Finding Jesus Through Board Games

Does Jesus exist?The Atheist Experience podcast discussed an interesting apologetic several years ago.  Here is my interpretation of this thinking.

Imagine a board game called “Monopoly Plus,” an updated version of the popular board game.  There’s a track around the outside of the board that’s divided into cells.  Each player is represented by a token on the board—a dog, a car, a top hat, and so on—and each player in turn rolls dice to see how many steps to move.  You start with a certain amount of money, and you can buy the properties that you land on as you move around the board.  Players who then land on one of the owned properties must pay the owner rent, and the owner can pay to improve properties so that the rent is higher.

Here’s how you win: you must accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.

Yep, that’s a pretty bad game.  The motivations within the game have absolutely nothing to do with how you win.

Now take that idea about a million times larger, and we have the game of Christianity®—ordinary reality filtered through a Christian worldview.  It’s far more complicated than any board game.  In Christianity, there are good things (love, friendships, possessions, accomplishments, personal victories, etc.) and bad things (illness, death, sorrow, disappointment, personal defeats, etc.), and skillful players maximize the good things and minimize the bad.

Immersed in this huge mass of complexity, we’re told that, in the big picture, it all doesn’t matter.  To win the game you must accept Jesus as your lord and savior.

Why is the game of Christianity any less out of touch with reality than the game of Monopoly Plus?

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Related links:

15 thoughts on “Finding Jesus Through Board Games

  1. It’s a travesty that the Christian God rewards the evil man who repents and accepts Christ, regardless of the severity and frequency of his crimes, yet condemns to eternal suffering the good man who does not accept Christ. Christians explain this by quoting the bible verse (what else?) that says by faith alone can you be saved. In other words, good works count for zero, zip, zilch in God’s eyes. This belief in itself is evil.

    Dave

    • I understand that this faith-alone emphasis comes from Martin Luther. During his day, “works” meant giving indulgences and other donations to the church. He was (rightly) offended by this. But instead of redefining “works” to mean “acts of charity to your fellow man,” he emphasized the “faith alone” parts of the Bible.

      Example: Matt. 25 has the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. A moving story, even for a hell-bound atheist like me. But the point of the story is clear: acts of charity are what get you into heaven!

      Now, why didn’t Martin Luther emphasize that one?

  2. You ask a question, “Why is the game of Christianity any less out of touch with reality than the game of Monopoly Plus?”

    In doing this, you exaggerate some parts of Christianity and eliminate others, and in extrapolating a few points you belittle and trivialize with the goal of making fun of the whole. I don’t see that this advances your discussion. All it does is attempt to irritate Christians. This is the nature of a caricature, not a serious discussion point.

    You claim to be very much into consensus. The consensus of thousands of years of serious students of Christianity is that Christianity is coherent and rational. Some portions need to be taken on faith. But the atheist needs far more faith. You take it on faith that something caused matter to form from something (nothing?) before the big bang. You claim that order came from disorder to form the universe. You claim that a lack of intelligence programmed the infinitely complex world of DNA. In the case of Christianity, we have a historic narrative that explains that starting point. Atheism has no such explanation, so requires the greater faith.

    You frequently claim that religion stifles science with a “god did it” escape clause. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The belief that an intelligent “first cause” gave order to the physical world drove scientists to seek that order for thousands of years. That changed around the time of the enlightenment (which was in some ways anything but enlightened!), whose proponents shifted the commonly held overriding theory. This was done through the excellent writing but questionable methodologies of Darwin and company. Scientists today continue looking for that order, giving lip service to, but not expecting much explanatory power from, evolutionary action as a cause of what we see.

    The real question is not whether your game comparison helps explain how ridiculous Christianity is. That may have been your goal, but that is not the key question. The key question is whether or not Christianity is true. If it is true, then you need to take it more seriously. Consider that the Creator of the universe made a way for you to have eternal relationship with Him. If it is false, then it doesn’t matter, and you can trivialize to your heart’s content.

    But if you are seeking the truth as you claim, then more serious questions would be more appropriate.

    • The consensus of thousands of years of serious students of Christianity is that Christianity is coherent and rational.

