Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

God, what a meal.

A cynic, a compassionate atheist, a pragmatic Christian, and a fundamentalist Christian, all received an invitation to God’s banquet.  The cynic got there first, wanting the satisfaction of proving its non-existence before anyone else did.  He was disappointed to find a beautiful table set for four and full of all sorts of beautifully presented and delicious looking foods.

The pragmatic Christian, worried about propriety, figured that being too early might be a form of disobedience, but also worried that being late might have dire consequences, arrived merely respectfully early.

The compassionate atheist, fascinated and curious, arrived exactly on time.

The fundamentalist, breathless, arrived ten minutes late.  He had spent the ten minutes interpreting the various possible meanings of the statement “You are cordially invited by God to a banquet” before departing.

“Well,” said the Christian, “Isn’t everything so beautiful!”

“Its lovely,” agreed the atheist

“But what does it mean?” asked the fundamentalist.

“I see nothing!” spat the cynic.

The atheist grabbed a helping of mashed potatoes with a silver spoon, and looked around to see if anyone wanted more.

The Christian looked longingly at the mashed potatoes.  They looked delicious, but should he eat them?

“I see no mashed potatoes!” spat the cynic.

The fundamentalist gasped, “What are you doing?”

“I was invited to a lovely banquet which began at seven o’clock,” began the atheist. “The time is now seven oh two.  I am serving the mashed potatoes.”

“But who are you to serve the mashed potatoes of God?” asked the fundamentalist.

The pragmatic smiled. He had prayed about it and know knew they were to eat the potatoes. “We’re the guests of God, of course we can eat them,” he drawled, holding up his crystal plate.  The atheist dutifully spooned some on, still looking around for more takers.

“I find no pattern of mashed potatoes in Scripture,” the fundamentalist said suspiciously.

“I see no mashed potatoes,” the cynic insisted.

“What do you mean you see no mashed potatoes, they’re right in front of you,” said the atheist surprised.

“Ha!” cackled the cynic, “I thought you’d never ask.  God is an illusion, this is the banquet of God.  There is no God, therefore, there are no mashed potatoes.”  He leaned back triumphantly in his overstuffed and comfortable dinning chair.

The pragmatic Christian and fundamentalist, scandalized together, cried out “That’s blasphemy!”

Atheist, simply shook his head, and took another bit of roast duck.  “Whatever, Cynic.”

“I knew your free thinking would destroy in the end, Atheist.  You share these simpletons’ disillusion,” Cynic sighed happily.

“Cynic, I have always been more concerned with truth than with not believing in God.  I observe that I am in a magnificently appointed room full of delicious food.  To deny the existence of the veritably of the real merely to fit an existing theory is the antithesis of science,” Atheist paused, ” As such it is your department, and not mine.”

“Are you saying that you believe this is not some sort of illusion?  You fool! I’ll blacklist you!  I’ll end you.  You’ll never publish again!”

Athiest smiled warmly. “I’ve no doubt you could Cynic, you’ve alway held more public support than I in social affairs. Still, all the more reason to enjoy this now, while its in front of me.”  Atheist held some green beans out to Pragmatic and Fundamentalist Christian.

“Thank you, kindly” said Pragmatic.

“I’ll take nothing from your fated hands!” cried the fundamentalist. “Your kind are a cancer on this earth!  You have stolen the Holy food of God and you don’t even believe in him!”

Cynic’s bitter eyes picked up at the mention of cancer.  “Yes!  A cancer, thats what man is!  A festering carbuncle on the buttocks of the earth!”

“Oh, I agree, Cynic, I agree,” gushed the fundamentalist. “Man is filth. A disgusting aberration not worthy of this table of God.”

“I see no table,” growled Cynic.

“Nor do I, Cynic.  My mind could never comprehend the beauty of God.  He would never present my filthy sinning carcass with such splender.  This must all be an illusion created by my own mental filth,” said Fundamentalist piously.

“We are all filthy vandals,” Cynic conceded.

Pragmatic Christian had been listening with growing concern to this speech. “Uh, Fundamentalist, we are brothers, so I hate to correct you in front of our enemies, but what you are saying is wrong.  Man sins, yes, but he was created in the image of God. He is full of incomprehensible value and worth as a result.”

