I was quick to point out that none of us had a sufficient answer to this, nor could my fellow students articulate a reason for their belief (which isn’t to say I had it all figured out my damn self). They just believed. It was god. That was it for them. Throughout the discussion I maintained that evil in and of itself is intrinsic to whatever was viewed as good. Each needs the other; if there’s a god and he was the standard for good and the devil was the embodiment of evil, then neither one could or would destroy the other. They kept each other in business. That was the gist of my argument anyway. This earned me more than a few puzzled looks and grumbles. It also led me to make the acquaintance of a couple of classmates, not necessarily freethinkers, but thinkers all the same. One of whom was a devout Christian who tirelessly sought to bring me into the fold.
For anonymity’s sake, we’ll call my friend “Jay”. Jay was a pretty cool guy out of DC, a real low-key dude who loved golf and hip hop. He made it abundantly clear that he was committed to his ‘great commission’ of bringing others to the ‘light of the cross.’ Strangely it was this eagerness that prevented me from slamming the door in his face flat out. That plus I don’t like being a dick. And thus was the first of many days where we sat and studied the scripture.
Very interesting conversations ensued, enlightening debates that served us both well intellectually. I even attended a few services just to see what all his excitement was about (that and the weekends could get pretty boring and it was good to have someone to hang with). That entire time I couldn’t help thinking I was something of a pet project. Perhaps I was to be his first actual convert. With each session Jay and I would constantly come to a stalemate, with him professing his love for ‘the word’ and how he perceived it to work in his life, while I despite not having read the book nearly enough to point out it’s many atrocities, simply countered with sheer common sense. The conversation that comes to mind most often is the one we had over the book of Job. The story where god and satan make a wager to see how long an innocent man keep going after receiving one divine screwjob after another, including but not limited to his slaves, animals, and children being killed (Job 1:13-19).
At that time my knowledge of history, philosophy and science could have been measured as very little, but it turned out to be enough in defending my position. I raised questions, offered counter arguments and didn’t hesitate to throw out a handful of zingers that were oozing with blasphemy. “I can tell that you don’t respect this”, Jay once responded. And why should I? I loved the guy to death but did he really think I would give him a pass? “This book has the answer to EVERYTHING.” What? “We were made from the earth; he took a pile of dirt and made it something glorious” Huh? ‘Do what I say or burn’… See where I’m going with this?
Try as my dear friend might his efforts for conversion proved futile. And it’s not like I didn’t approach this with an open mind or heart; I chewed on for weeks, came at it from almost every angle I could at the time, it was just wooden nickels to me. All the same, I understand why he got such a kick out of it. If the salesman’s got the right rap, seems like a pretty sweet deal, and it’s “new and hip”, who wouldn’t snag a one way ticket out of reality.
—Ryan Scales, August 2014