So that was an interesting week. The earth turned, prayers were made, meals were done (including an adventure with vegetable stir fry), the joys and frustrations of work and study abounded, topped off with a dollop dealing with the labyrinthine world of financial management. Not bad, not a bad way to spend some time.

First there is this: The Atheist Who Went to Church, aka, the eBay atheist who was featured in last year’s Wall Street Journal, who agreed to “sell” his soul i. What followed was something that could only happen today: man sells his soul on online market place, agrees for a price and opportunity to be convinced otherwise and in return he gets a book deal and makes a wheel barrel full of cash. Not bad work if you can get it. Today, Hemant Mehta is still an atheist, though he says he has different impressions of Christians than he did before, a few excerpts:

You should ask: Are atheists really bad? Why do we think other religions are wrong? And not just “I’m right, so they’re inherently wrong,” but what really do they believe? Why do so many people believe these other things? Why do only certain people believe in Christianity? How do we know what’s divine? How do we know every single thing the Bible says is true?

And I know some of these questions have been answered in apologetics books, but it would be great if more regular people, not just academics and authors, asked themselves these questions. I think that might make their faith stronger—or maybe it’d weaken it—but more than anything, it would get them thinking, to really distinguish what they believe.

And I want to say—that’s OK! If you’re talking with someone who’s also not trying to convert you to atheism or another religion, but is just trying to have a discussion with you, it’s OK if you don’t have the answers. Talk about the questions you have. You may find you have some of the same ones. You can always read and look up material after the conversation, but just talk while you’re together!

Clearly, most churches have aligned themselves against non-religious people. By adopting this stance, Christians have turned off the people I would think they want to connect with. The combative stance I’ve observed is an approach that causes people to become apathetic—and even antagonistic—toward religion as a whole. Many evangelical pastors seem to perceive just about everything to be a threat against Christianity. Evolution is a threat. Gay marriage is a threat. A swear word uttered accidentally on television is a threat. Democrats are a threat. I don’t see how any of these things pose a threat against Christianity. If someone disagrees with you about politics or social issues or the matter of origins, isn’t that just democracy and free speech in action? Why do Christians feel so threatened?

You need to spread the message of Christianity—the message being what Christianity stands for—loving each other, helping the people around you. Those are things everyone can get on board with.

I’d think young Mr. Metha is asking all the right questions, probably could teach class sections on evangelism a lot more effectively than are done now. I’m struck more than anything though, with his idea that folks of differing beliefs and ideas should just talk, tell their stories, live out what they believe, and then see what happens. Odd thought, isn’t it? Seems he’s saying that direct conflict shouldn’t be the first resort, or at least we should wait until introductions are over first. Probably the long term effect of the deep winter retreat that the evangelical, American world entered into early in the 20th century was disconnecting itself from the idea that it had something worthy to present, and instead went out about the work of protecting itself out of weakness, instead of road toward somewhere else.

Secondly, the entire Calvin & Hobbes corpus is now online and searchable by key word, by date of its writing; astonishing isn’t it? What a whirlwind that strip was, its slow days were brilliant compared to most, and it was at its height during the last days of Schultz & Peanuts, Cathy was still single, Dilbert was working with Windows 3.0 and the Family Circus kids…well they never change. C&H has been gone now for over 11 years, and for a strip that had no legal merchandising other than its books, it still seems ever present.

Thirdly, I watched Lost this week for the first time in moons, probably since the first episode of the new season where it seemed the endless thread of the show were braiding a bad copy of the “Myst” series of computer games. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the show, when I just focused on just the show itself, and not the endless speculation on its end. Probably a lesson there.  So this week, the former Iraq Republican Guard torturer, Sayid, ignores the urging of Rousseau to kill Bukharin (who? you know Bukhanin, the man Lenin sent to China to help organize the nascent communists in the 1920’s), while Locke sets off a machine that destroys a technological connection to the outside world. Wow, that’s a thoughtful. Is Lost a student philosophy/politics thesis? Or just a well-told story, where the mother of modernism urges one of its children to destroy the other? Who knows. What is fascinating is the twist. The character who was an instrument of Middle Eastern fascism spares the life of the Russian (named after a communist organizer), because forgiveness based on repentance, was shown to him earlier, while face to face with a former victim of his, all brought to mind based on the presence of two cats… tight writing and metaphor (maybe, with Lost who knows) crammed together to resolve a story beyond expectations. Not bad: “I knew that we all are capable of doing what you did to me. Because I don’t want to be what you were, I don’t want to do to you or others what you did to me or what those children did to this cat.”

Does the rise of Rudy Guiliani in polls among potential primary voters indicate a lessening in the importance of the social issue concerned among the GOP coalition? Maybe, maybe not. I found it interesting that in the GOP Congressional fund raising survey I received the other day had one social issue question out of about 30 or so.

 When does Spring start? The calendar and the axis say around March 21st of course. In this part of the Carolinas, the seasons changed on February 23rd, the first day above freezing temperatures in several months. It’s all one big, warm-up until late July, when the slide southward on the thermometer begins again. And the picture above? It was taken here, about a year ago this weekend,  have a nice one!