Auckland, Easter Sunday 2065AD – a fanciful conversation. Two men chat awkwardly on the city’s new light rail system connecting central Auckland to the North Shore.
Jack (J): Hi there, Happy Easter!
Chris (C): Hi, thank you, but I don’t actually believe in Easter.
J: Oh, sorry! Why is that? What do you believe in? My name is Jack, by the way.
C: I’m Chris, I’m an atheist, I don’t believe in anything.
J: Oh, okay Chris. It’s quite a while since I’ve spoken to an atheist, this is quite exciting! You’re not a Buddhist, are you?
C: No, no; a traditionalist atheist. I’m just off to the Sunday Assembly, in fact. I’m the lead non-pastor.
J: Fascinating. How’s your congregation going?
C: Well, we’re doing okay. Atheism is the inevitable result of an enlightened population, you realise?
J: Ah, sure. So, your congregation are particularly well educated then? Growing in numbers and influence in society? It’s been so long since I’ve heard anything about you guys …
C: Yeah, well, not really at the moment, but we look forward in hope to a time of future growth. Attendance tends to peak at Easter and Christmas, I’m hoping we’ll have 40 or so today, and some may even bring their grandchildren!
J: Do you have grandchildren yourself?
C: Yes, I do, but their family are all believers, so we don’t really talk to them, at the moment. No doubt as they grow up, they’ll come to see the Truth though. Once they have an experience of the pointlessness of the world.
J: Oh, cool, I’m sure … That must be great to have. Can you tell me more about this atheism, then? How do you square it with the findings of science, for instance that the world is orderly, law-governed, fine-tuned, and finite? Forgive me if this is too bold, I just happen to work in nanogenetics, I love the philosophy of science.
C: I don’t have as much faith in ‘science’ as you do. There are fewer things in heaven and earth, Jack, than are dreamed of in your philosophy! You all extrapolate things far too far, back to this mythical ‘beginning’.
J: Hmm, I’m not quite sure what that means, but okay… How about ethics? It must be quite difficult for you living in a society so obviously influenced by Christian ethical principles. Is it a burden for you?
C: Yes, for the moment we are oppressed, but deliverance is coming. We don’t spend much time in speculation about so-called ethics anyway, we are practical people, like the original free-thinkers in our nation.
J: Um, right. I have a few questions there too, but can I ask about rationality, then? I had thought that the death of computationalism was a bit of a set-back for naturalism … Or maybe tell me whether you believe in mathematical objects? Or, since it’s Easter, perhaps the recent findings of 1st century manuscripts of John’s gospel?
C: Oh, look, here’s my stop. Do take this holo-tract Jack, I’m sure it will convince you if you read it while seeking for the truth.