Fundamentalist laughed, a single explosive sound. “Ha! You and I brothers?  I share no parentage with you and your secular humanist plop.  The intrinsic, incomprehensible value of man?  The Bible says all men have fallen short of the glory of God. Fallen short, Pragmatic.  Who can comprehend the ways of God?  Clearly, this room is trap of Satan, a trap of pride and vain glory.  Man and all his work are worthless!”

“Worthless!” agreed Cynic.

“Come Cynic, let us leave this illusion of joy and return the true reality of suffering and pain.”

Cynic rose stiffly, offering his arm for Fundamentalist.

Tears welled in Pragmatic Christian’s eyes, “But brother, you haven’t even touched the food given to us by our Father!”

“For twenty minutes I have sat here, and God has not feed me one bite!” said Fundamentalist primly. “Unlike some people, thought I may starve, I will not presume upon God.”

“But,” began Pragmatic, “You cannot sit at a table God has layed in front of you and told you to go to and talk of starving.”

Fundamentalist smiled condescendingly. “Oh, Pragmatic, who are we to presume to take matters into our own hands? God will build what he wishes.  When we try to do God’s work for him, can’t you see we are usurping Him?”

Pragmatic sputtered, “But its right in front of you and He put it there for you to take!” to Fundamentalist’s back as he walked toward the door arm in arm with Cynic.

An awkward silence descended on the banquet hall.

“So,” said Pragmatic Christian.

“So,” agreed Compassionate Atheist.

“I’ve never really talked to an atheist before,” said Christian.

“I don’t often talk to pragmatic Christians either,” said Athiest.

Pragmatic cleared his throat, “I’m a little afraid of you, to be honest.”

“Yup, me too,” said Atheist around a bite of pheasant.

Pragmatic Christian was delighted.  “I am afraid you will corrupt my mind with your evil atheist ways, are you afraid that I will convert you to Christianity?”

Compassionate Atheist smiled gently before answering.  “Well, no.  I’m afraid of other things.”

“Like what,” asked Christian wide eyed.

“Oh,” began Atheist, “say, an Inquisition.”

“Oh, is that all,” laughed Christian. “We don’t do that anymore.”

Atheist nodded.  “Why is that Christian?  If God is the same today, tomorrow, and forever, why is it that you don’t do that anymore?”

“Well, because God never asked for that!  That was evil men who merely used the power of the Church for evil!” said Christian confidently.

“Ah,” intoned Atheist, “and what will keep that from happening again?”

“Well, that would never happen today!  My Christian leaders are working hard to seize political power so they make sure bad things like abortion and homosexual sex don’t happen.  I am sure they could prevent an Inqisition too when they run this country,” he said helpfully.

Atheist choked a bit on his merlot. “Uh, um..mmmm. Uh, Christian, why did the Inquisition happen again?”

Christian leaned back into the velvet chair, ready to tell a story, “Well you see the Church left its position of spiritual power and, pursuing a ends-justifies-the-means school of thinking, seized political power.  This power was used for good at first, but gradually, the level of power the Church had began to attract evil men who eventually…” he trailed off, his face a mask of betrayal and shock.

“You seduced me, Atheist, you used your evil demonic power to make me think evil of the Church!” Christian yelped. “At least I am not responsible for the Nazi’s!”

“I never knew the Nazis” said Atheist quietly.

“You lie, Atheist, you lie like your father the devil!” shouted Christian.

Atheist sighed.  This had happened before.  He mentally counted to ten and then back down. “Christian, Hitler claimed he would bring back traditional family values.  He was supported by Christians, and often used Biblical points of view to justify his position.”

Christian, realizing he was standing, sat back down. “Well, I’ve heard that before, but Hitler did so many un-Christian things, that I sort of forgot it. I’ve never understood how people who loved Jesus could support something so horrible.”

“Well, it has a lot to do with those two characters who just left, ” said athiest with a wry face. “A skeptic, which most Atheists are, would have investigated Hitler’s claims. It takes Cynic and Fundamentalist to manage a genocide.”

“Yeah, I thought you and Cynic were best buddies, but he seems to really hate you,” said Pragmatic Christian, side stepping the second half of the comment.

