The following is the entire conversation that I had with Vernita Simmons. We hold very different religious beliefs. It was quite interesting!
Vernita, this is a surprising interview, to say the least. We're on opposite sides of the religious spectrum. Your book, Capturing the Spirit of God's Word with Vernita, is a thoughtful exposition of embracing God's work. My book, Operation Cosmic Teapot, is a satirical look at how God is ultimately powerless in this world. How do you respond to people like me?
I think you are just what Jesus ordered to give proof of the amazing love and grace of God, to say the least. And as we walk together thru our peculiar and distinctive books, perhaps, we'll use our own unique differences to build a bridge thru which opposing forces becomes the greatest of allies.
Tell me Dylan, what incriminating evidence are people who oppose Christianity inclined to use to justify their need to dispose of God?
That’s an interesting question. For me, I would rather be able to believe in a god. I’m similar to Jean-Paul Sartre in that way. I think that there would be a great deal of comfort in knowing that there is a higher power looking over us; however, I am unable to find enough evidence that there is one. Without that bit of evidence, I am unable to have faith.
Now, for atheists that do want to dispose of God, I’m sure that there are a number of reasons. I think the most common reason, though, is the hermeneutic one. That if they can’t believe or understand something, then their goal is to either make everyone the same or destroy it.
I think it’s a similar notion to that of the early Roman Catholic Church. I mean, do you see a resemblance to the movement of some atheists to say the goals of the early Crusades? And how does a modern Christian account for that kind of behavior?
Well..... Your answer is intriguing. In regards to evidence that God exists... for me, I witness such every day of my life in one form or the other. But, what fascinate me is when I watch trees going from being barren in the winter to slowly budding during spring time – And within a few weeks, it's full of beautiful leaves send flowers. When I look up and see a blue sky filled with massive white clouds.....I know that neither I nor no human could had created such. The very existence of humanity tells me that God exists. What exactly would it take to regain your faith?
Now- in regards to the goals of atheists compared to that of the early Crusaders, first and most importantly, it's not for me to judge the actions of others. Though I agree with your analysis that their goal is to either make everyone the same or destroy it. As a Christian, I feel such people are threaten by the very existence of God and Christianity. Think about it..... There is no other denomination which gets persecuted like Christians. And for what reason? Because we believe God is the one and only true God.
Now - I respect the beliefs of whoever without trying to impose my beliefs upon them. And it is only when we can come together despite our differences of faith and respect each other by agreeing to disagree without becoming enraged can we build a bridge of harmony. But, because the enemy has blinded the eyes and minds of many, there will always be a sect of theological biases who will continue to fight against anyone who don't agree with their religious rhetoric.
As far as how to account for such behavior...... There comes a time when you just have to love the meanness, ugliness and hatred out of whomever. No it's not easy but the more we become more like Jesus and follow His example of the cross, we actually put on His nature and character. Some will be converted while others will remain smoldering in a stony heart. And to combat such actions, I've devoted two chapters in my book on the topic of forgiveness.
Do you feel, forgiveness should be mandatory regardless of the how horrible the maltreatment imposed on you by others? Would the world be better off if we all sought vengeance?
To answer your first, question, what would it take me to gain faith, I think the answer is simple enough: solid evidence. Or rather, I don’t think that I could have faith, per se, but rather I require something more firm. Like a visit from the big guy. Otherwise, to me, he is a cosmic teapot, which should be explained. This is also a quick plug for my book, which takes its name from Russell’s allegory.
Bertrand Russell wrote an allegory explaining to us that there is a little teapot that floats between Earth and Mars. No one can see it. Even the best instruments that man can make cannot detect the teapot. He goes on to say, that even though the teapot can’t be seen, he knows that it’s there. The purpose, of course, is to show us that making a claim requires proof. That’s exactly how I feel about God.
On to your second question about forgiveness, I guess the short answer is that yes, of course we should forgive others. Now, that gets more difficult, depending on the atrocities committed. For example, if someone speaks bad of another person, that would be easy to forgive. A serial rapist, on the other hand, not so much. Context is important in this case.
I had an interesting conversation with someone on Facebook, which was quite out of the blue. He asked me if a person can be good and not believe in God. I’d like to ask you that same question. Do you think that a person be good and not believe in God?
