Went to the Freethought Montgomery meetup today in Montogemery, AL.
Blair Scott, the head of the Alabama Chapter of American Atheists was there. He's a pretty cool guy. He is a veteran debater and activist for the atheist community. Anyway, we were all in a restaurant called Jalapeno's, and apparently someone (at another table) said something about us "being crazy". I replied (in a loud, rude voice), "At Least We Don't Think the World is SIX THOUSAND YEARS OLD!!!"
Everyone got a laugh out of that one.
After that, I dropped by the Books-a-million. Looked around, then went outside just cuz I felt like walkin'. And guess what: Some twenty year old guy comes up to me and starts giving me the "Have you ever told a lie?" routine. He was a pretty nice fella, and certainly could keep the conversation going, so I decided to talk with him for a few minutes.
I was nice and polite the whole time, but let me tell you: I gave him and his friends hell.
He asked me where all of this magnificient beauty came from. I answered that if we say "God did it" then it would seem that God would require some explanation since he would have to complex in some sense (by being intelligent and having an orderly mind). So why not require an explanation for God? "That's the unanswerable question," one of his friends replied. I responded, "Well, why can't we just say that the universe requires no explanation?"
I didn't get much of answer from them there.
I also did not get much answer when I asked how a loving God could give someone infinite punishment for finite sins. They responded that since God is perfect, up next to him my faults and mistakes are horrible. That may be so, but you cannot make a finite number of faults and mistakes infinite no matter how much you exaggerate them.
I was also told that if I did not believe in something I might fall for anything. While it may be true that you can fall victim to a lie if you do not have some standards, I don't think taking one special thing on faith really cuts it. In fact, it makes you vulnerable: Couldn't someone just take radical Islam on faith? I explained to them that logic and observation are the foundations of my knowledge because logic (such as the Law of Non-Contradiction: Contradictions can't exist) can be understood as self-justifying: They are true and do not depend on any other facts. It is also true that I have certain experiences, they may not be true to reality, but I cannot deny that I am always experiencing something.
In the end, I hope I opened some minds. I also have to say that in some sense I respect these guys and girls: They were using their free time and working up their courage to talk to strangers because they cared about them and did not want them to spend eternity in hell. On the other hand, maybe they should have spent some more time thinking out their world view and questioning what they believe.