      And what does 1400 years of Muslim scholarship say? Are they on the same page about the truth of Christian claims?

      You take it on faith that something caused matter to form from something (nothing?) before the big bang.

      Nope.

      You claim that order came from disorder to form the universe.

      Yeah, pretty much everyone does. That whole oak-tree-from-an-acorn thing, y’know.

      You claim that a lack of intelligence programmed the infinitely complex world of DNA.

      It’s the scientific consensus. Kinda hard to argue with that.

      In the case of Christianity, we have a historic narrative that explains that starting point.

      You mean historically true? You’ll need to prove that first.

      If you mean a narrative that has historical elements in it (like Harry Potter has elements of the actual country of England), I agree. But that you have such a narrative that explains something is uncompelling. Lots of made-up stories explain things; that doesn’t mean they’re true.

      The belief that an intelligent “first cause” gave order to the physical world drove scientists to seek that order for thousands of years.

      I haven’t heard of a single bit of scientific understanding that came from the Bible. I agree that most European scientists were Christian, but that was true of everyone. I’m not sure where that takes us.

      The key question is whether or not Christianity is true.

      Agreed.

      If it is true, then you need to take it more seriously.

      And I will! Just as soon as it becomes the best explanation. We’ve got a long way to go yet.

    • “But the atheist needs far more faith. You take it on faith that something caused matter to form from something (nothing?) before the big bang. You claim that order came from disorder to form the universe. You claim that a lack of intelligence programmed the infinitely complex world of DNA.”
       
      In fact, atheism makes no such claims. Atheism is not a belief system at all. It’s the ABSENCE of one particular belief, namely the belief that “at least 1 god actually exists”. Since atheism has no CORE beliefs, it follows that it has no SUBSIDIARY beliefs that flow from that core — that is, no dogmas, no creeds, no holy books, no indoctrination, no rituals, etc. Atheists share one and only one thing in common: no belief in gods. After that, they’re free to believe anything else they want to.
       
      And they do! The best refutation of your mistaken impression of atheists, Rick, is to consider the world’s largest group of them: about a billion Chinese. Most of them haven’t heard squat about DNA or the Big Bang and thus have formed no opinions on them, contrary to your assertion that they form an integral part of the atheist belief structure. And they also believe in all sorts of nonsense such as feng shui, ancestral spirits, and traditional Chinese medicine, so it’s not as if rationalists are eager to claim them as fellow travelers, either. But they don’t believe in gods (yours or anyone else’s), so they are fully qualified atheists.
       
      Moreover, beyond your merely spouting off about a group of people (atheists) whom you clearly know nothing about, you also seem to think that the findings of science must be false simply because you yourself are too ignorant, stupid, or unimaginative to understand them. This is not likely to score many points for you in any discussion among reasonable people.

      • I am clearly in your debt for informing me more accurately about the nature of atheism. Most of the atheists do in fact have a belief that god does not exist, so he therefore couldn’t have created the matter which was exploded in the big bang, and he wasn’t responsible for the formation of order from the disorder after the big bang, and he also didn’t program the DNA code. So perhaps you can help me understand what you DO believe didn’t exist to explain those things? I always thought that thing you didn’t believe in was god, simply because that is the standard definition of atheism in all those dictionaries that you may not believe in either.

        Also, it is incredibly enlightening to know that I am too stupid AND ignorant AND unimaginative to understand your logic or perhaps your position. And you proved yourself correct, because I didn’t really understand your response very well.

        And of course, it is also great to have a mentor show me how to score points with reasonable people. I clearly have a lot to learn in that area.

        So many lessons packed into one response!

        Best wishes… Unless that might be interpreted as inflammatory, of course.

