Saturday, 14 July 2012

Things Christians Say, part 24: Personal relationship with Jesus!

A weekly series of responses to the things Christians say to atheists, based on the video reproduced here on 30th January 2012.  The aim is to tackle one every weekend, to give both a moderate, polite response to each question ('Piano'), followed by a more forceful rebuttal of the same question ('Forte'). 

I have a personal relationship with Jesus - Christianity is not a religion.

For both of the following answers, let's get one thing out of the way.  By any real definition, Christianity IS a religion.  I covered my take on the topic in this post, Not a religion? a few months ago.  So now let's look at the 'relationship with Jesus' part of the above claim.


Some Christians tell me that they know Jesus.  They are in contact with him on a daily basis.  They don't believe that this is just in their minds but they can't explain how they can do this when there is no doubt that it is not managed by a great number of other Christians.

I'm genuinely interested to hear something that might make me understand this claim a bit more, and compare this with testimonies from other people who talk to me about different spiritual experiences.

Just this week a friend from a Portuguese Catholic background explained to me how she is aware of spirits in the world, told me how she interacts with them and how she has learned to drive them away.  (I tend to think that these can't be Catholic spirits by the way.)

Also this week, an Muslim colleague has talked to me about 'djinn' - spirits of the Islamic world.  I think she was surprised that I knew something about the idea.  

I have to treat both claims with the same amount of respect as that of having a relationship with Jesus.  It doesn't mean that I necessarily have to believe any of them, however much I like the people who tell me about their experiences.

I don't see how these three claims are mutually compatible, and I don't see why I should treat one of them with greater favour.

However, I'm still listening if you have a good answer.  I'm not holding my breath though.



I like evidence.  If I see evidence I tend to accept things much more easily.

So if we break this down to the basics:
  1. You claim that there was a Jesus - and yet the only 'reliable' evidence for his existence is in the bible and the non canonical texts that failed to make it to the bible.  The documents that we do have are mutually inconsistent, were written decades after he is supposed to have lived and are impressively unclear what Jesus might have been like.
  2. You claim to be in contact with him, with enough certainty that you not only know him but have a two way conversation with him.  Yeah right!  Get back to me if you can provide evidence for that surprising claim.
So if Jesus didn't exist, then I fail to see how he can exist now.  Even if he did exist and was resurrected, I still don't see how he exists in the natural world now.  And if he does exist, I don't understand the mechanism for the communication.  That doesn't mean that it doesn't happen of course, but I have to say that I don't find the idea to be overwhelmingly probable.

Last week: The banana
Next week:  Atheism is the thing you do when you are being rebellious.


LadyAtheist said...

I find this personal relationship claim to be totally bogus, as well as the "I love God" rockstar version of religion.

I recently read Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain, which goes into some of the neurology of why people believe they're in contact with spirits. I doubt they would ever accept that it's a trick of the mind, though, especially when they are surrounded by others who feel the same way and they have a fairy tale to frame the experience.

Plasma Engineer said...

I must apologise to Lady Atheist who leaves comments quite often. I just found four of her good comments in the spam folder, and unspammed all of them. Since I see them in my e-mail I hadn't realised that they hadn't been published.

Plasma Engineer said...

Schermer's book is here on my desk as holiday reading. Looking forward to it.