Bright Lights and Weird Voices
(Posted on April 5, 2004. Printed in the Towanda Daily Review on April 8, 2004.)

In his letter of April 2, Vincent Calaman concludes that the best atheist is a former atheist who has been “chosen by God to shape up and change course.” Calaman also refers to the apostle Paul as “one of the greatest men in history.” Paul, previously the anti-Christian Saul, had an epiphany, converted to Christianity, and became one of the principals of the early Christian movement.

On the way to Damascus, Paul and his group claimed to have seen a light and heard a voice. Conflicting accounts are recorded in Acts 9:7, “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man," and Acts 22:9, “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me." There is also a conflict between Acts 22:10 and Acts 26:15-18. In the former, the voice tells Paul to go into town for more instructions, the latter voice gives lengthy detailed instructions.

Did Paul alone hear the voice, or did everyone? Did the voice give concise or detailed instructions? As claimed by Paul in I Corinthians 9:20-22, it is acceptable to intentionally deceive people in order to convert them. Paul probably fabricated the entire event to tell people what they wanted to hear.

I am an atheist. However, unlike Paul prior to his conversion, I have never persecuted any Christians or other religious denominations – I may annoy them, but I don’t wish them any harm. What would it take for me to give up my godless ways?

About $5,000,000 would do just fine – and some bright lights and weird voices would add to the effect. For this paltry sum, I’d claim to be as religious as George W. Bush claims to be – which is a lot less than he’s doing it for.

John L. Ferri

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