“Its all about skeptisim, Christian.  I believe in asking why, and trusting what I see over what somebody tells me.  Cynicism are often mistaken for being skeptics like me, but we have less in common than you and Fundamentalist.”

“Really?” said Christian, “I thought all you godless heathens were alike. Uh.. no offense.”

“Not at all.  Cynicism is about being mentally lazy, assuming that conventional wisdom is true.  Skepticism checks everything to make sure it is as true as it can be.  It looks at all the options and chooses the most likely one.  Skepticism never says that God isn’t real, only that he doesn’t seem very likely within the limited parameters that we can test,” said Athiest.

Christian looked puzzled. “But how does that make Fundamentalist and Cynic alike.  Cynic hates God, hates anything religious, anything spiritual, honestly, even hates anything beautiful.  Fundamentalist is convinced in the beauty and power of God. How come they get along so well?”

Athiest smiled. “Cynic believes that he can figure out anything by consulting what people all ready think.  He only uses the powers of his mind to look at established wisdom.  Fundamentalist believes that he can figure out anything by consulting what people think about his Holy text.  He only used the powers of his mind to look at established wisdom.  The only difference between Cynic and Fundamentalist is where they draw their inspiration.”

“I often thought something like that,” admitted Christian. “Fundamentalist is so concerned with what what has been said about the Scriptures, he often gets distracted from the message, arguing about dispensations and translations.  Neither one really thinks about what makes things true or investigates things.”

Now it was Atheists turn to look surprised.  “I didn’t know that you were that interested in asking why or investigating things, Christian.  I guess I sort of assumed that you were like Fundamentalist.”

Christian grinned.  “Well, you can’t interpret scripture without asking why.  The Bible is a very large book and a skilled charlatan can make it say anything.  We always have to check what scripture says against other scripture to make sure it all fits.  When someone says they have some new doctrine you can’t say ‘Ok’, no sir!  Paul compliments a group called the Bereans for being, as you call it ‘skeptical’.  In my church we call that ‘Being Berean’ and its a good thing.”

Atheist and Christian shared the last piece of pie.  Christian privately thought he had won a great victory for the cause of Christ with Atheist.  Atheist, in turn, found it delightfully ironic that the best Christians were the most skeptical ones. When the last morsel of pie was done, Christian turned to Atheist.

“Compassionate Atheist, what do you think of this banquet we have had.  Do you still not believe in God?”

“I don’t know, Christian.” He said. “I see a beautiful meal, but I never saw anyone make it.”

“But someone had to make this all!”

“Well,” Atheist said “I admit the mousse was divine, but I can’t say that God made this because with the test methods I have, the most reasonable explanation would not be God.”

Christian looked pained.”But if not God, who made all this beauty?”

“I don’t know Christian.  But I can agree with you that it is beautiful,” said Atheist.

“How? What is the source of beauty if not God?” cried Pragmatic Christian.

“I don’t know Christian, but I will enjoy finding out.  The joy of my life to understand mysteries,” said Atheist solemnly.

Christian looked shocked.  “But that is the joy of my life, to discover the mysteries of God. Surely, Atheist, it cannot be your joy to discover the mysteries of his Creation?”

Atheist chuckled, “Why not Pragmatic Christian?  Did you assume since I have never met your God that I saw all the world as a empty gray?  I love life.  I love to explore.  I found your statements about the intrinsic value of man deeply moving.  We agree on so much.”

Christian spoke quietly “I guess I did assume that about you.  Do you really see the world as thing of great of beauty to be explored?”

“I do,” said Atheist.

Then you are doing the work of God.  To bad you will burn in hell, dear friend, thought Pragmatic Christian.

“Well, I wish you luck, Atheist.  I hope we meet again,” he said aloud.

And I hope your “being Berean” delivers you from this madness before Fundamentalist seduces you or kills you, or Cynicism comes calling on the heals of disillusionment.  You’re much too valuable to lose, dear friend, thought Atheist.

“I’m sure we will, we have so much more to talk about.” said Athiest aloud.

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July 8, 2008 - Posted by | Paranormal, Religion, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , ,

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