Red River Valley Atheist-Orthodox Exchange Post 1

With this post, I introduce what will (hopefully) exist as a monthly series on this blog.  Jon Lindgren, professor emeritus of economics at NDSU and former mayor of Fargo, ND, who is a member of the local Red River Freethinkers group, and I have decided to go public with our exchanges online.  Now, please note that although it says “atheist” in the headline and title, Jon would tend to prefer “skeptic” or “humanist.”  I, of course, will be coming from an Orthodox Christian position.  It is who I am and so to claim anything else in this dialogue would be disingenuous.  Originally, we had conceived this exchange as something that could occur monthly in the regional newspaper here but we have decided to move forward with this and start posting it here instead.  You will notice that we tend to have two different styles of writing, representing two different processes for thinking.  I’m sure psychologists could have a field day with that alone!  Rather than being a distraction, we hope it will add a layer of depth and interest.

Readers should also note that we are neither scientists nor philosophers.  To some, this could be seen as a weakness.  We hope it will be seen as a strength.  The issues we will discuss are important to humanity and important issues should be taken on (with humility of course) by all serious thinkers and anyone willing to put in the hard work necessary.  We also hope that our essays will therefore avoid overly technical terminology and phrases.  Readers should also note that our essays are short–400 words each.  We did this because we originally had the newspaper in mind.  We hope by keeping to this format, we will stay on topic and provide a column that is digestible.

Readers should also note that these essays each derive from at least one conversation prior to their posting.  Jon and I are known to chat over coffee and email each other and so when we write an essay, we will have a previous conversation in mind.  The point is to try to introduce you to an ongoing conversation.  We hope this format will be more reflective and helpful than a tit-fot-tat debate style.

To keep things a bit even, I will rotate which essay is listed first and which one second.  For this first post, mine is listed first and Jon’s second and then we alternate thereafter.  These two initial essays simply introduce our goals–why it is we are doing this and what we hope to achieve.

So, with no further ado, here is my first essay: Why Do This

And here is Jon’s first essay: Intro

4 Responses

  1. evangelical catholic

    Mr. Lindgren that is the most gracious interlude I have heard a non-believer give. Thank you for your willingness to consider spiritual perspectives, that is something that many so called freethinkers (or atheists/agnostics) that I have met are unwilling to consider.

    Rev. Herbel thank you for starting this dialogue it is one all Christians are called to take part in with Christian charity.

  2. evangelical catholic 4:17 Thank you so much for reading our opening exchange and for your most generous response. Father Herbel and I look forward to many exchanges, obviously not agreeing on many things, but sharing a passion for understanding each other. Jon

  3. Fr. James

    I am afraid my experience with the Freethinkers has been rather negative. I have encountered hostility and bigotry from atheists. They seem to demand that we never ever show any sign of religious faith and some go even farther in a desire to simply ban religious belief. For example Jon wrote, “It seems like certain believers will never agree to keep their views on religion private.” We have absolutely no obligation to do so according to the COTUS. This exposes a desire to silence freedom of speech and religion.

    He even objects to people putting a cross at a spot where a loved one was killed, as if that really was a government sponsoring of religion. How absurd. It shows such a lack of compassion and tolerance. It is this kind of sourness and lack of civility that characterizes society today. I for one would not mind an atheist putting an A symbol or some flowers by the highway to mark a fatal accident of one of their loved ones. A little mutual respect could go a long way.

    Another Jon quote, “While certain sins remain hot buttons, preachers rail out against them. When they fade, preachers don’t mention them because of the collection plate.” He believes “money determines theology.” What an insult. Does he really believe that we tailor our preaching to how much we get in the collection? He paints us out to be mercenaries and in it for the money. I will gladly compare salaries. The Church has been both rich and poor. We do not change based on how much people give. Our martyrs died and gave all for the faith. These kinds of insinuations do not bode well for this dialogue.

    When I lived in Japan I was invited to a public event. They began with a brief prayer and meditation in the Buddhist tradition. I suppose I could have responded by screaming about the terrible imposition on me and how I would never fully recover from the shock. I could have sued I suppose. Instead I calmly waited until they finished out of respect for their customs and culture. No one forced me to pray. No one was upset that I did not. It didn’t hurt me or offend me. They had no intention to do so. How about we drop the “I’m so offended” routine and actually practice mutual tolerance? Would it hurt atheists to try it?

    I am afraid I have my doubts about this dialogue. Jon may try to sound reasonable here, but elsewhere he reveals a different persona. I encourage people to read Jon’s areavoices page and compare that to what he says here. I hope that this conversation will get to the meat of these issues that so divide us.

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