An Atheist and a Christian sit down to dinner.

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While on vacation, the dinners were wonderful. Our friends prepared a new meal for us every night. Wait a minute, one night we had leftovers. Well, we had a new meal prepared for us most nights. One should not be greedy.

In addition to the incredible meals, the dialogue was a treat, too. Some nights, the kids gathered at the Little Tikes picnic table discussing the grossest way to eat noodles, while the adults sat at the ‘Big Tikes” table, talking about science, marriage, politics and religion.

For some, such topics would equate to sheer and utter misery. (I’m referring to the talks about science, nature, politics, and religion. Obviously, conversations about the grossest way to eat noodles would make for a wicked cool conversation.) However, I find those topics fun and entertaining. Keep in mind, I’m different.

During one of the dinner conversations about marriage, I asked Rob why he married me. Our host and hostess laughed, as Rob deliberated before answering my question. 60 minutes seconds later, Rob said,Β  “I married you because you are different.” We all laughed out loud, and the host said something along the lines of, “Come to think of it, Lenore, you do the different thing very well.”

Speaking of being different, the host and I are different. By that I mean, he and I have differing views on politics and religion. He is an atheist, and he leans toward Democratic political views. Me? Well, I consider myself a Christian, and I lean more towards Libertarian/Republican political views. Thankfully, he accepts my – ahem – shortcomings, and he allowed me and my family to stay in his home and enjoy the wonderful meals he made.

One night, the host and I had a heated discussion about religion. My husband sat silently at the dinner table, while the hostess excused herself, having witnessed enough of his religious debates. She mentioned that while her husband touts himself as being open minded, he is pretty stubborn when it comes to his view of religion.

He and I went back and forth about why we believed what we believed. He touted peer-reviewed scientific data and I touted faith. Funny thing about faith, proof is rare to non-existent. Whereas my friend had more ‘meat’ to back up his side of the argument, because proof is found easily within science. My friend’s viewpoint is fact based, and my viewpoint is faith based. He spoke of books and journals written in this day and age, and I spoke of one book written thousands of years ago by scholars as told by other scholars, passed down decades after everything was said to occur.

I can’t say I don’t understand why my friend has chosen his path.

I admit, I felt intimidated, as my friend spoke of hypotheses and proven theories. (Though even a theory can prove to be incorrect with time.) And, as is often the case in my experience, my friend spoke of zealots within the Christian community, Christians starting wars, etc.

I don’t discount everything my friend brought to the table, I merely believe there is something greater found in faith. I believe faith is bigger than religion. Faith in God is bigger than Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, etc. Religion is a word. There is no ‘meat’ in the religion. The ‘meat’ comes from faith – the belief in something on the basis of … Well, I’ll leave that up to you. One could base their belief on hope, their inner voice, scholars, etc. And, like my friend, one could base their faith on science.

My friend’s viewpoint was not new to me. When we arrived at their house, I made a conscious decision that our family would stop saying grace before meals. (Please know, neither the host nor the hostess would have mind had we said grace.) As odd as itΒ  may sound, I respect his atheist view. I saw no reason why my family should partake in a ritual that could be perceived as a trivial rambling by a person of no faith.

During our heated discussion, I told my friend that my family was deliberately not saying grace before meals. Quickly, he made it clear he didn’t care if we did or didn’t say grace. My response to him was simply, “When in Rome.” Though I do not mean that in the literal sense. I do not go around adjusting my life like a chameleon, ever changing to fit the color or pattern of my surroundings.

The afternoon following the debate, my friends went to work. When my boys sat down for lunch, I asked them to say grace. My friends’ kids were sitting at the table, too. Their oldest said, “We don’t say grace.” Then my oldest said, “What? You don’t love God?”

What followed was a neat dialogue between four kids – ages 4, 5, 6 and 7. I stayed out of the conversation, letting the four of them talk about what they believed and/or what their parents believed. I was fascinated. Once they were done talking, I looked at my oldest and said simply, “Joe, not everyone believes in God.”