Aww.........I appreciate your feedback. Now – In answer to your question......Yes, I believe a person can be good and yet not believe in God. Before I became a Christian, I was a morally good person. But, I knew there was something missing in my life and that if I died without knowing Christ I would not inherit eternal life. And my choice to adhere to what was just and pure isn't because I'm a Christina, it's because of the manner in which my parents and grandmother raised me. They instilled core values in me which being a Christin only reinforces that what is righteous.
You see - It comes down to what morals and values an individual has. This reflects the home environment in which such a person has been exposed to or how one has been raised. What I consider moral in my culture and upbringing may not be what someone else agree with. However; regardless of what a person may choose to believe, God's standards for morality is firm, uncomplicated and unchanging. Surely there is both good and evil in this world. And there is a right way of doing things as well as the wrong way of doing things. Now, there must also be accountability and responsibility for the choices we make. The question is; am I mature enough to take responsibility for my actions or will I make excuses and affix blame? Here is my question for you. Can a person go to heaven just by being good without having received Jesus as their Savior? Can you back this up with scripture?
Well, being the atheist that I am, I would have to answer that there is no heaven, regardless of what scripture says. To me, this idea of an afterlife where the good get into heaven is clearly man-made.
Looking back into history, we can see why Christianity rose to such prominence in the first place. When the apostle Paul goes to Rome, he is met with disdain from the Roman patricians. They do have reason to fear him because of his message, that there is a single god, and that the meek will gain entry in a wonderful afterlife. This was a uniting factor, a banner under which plebeians and slaves could rally. With this singular promise, Christianity grew in number very quickly.
If there was no promise of heaven for the less fortunate in Rome, then there is no Christianity today. It’s really as simple as that. When Constantine the Great and Council of Nicaea organized the New Testament, the gospels that they had chosen to include in their new canon solidified the idea of heaven as a place for the meek. Their purpose was to put in control mechanisms for the religion; that is to say, they organized a church that would become incredibly profitable and maintain control of the plebeian population. Entry into heaven seemed somehow regulated by the church and the Christian population respected and obeyed them.
I know that this sounds terribly jaded but the documents survive. But it is impossible for me to get past the fact that the documents are manmade and selected to solidify the church’s position in the new-found religion.
How do you know that there is a heaven, Vernita?
The documents survive...... An interesting statement indeed. But, God's infallible word stands firm and is the undisputed truth. And in answer to your question....I know unequivocally heaven exists because it is a promise of God to those who trust in Jesus thru accepting Him as their Savior........The redeemed children of God. It's reserved for those who live faithfully and loyal to God and endures until the end of time and whose name are written in the Lambs Book of Life. (I Corinthians 2:9; Revelations 21:27).
You see - heaven isn't a place where the good dwells after they die. My good works will not usher me into heaven. Heaven is where the righteous dwells forever. And we wait with great expectancy to see Jesus face to face. (II Peter 3:13). It's an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled reserved for the righteous. (I Peter 1:4).
God will wipe away every tear, morning, crying, there will be no more pain nor death. And there is no need for the light of the sun or moon for God's glory, splendor and radiance illuminates this glorious home where the city is pure gold and its wall adorned of precious stones. (Revelations 21: 16-27). This brings me hope and is why God urges everyone to choose whom they will serve. (Joshua 24:15). Certainly, man, in his finite mind can't possible make up such a place. Nor is any human capable of determining the eternal destiny of others. Neither does God send people to hell. It's His desire that none should perish but all to come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9).
Ultimately, we determine our own eternal destination by the lifestyle we choose to live. And as for me, I choose to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, unashamedly and without fear of anyone's judgments or condemnations. Simply put; I choose to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, strength and mind and my neighbor as myself. (Luke 10:24). And certainly, it is thru God's forgiving grace and amazing love I am saved. Most assuredly, I am excited in my spirit and looking for that blessed hope that one day I will reign with Christ forever.
It has been a pleasure and an honor dialoguing with you, Dylan. I am inspired and empowered.
Vernita "Neat" Simmons is the Author of "Capturing The Spirit Of God's Word with Vernita".... An inspiring book encouraging others to see themselves as God see them and her amazing journey transiting from a single parent on welfare to an aspiring author. She's the Assistant Publisher/Interview Manager and a Feature Writer at Faith Filled Family Magazine and a Contributor to InCourage Christian Service Workers and LinkedIn Pulse. She resides in southwest Florida with her daughter and three grandchildren which keeps her vibrant and exuberant.
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