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Meditation 1043
That atheist smiling smugly joke

by: John Tyrrell

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This problematic little tale has been making the rounds of Christian discussion groups. I've reprinted it here as found except for some selective use of italics.

An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, "Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger."

The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, "What would you want to talk about?"

"Oh, I don't know," said the atheist. "How about why there is no God, or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?" as he smiled smugly.

"Okay," she said. "Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff - grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?"

The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl's intelligence, thinks about it and says, "Hmmm, I have no idea." To which the little girl replies, "Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don't know shit?"

And then she went back to reading her book.

Now go through the tale again and replace "atheist" with "evangelistic Christian"; and the other two italicized passages with "how giving your life over to Jesus Christ means life everlasting in Heaven and saves you from eternity in the fires of Hell"; and, "Jesus and eternal life in Heaven or Hell."

Doesn't make a bit of difference does it? The little girl's counter-argument is just as good. It also stands up if you go with "Tea party politician" instead of "atheist" and "the evils of the communistic Muslim Obama's Obamacare"; and "President Obama and universal medical insurance" to replace the longer passages. It's all the same with pretty well any group and position. And the counter-argument of "you don't know shit" only makes logical sense if someone is trying to explain the digestive processes of grass-eating mammals.

But it's only a joke isn't it? We shouldn't get overly concerned about how rational a joke is.

However, a joke intended to mock a specific group (as this one is) should at least start out with a reasonably believable premise.

Now is it really non-believers who open unsolicited discussions with total strangers to convince them of the benefits of non-belief? Or is it evangelicals who try to convert people unasked? I think we all know the answer.

Nearly all of us have had Christians come knocking on the door. We've been approached on the street. We've been approached by colleagues at work. We may even have been unfortunate enough to have one of these evangelicals sit next to us on a plane. Or even on a hike into the Grand Canyon. (Meditation 1001)

I would estimate this type of approach has happened to me at least a hundred times, particularly if I include the Scientologists and Hare Krishnas. But in 69 years, I've not once been solicited in this way by a non-believer.

And that's the problem with this joke. The premise is fundamentally flawed. It more applies to those Christians who smile smugly as they pass the story around.