I accept the fact that not everyone believes in God, and I accept the fact that those believing in God have differing beliefs. Differences do not bother me. Frankly, learning about differences strengthens my faith. In my world, God created everything. And, in my world, science can explain how God created some things. But, in my world, science cannot and will not ever explain everything. I believe God will keep some of the ‘how’ a mystery. I love a good mystery, don’t you?

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31 thoughts on “An Atheist and a Christian sit down to dinner.

  1. Excellent post, Lenore. First off, I would have prefered discussing gross noodles, too. Second, I love a good mystery. Third, why am I counting? Sorry, I’ll stop.

    I have had many a heated debate on religion within my own family. I’ve even shifted my own beliefs back and forth over the years. When I was little, I believed in God and talked to him like a friend at bedtime, no one told me to, I just did it. I rarely went to church, but my parents raised me in a spiritual way. When I was in high school, I began to question the Bible. Doubt creeped in. Then my dad died, and I found myself reading everything about religion and spirituality I could get my hands on. I still don’t accept every single thing in the Bible as truth, but I believe some of it is. Now I’m in a comfortable place where in my heart I *know* there is a God, Being, whatever– and there is order to the universe, we aren’t just a result of some random Big Bang. Some may say I’m kidding myself to sleep better at night, and I could be “wrong”. there’s always that chance, but to me it’s not being “right” that matters…I know what I believe in and it’s my truth. I’ve seen God, I’ve felt God and it’s my own personal experience that counts in the end.

    • A. Gross noodles are always a fun topic of discussion. B. Mysteries are fabulous. And third, talking in bullets adds validity to what you say. (That’s what I tell myself.)

      I just returned from dinner with a friend. She and I discussed religion a little bit. I just love talking about beliefs – regardless of the belief. I find belief fascinating. We all believe what we believe for different reasons. And yes, it’s all about one’s own personal experience. I can’t explain why I believe in God – I just do. It works for me. And, I accept that what works for me doesn’t work for others. Here’s to our own personal experience! (Glad you liked the post, Darla!)

  2. jacquelincangro

    A great example of why it’s important to respect other people’s opinion / viewpoints and really listen (not just be thinking of the next thing to say). It sounds like your conversation had a positive impact on your children, too, in being able to express their opinions and listen to those of others.

    • Dialogue is a wonderful thing, Jacqueline. Perhaps it is a lost art. Listening to the kids was incredible – and I was proud of myself for keeping quiet. Sometimes I forget about the art of dialogue. (smile)

  3. Carol

    Well done, Lenore. Great read. I shared w/ Michael you lean towards Libertarianism. It’d be common ground – oh, yeah, I think you two discussed this at Leslie’s once.
    But I digress – great post. I thoroughly enjoyed read it.
    Amen.

    • Thanks, Carol. I think I have mentioned being a Libertarian to Michael – I think he blinked when I told him. He may have even smiled. (hee, hee)
      Thank you for commenting! It’s nice to see your feedback. I appreciate it! Oh, and Amen. (ha!)

  4. Andrea HT

    Nice blog Lennie Vo. I’m glad that you felt comfortable enough to have that conversation with my husband AND you stayed a few more days so we could enjoy each other’s company!

    I think the best thing that came out of it though, is the conversation between our kids. While I don’t agree with my husband’s beliefs (or non-beliefs?), I want my kids to be able to make their own decision about religion while being open-minded, non-judgemental and accepting of what others believe. I wish I had been there to listen to the conversation. It makes me proud they were able to have such and “adult” conversation as such a tender age.

    • Honestly, Andrea HT – I hope I remember that moment as much as I remember the shuttle launch. It was such a pure an innocent conversation. As I said to someone else, i am proud of myself for not jumping in and speaking for Joe and Charlie or whatever. It was sooooooo coool. Loved it. Those four kids are seriously awesome kids, Andrea HT. We done did good! Love you! Mean it!

  5. I once teased my Atheist friend by saying, “You must believe in something – elst what are you not believing?” πŸ˜€

    Whatever he believes, it does not get in our way, either. We can work side by side doing something that can be labelled kind or loving. That’s him through and through.

