For today though, let's pick up the challenges Natasha raised. How do we talk about a living faith with those who don't believe? Would love to hear some of your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
There's one key thing to understand about how non-believers tend to view us - how they understand our position. That's this:
Our faith can't be based on evidence, because there can't be any evidence for something that doesn't exist right?
Although I suspect their assumption is 100% correct of most 'religious' people, it's not at all what disciples claim.
What we're actually claiming is that we have had an actual encounter with God as a living being - something we've actually experienced in some way beyond a few mere coincidences - and that this experience has revealed not only the reality of God to us, but a whole other realm. This experience of God and the 'revelation' it's created is an anchor, a turning point, that out life hinges around. That's the difference between the disciple's lifestyle of faith and mere religious belief. Even just picking that point up should lead to some fun conversations for you :)
Natasha relayed the conversation she'd been having with her friend about how life with God gives us a sense of living for something so much bigger than ourselves. For her friend, life was full enough as it is and she had no need for being part of something bigger - it certainly wasn't cause enough to believe in some sort of God.
Many have a genuine concern for the planet and the future sustainability of life. That in itself is the Genesis 1 mission we were given. And most argue that you shouldn't believe in something for which there is no evidence...well Jesus himself said the same thing:
"Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe, believe the miracles that you may know the Father is in me and I in him," - John 10:37-38.
Don't be put off by non-believers' criticisms of religion, there's an enormous amount there for us to agree with. The truth is that many of them are not actually rejecting God, they're rejecting the false caricature of him that's been presented to them through modern religion. I suspect God would reject that too. What they need to be offered is an actual encounter with the living God instead. Not arguments over beliefs and dogma. Those who really saw who Jesus was were almost always drawn to him - the only exceptions are the religious hypocrites and those attached to their positions of political or financial power. There's a whole lot more for us to agree with non-believers on than we often realise. It's a good place to start.
Equally, there are some really good challenges to put to each other. For the atheist, their strongest argument (in my opinion) is the classic argument about pain. It goes like this: If God is so good and so powerful, how can he allow so much pain in the world? Either he isn't all that powerful (therefore he can't fix it), or he isn't all that good (because he clearly chooses not to fix it).
It's a great argument. However, it relies on some assumptions about what life would/should look like if God is real. Can you spot them? If the story of life the Bible sets out is actually true, how well does that fit with how life seems to us?
See what you can come up with...if you get stuck I'll point them out next time.
And in reverse, I think one of the biggest challenges the atheist faces is an evolutionary one that's often called 'the problem of irreducible complexity.' It's a fancy name for the fact that many parts of our body (our eyes and our ears are the most common examples) and many different aspects of animal life and nature are so inherently complex and dependent on all the component parts working together, they could not have evolved piece by piece. For your eye to transmit sight to your brain and your brain to receive it, the whole process has to work together - if you have a partially formed eye, you have no eye. The birthing process is another example...when the time for labour is right, the mother's womb emits an enzyme and the baby's body emits another enzyme. It is only when those two enzymes mix together that they create a reaction that kickstarts labour. If only one side of the equation evolved, you aren't halfway to the birthing process - you get no birth. The species couldn't be born and would die out. It's some complex and connected, it is irreducible complexity - anything less than the whole and you have nothing. It's a powerful idea with many examples.
These are some things to debate together on both sides of the fence. There's plenty more but let's stop there for now...and close with one of my father's favourite questions:
If God is all powerful, can he create a rock so big that even he can't lift it?