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An atheist, an agnostic, a seeker & me

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Yesterday on the Delta flight from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta as we waited to taxi, the flight attendant wanted to know if the three of us in exit row seats knew how to open the emergency door. She offered a free drink if we knew where the sliding ramp was stowed. “In the compartment in the d…
By Seth Barnes
Yesterday on the Delta flight from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta as we waited to taxi, the flight attendant wanted to know if the three of us in exit row seats knew how to open the emergency door. She offered a free drink if we knew where the sliding ramp was stowed.
“In the compartment in the door right there,” I offered and continued, “Pulling that out would be a piece of cake compared to what my sister experienced when on her flight to Kenya. A crazy man attacked the pilot and sent their 747 into a power dive. If two pro athletes sitting in first class hadn’t pulled him off, the plane would have crashed.”
 
“Was he a terrorist?” Asked the agnostic guy next to me.
 
“No, just crazy,” I answered. And we launched into a discussion about terrorists, Iraq, Iran, and religion.
 
The atheist woman next to him said, “I was raised by parents who were Catholic and Protestant in Northern Ireland. I saw what religion can do.”
 
“Religion is at the center of all wars,” said the agnostic. “I was raised by nuns who once beat me in front of my parents. And we know the Pope protects child-abusing priests.’
 
By now the flight attendant was in the jump seat opposite us as we hurtled down the runway for takeoff. “I was raised Catholic. I recently visited a nondenominational church where they serve coffee instead of wine,” she offered.
 
“Those people are just interested in converting you. They haven’t got a clue. I’m a cynic.” said the agnostic.
 
Of course I was interested in converting all three of them, but I could see I needed to join them in their objections if I was going to have any credibility. “Yeah, I think if Jesus were to come back, he’d probably be turning over tables in a lot of the churches he might go to,” I said.
 
“I read the book The Shack, and that was helpful,” said the flight attendant. “God was portrayed as a black woman. Not at all what I expected.”
 
“People make up stuff about God because they have to be able to explain things,” countered the agnostic.
 
“They can’t explain things. God doesn’t exist,” said the atheist.
 
“How do you explain people who die and see God and then come back?” I asked.
 
“I died and came back and didn’t see God,” she responded.
 
“They aren’t technically dead,” said the agnostic, who it turns out, practices medicine.
 
“Have you watched that TV show about the people who’ve had those kinds of experiences?” Asked the flight attendant.
 
“There’s no scientific basis for God,” said the agnostic. “The Bible is a bunch of contradictory opinions of people written long after Jesus died.”
 
“Actually, John wrote his gospel about 90 AD.” I countered. “There is far more textual and archeological proof for the Bible than any ancient manuscript. Have you heard of Lee Strobel’s book? He was an investigative reporter who came to faith by looking at the facts.”
 
Nobody had heard of him.
 
I continued, “The irony is that we discount questions about God because of our experience with people who claim to represent him. People use religion to meet their own needs for control.”
 
By now the flight attendant was up and serving drinks. The conversation continued for most of the flight. Once we landed, I gave the agnostic my card. Maybe he’ll read this blog and we’ll continue the conversation one day.
 
I left the plane thinking, “We Christians have too many conversations with ourselves. We need more conversations like that one.”
 
When was the last time you had a conversation that challenged you to really think?

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