John and Mary Pay a Visit This morning there was a knock at my door. When I answered the door I found a well groomed, nicely dressed couple. The man spoke first: "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary." Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us." Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss his ass?" John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, he'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, he'll kick the shit out of you." Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?" John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropists. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do what ever wants, and what he wants is to give you a million dollars, but he can't until you kiss his ass." Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..." Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?" Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..." John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us." Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?" Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..." Me: "And has he given you a million dollars?" John: "Well no, you don't actually get the money until you leave town." Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?" Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and he kicks the shit out of you." Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?" John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money." Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?" John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it." Me: "So what makes you think he'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?" Mary: "Well, he gives you a little bit before you leave. Maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty dollar bill on the street." Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?" John: "Hank has certain 'connections.' " Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game." John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass he'll kick the shit of you." Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to him, get the details straight from him..." Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank." Me: "Then how do you kiss his ass?" John: "Sometimes we just blow him a kiss, and think of his ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on." Me: "Who's Karl?" Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times." Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss his ass, and that Hank would reward you?" John: "Oh no! Karl's got a letter Hank sent him years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for your self." John handed me a photocopy of a handwritten memo on "From the desk of Karl" letterhead. There were eleven items listed: From the desk of: KARL 1. Kiss Hank's ass and he'll give you a million dollars when you leave town. 2. Use alcohol in moderation. 3. Kick the shit out of people who aren't like you. 4. Eat right. 5. Hank dictated this list himself. 6. The moon is made of green cheese. 7. Everything Hank says is right. 8. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom. 9. Don't drink. 10. Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments. 11. Kiss Hank's ass or he'll kick the shit out of you. Me: "This would appear to be written on Karl's Letterhead." Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper." Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting." John: "Of course, Hank dictated it." Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?" Mary: "Not now, but years ago he would talk to some people." Me: "I thought you said he was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the shit out of people just because they're different?" Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right." Me: "How do you figure that?" Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hanks says is right.' That's good enough for me!" Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up." John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true too." Me: "But 9 says 'Don't Drink,' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong." John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure." Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..." Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from outer of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese." Me: "I'm not really an expert, but I think the theory that the Moon came from the Earth has been discounted. Besides, not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it cheese." John: "Aha! You just admitted that scientists make mistakes, but we know Hank is always right!" Me: "We do?" Mary: "Of course we do, Item 5 says so." Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic. That's no different than saying 'Hank's right because he says he's right.'" John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking!" Me: "But... oh, never mind. What's the deal with wieners?" Mary blushes. John says: "Wieners, in buns, no condiments. It's Hank's way. Anything else is wrong." Me: "What if I don't have a bun?" John: "No bun, no wiener. A wiener without a bun is wrong." Me: "No relish? No Mustard?" Mary looks positively stricken. John shouts: "There's no need for such language! Condiments of any kind are wrong!" Me: "So a big pile of sauerkraut with some wieners chopped up in it would be out of the question?" Mary sticks her fingers in her ears: "I am not listening to this. La la la la la la la la." John: "That's disgusting. Only some sort of evil deviant would eat that..." Me: "It's good! I eat it all the time." Mary faints. John catches her: "Well, if I'd known you where one of those, I wouldn't have wasted my time. When Hank kicks the shit out of you, I'll be there counting my money and laughing. I'll kiss Hank's ass for you, you bunless cut-wienered kraut-eater." With this, John dragged Mary to their waiting car, and sped off. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Paula and I were on the road this holiday weekend (yesterday was Labor Day), and we just got back. We had very limited internet access and couldn't get to your email. Sorry about that. Also, belated happy birthday! Thanks for forwarding me that story about Hank. I've never seen it before. I think I'll archive it and use it for a sermon illustration someday. Here's my take on it: it's a mean-spirited mockery (although cleverly done). The author draws a few bogus parallels and then builds his whole story on them. Basically, the story portrays John and Mary as stupid believers who believe in an absurd system that they've never thought critically about and then leaves you to deduce that all belief systems are equivalent and that all believers are identically stupid. Your colleague was obviously trying to be provocative, and so I conclude that he/she is either scared of faith or has been embittered by previous encounters with Christians. Just show him/her love. If the email was sent to you directly, I wouldn't really engage in dissecting the story with your friend--the deck is stacked against you. All the conclusions your friend will draw are built into the assumptions that underlie the whole story. Instead, show your friend love and have a reasonable answer for his or her honest questions whenever they come up. If the email was sent as a broadcast email, I might handle it differently. Silence might be taken as acquiescence. What I would do would depend greatly on the context. In any event, if he/she really wants to talk about it, focus on the assumptions and illegitimate parallels. In other words, explain how what you believe is different from what John and Mary believe. For example, the whole point of the gospel is that someone has come back from "out of town" to tell us about Hank. His name was Jesus, and that's what makes the resurrection so remarkable. (Incidentally, it's not really fair to compare the afterlife with going on a trip out of town. Death is fundamentally different than a road trip.) It's also not legitimate to compare Hank (who would need to be a tangible human being) with God (who is by definition invisible and intangible). It's not as though there are no logical reasons to believe that God exists. There are several, and I personally find them compelling. We've talked about some of these at Chi Alpha. Most importantly, the idea of a forced choice between "kissing Hank's ass" and "Hank kicking the shit out of you" as a parallel to heaven and hell is just plain silly. It misses the point entirely. If we love God (as evidenced by our life here on earth), we get to be with God. That's heaven--living in the presence of God forever. If we don't want to be with God (as evidenced by a lack of desire to connect with God on earth) then we get what we want. That's hell, being isolated from God forever. I could go on, but this story was somewhat of a rhetorical trick. Was that what you had in mind, or did you want me to address it on a different level? I hope it didn't rattle you any. Your friend, Glen

source: Anonymous tags: Apologetics, Atheism