  6. In my experience as a Christian, I’ve found that Christians are more accepting or respectful of atheists’ views than atheists are of Christians’ views. And I thank God for allowing me to be accepting of others. πŸ˜‰

    • I don’t disagree with you, AA. I’d merely add that some Christians are more accepting and respectful of atheists. I think it depends on the denomination. At least that’s the case here in the deep south.

      • Agreed. Didn’t mean to generalize. It also occurred to me that I should have mentioned agnostics, of which my oldest son informed me that he is among. Another parental mission accomplished (or gone awry): brought him to church school as a youngster so he would have a basis for forming his own opinions about spirituality.

        • Agreed, AA. Your oldest son’s views on religion/spirituality may change over time, too. My nephew is an atheist, and I enjoy talking with him. I never tire of this type of conversation. I think my belief is strong, because I am continuously asking questions and talking with others. Oh, and my friend, Andrea HT (Micheal’s wife) leans more towards agnostic than atheist.

  7. I wrote a poem last spring.

    “Questions
    If I ask you a question,
    it may not be because
    I don’t know the answer,
    or don’t have an answer.
    It may be because I want to know your point of view.”

    I would say you handled things nicely. I would say Christianity is about connecting and not alienating. Smart kids you have.

  8. Well done; most people I know would not have been as open to others beliefs (or non beliefs) and certainly would not have handled themselves with the grace you exhibited. The fact that you did .. and did so capably … speaks volumes to your character. Celebrate the differences for that’s what makes life interesting.

    I couldn’t begin to explain WHY I believe to someone who doesn’t .. I just do. I guess that’s called “faith?”

    Wonderful post, MJ

  9. Perfect post Lenore.
    The scientific and faith-based question of the grossest noodle showcased the argument beautifully. Out of the mouths of babes…and through the nose. Children, bless them.

  10. I came across this the other day: “The Dalai Lama said: There are six billion people on this Earth. There are six billion paths to the top of the mountain to meet God.” I really like that.

    As a person who has always loved the sciences and logical arguments, I recently discovered the works of Gregg Braden. He is brilliantly blending science with spirit. Quantum physics is very supportive of many things spiritual- starting with proving that we ARE all ONE. Very cool stuff.

    There needen’t be an either, or; there is room for all (I believe). But why on earth would anyone want to discuss or debate over the dinner table? (I, too, enjoyed your post!)

    • M2M, I really like that quote. Thanks for including it in your response. So true.
      I’m not familiar with Gregg Braden, but I’ll explore what he has done/written.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I promise, if we ever have dinner together, I’ll spare you the debate while we’re eating. (smile)

  11. Very interesting (and well said, Ms. D)!
    I’ll admit to being a huge chicken when it comes to ‘real’ conversations. If I haven’t known someone half my life I’m afraid to discuss anything of too much substance with them for fear they might write me off. Which is pretty sad, really. *sigh*
    But hey… did you hear the one about the Atheist and the Christian who walked into a bar? Now stop me if you’ve heard this one…
    πŸ™‚

    • SIG, I came so very close to making a bar joke while writing. So very close.
      My friends may wish I would speak less. I should ask, but I won’t – for fear they’d say yes. (smile) My friends mean the world to me, because I have put most all of them through the wringer. They’ve yet to write me off, and well – I’m grateful. I’m willing to bet your friends wouldn’t write you off either. Though really, you speak volumes with your photography, in my opinion. I’m glad you found my post interesting, SIG. It is always good to ‘see’ you here!

  12. Three things never discussed at the dinner table when we were growing up
    1. Religion. Jewish mother, Methodist father and three girls brought up in the High Church of England.
    2. Politics – a committed Labour supporting family with one at least daughter out of step and
    3. Money. Not much of it and so discussing it wouldn’t spoil dinner.
    BUT we were free to discuss any of these topics at other times and were encouraged to do so.
    Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

    • Growing up, I’m not sure we had many conversations at the table regarding religion, politics or money. That’s probably a good rule for fear you may ruin someone’s appetite. (smile)
      Thank you for visiting, Judith.

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