problems with the idea of Karma to list here, but it was clear that he was going to hold to Karma no matter what I said. When you allow an infinite amount of time for Karma to punish someone, it’s easy to believe in. Even if the evil dictator dies in luxury, the Buddhist will say, “Don’t worry, he’ll be Houston Astros fan in the next life.” Jokes aside, this peace of mind that evil will ultimately be punished makes Karma easy to believe in and tough to overcome.
The problem is not with people believing in God, seeing as most do. The problem is with the secular perspective of Christianity. They see it as equal to one of the many religions of the world, rather than truth, or even possible truth.
Not counting the first session, I talked to 9 people. It only took about an hour and a half. Honestly, If I had all day and 50 cookies I’m confident that I would leave with zero cookies and 50 stories about non-Christians. At one point, I had about 5 people around my table, listening to my discussion with the first person that grabbed a cookie. It seemed to interest them. This is where the atheist came in; he was one of the last to join, so he left when the others got sick of standing around.
This method isn’t perfect. I’m not sure what to do once the discussion is over. I’ve friended a few of them on Facebook, but I’m timid to contact them and don’t want to seem overbearing or pushy. I’m thinking of starting a Facebook page or group where a group discussion can take place, although I don’t know how many would actually participate. Feel free to suggest something.
If you read this, please pray for myself and the people I talk to.
Just a cool side story, when I first sat down and laid out the cookies, I prayed specifically for this person wearing a hat would come talk to me. He did.
Also, I haven’t heard back from Alec. Hopefully I’ll see him around campus.