As my wife and kids will tell you, I can turn almost any discussion into a talk about religion. However, I often find that after about 10 minutes the average christian grows weary of this topic. So, you have a limited time to make your point before their mind snaps shut. I have tried many different ways to make points and this ogre story is one of my new ones. The ogre story idea came to me over a year ago and I have been making small changes with each encounter and I would like to share it with you.
Last fall I was helping the Illini Secular Student Alliance with “Quad Day”. On this one day, just before school starts in the fall, every student group can get a table to hand out flyers and attract new members. In their wisdom, the University of Illinois the puts the “secular” group right in the middle of all the religious groups. As we hand out flyers, members of some of the religious groups would walk over and talk to us. At one point a really nice gentleman comes over and we had conversation. After about 10 minutes, I could see that he was tired of the religious argument and wanted to leave.
I suggested that he allow me the opportunity to point out that there some basic moral ideas that all humans can agree to. Some ideas so simple and powerful that he as a christian and me as an atheist can agree. I explain that the best way to show this is with a story.
THE OGRE STORY!
Imagine that you are in a very big city. A city that you have never been to before and you find yourself walking down a dark alley, you are lost and a little scared. It is 3AM and there is no one around. You are all alone.
You cannot get free. You can call for help but, no one will hear you. You are in serious trouble. With his free hand he lifts up a pistol and places it to your temple.
He leans over and whispers in your ear, “Do you love me?”
You are stunned and not sure what to say so the ogre explains… “If you love me, I will make you a cake!”
and… “If you don’t love me…I will kill you and turn you into a zombie!
At this point in time I will ask the christian if the ogre is moral, have they created a moral situation? Every time I have done this they say NO. The ogre is not moral. I point out that we agree and that there are some moral ideas – virtually, everyone can agree with. This is one of those ideas. It is so simple and clear and we, as part of our humanity, share this and so many other things in common.
Often they agree and seem happy that I have finally found some common ground for us to share.
Now, let change things just a little. I am not going to change the evil situation that the ogre has put you in but let’s just magnify the reward and the penalty.
Again the ogre asks….
“Do you love me?”
Now he tells you that if you do, you can live with him forever in a place of beauty. Let’s call in paradise.
If you do not love the ogre, he will kill you over and over for all of eternity and put you in a lake of fire!
Often at this point the christian will say something like… “Now you are talking about christianity.”
I will acknowledge that I am and how impressed I am that they recognized the situation and how immoral it is. Often they will just stammer something like, “well for christianity it’s different.”
I then inform them that and nothing has changed. I only magnified the reward and the penalty. The have already agreed that christianiy is evil.
Every time I have done this, they have nothing to say and simply walk away.