Debating The Year of Living Biblically
At the risk of jeopardizing the Christ-like image that I have so carefully cultivated during the course of our discussion—except for when I slagged Jews, Catholics, Pentecostals, Bahais, and Scientologists before openly advocating religious wars—I think it's time to put our cards on the table. As a born-again Scientologist and hoarder of meaningless facts, you know that the very word Scientology, going back to its Latin and Greek antecedents, literally means "the study of truth." So, I'm going to give you some.
You are an entertaining fellow, a master phrase-turner with command of both English and Polish idioms, and are, without question, a credit to all Operating Thetans. Still, as I sit here in my office, reviewing game films of our dialogue, I keep hearing all this flap-jaw from you about your creed and reverent prayers and miracles. And I don't know how to say this except to just say it: You make a really lousy agnostic. Good thing agnostics don't have a church. If they did, you'd be excommunicated.
Of course, I am not quite the Christian I've cracked myself up to be, either. I have a potty mouth. I take a very loose view of what constitutes a tax write-off. (My wife's clothes? She has to wear something while I write.) I practice daily the Seven Deadly Sins—I don't believe in playing favorites. I am what is called a "lukewarm Christian," which does not bode well for me. For as the Lord spake unto the church of Laodicea in the Book of Revelation: "Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth."
My time, then, is short. I have days, maybe hours, before I get blown out as God-chunks. So, I must work quickly. I had hoped, before we began this, that we could settle definitively whether God exists. Maybe I was just overly optimistic. I understand this is a question that has remained unsettled throughout the ages, so the odds might not have been in our favor that we could put it to bed in a three-day Slate Dialogue, even though we both believe in the power of the Internet to both educate and inspire.
I suppose I could've dipped into the usual bag of tricks, pointing to the definitive works of Christian apologetics (C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica) or their Judaic equivalents (Shmuley Boteach and Uri Gellar's Confessions of a Rabbi and a Psychic). But I've always found these ultimately unconvincing on their own. For reason will only take you to the edge of the cliff. Then, you've got to get out of the car and jump. Faith is a leap. That's why they call it "faith." Otherwise, they'd call it "logic."
But here is the racetrack pattern I run with my agnostic friends, who, like you, cop to occasional prayer. I will usually say to them something along the lines of, "Hike the Grand Canyon, or catch a brook trout in a clear mountain stream, or ponder the matchless, perfect legs of Angie Harmon. Then tell me there is no God."
They usually say, "Fine. But if there is a God, how do you explain the Rwandan genocide, or natural disasters, or the success of Carlos Mencia?" They always throw me with that last one. But that's when I whip out my Angie Harmon Turbulence Test. It goes as follows:
When you're in an airplane and hit a terrifying pocket of turbulence, whom do you send those inevitable, involuntary prayers to: creation, or Creator? Angie Harmon's legs? Or to whomever the God-shaped hole in your soul is telling you crafted them? Look in your heart. I think you'll find the answer. And please don't say that you pray to Jessica Alba's ass, or you'll totally ruin the mood.
It's time for us to part—I can feel God's chest congestion loosening. But allow me to say, as a spew-worthy believer, that you've done a valuable thing with this deceivingly profound book. Nothing steels and clarifies faith like confronting the particulars of doubt. Which is why I've enjoyed both The Year of Living Biblically and our chat about it.
Also, it is mighty Christ-like of you to go so easy on Jerry Falwell. I'm not sure he'd have done the same for you. I still think he was a creep, but give the guy a break. I have small children of my own now, so I'm frequently subjected to children's television. From this, I've been smacked with one incontrovertible revelation: The Teletubbies are gay. And not just the purple one, either.
In L. Ron we trust,
Matt Labash is a senior writer at the Weekly Standard.