  3. I must say Rick writes well. Rick convicts Bob for that same thing he does. Rick said, “This is the nature of a caricature, not a serious discussion point”, because Bob used a game metaphor to describe Christianity. Rick doesn’t even use a semi-complicated metaphor to describe atheism, and I am not saying you need to. Rick said, ” But the atheist needs far more faith. You take it on faith that something caused matter to form from something (nothing?) before the big bang.” Rick switches the subject from Christianity to atheism, when the subject is about Christianity or faith in Jesus, but at least he switches the subject in a civil way by asserting atheism is based on faith, which it is not at all. I know I haven’t come to the conclusion there is no god ,or no gods based on faith. I thought about it a lot, and reality just doesn’t jibe with the God claim. I will stick to what Bob was talking about, and say this: If there was any religion I would describe that is like a game, it would be Christianity. I also find it ridiculous, as Bob points out, that no matter what you do, how good or bad, it doesn’t matter as long has you have faith in Jesus. This is one of the most absurd ideas I have ever heard. I find Christianity to be one of the most self-serving religions there is. I don’t think Bob needs to use a game comparison to show how ridiculous Christianity is, it does that all by iteself. I have also played the forgiveness game with people who do bad things. They ask me to forgive them, but then go right back to doing the thing they asked forgiveness for: Ugh! I think Bob makes an excellent point, and it is well thought out, which shows me he cares about the truth. Bob isn’t being appropriate by asserting something, and then using an game metaphor to back it up…lol.

    • Since I was responding to a game metaphor, I thought the appropriate response was to discuss the metaphor in question rather than to propose a different one. That seems like it would complicate the issue. And since Bob (the author) is writing from an atheist position, I didn’t think I was bringing anything new into the discussion. I was merely attempting to respond to the atheist already IN the discussion.

      Atheism is seen by most writers I have encountered to indeed have a faith position, in that an atheist takes his background evidence, etc., and typically settles on the understanding that god does not exist. Since the atheist chooses to believe that the nature of the universe is one in which god does not exist, he or she is then betting eternity that they are right. If this is not a faith position, perhaps it ought to be understood as one.

      You could play semantic games and call it something other than faith, but it serves the same function.

      • Atheism is seen by most writers I have encountered to indeed have a faith position

        We must hang out with different groups of atheists. It’s odd to call lack of faith a faith–I’ve never heard that description from an atheist. It’s like calling not collecting stamps a hobby.

        Since the atheist chooses to believe

        “Chooses”? We have a choice?! Choose to believe in leprechauns and tell me if that works.

        he or she is then betting eternity that they are right.

        Arg! Pascal’s Wager raises its ugly and irrelevant head!

        You could play semantic games and call it something other than faith, but it serves the same function.

        Would evidence sway you from your faith position? There’s no position of mine that I wouldn’t change based on sufficient evidence, which is why I don’t call them “faith” positions.

        • Reference Bob’s comments, “We must hang out with different groups of atheists. It’s odd to call lack of faith a faith–I’ve never heard that description from an atheist. It’s like calling not collecting stamps a hobby. … ‘Chooses’? We have a choice?! Choose to believe in leprechauns and tell me if that works.”

          Way to move the goal posts. We have centuries of well thought out theology that you equate to leprechauns. Really? You consider that a counter argument? It is typical of the way you CHOOSE to ignore rational arguments and change the subject.

          Yes, you also have faith. You, by virtue of your choices to structure your life around the intellectual and emotional position that god does not exist, CHOOSE to live without regard to god. This is a faith position you have taken. Your faith is in the atheism in spite of decades of evidence that I and others have provided, in which you say, “I’m not convinced.” Some evidence is scientific, like the boiling point of water. Other evidence is forensic, like a crime scene where we can’t see the culprit but can deduce his guilt. Or like the evidence of any historic character, like Lincoln, Washington, Cicero, Plato, or even Jesus. These have different proof methods, but no less truth which can be reasonably deduced. Then you just have to decide whether to believe the historic / forensic truth, or not. Your choice. Your faith in the evidence. And you will shrug and say, “I’m not convinced.” Another dodge.

          Bob’s comment regarding, “he or she is then betting eternity that they are right.” He said, “Arg! Pascal’s Wager raises its ugly and irrelevant head!”

          So because you have heard of it and it has a name, it is irrelevant?

          Bob’s comment regarding, “You could play semantic games and call it something other than faith, but it serves the same function.” He said, “Would evidence sway you from your faith position? There’s no position of mine that I wouldn’t change based on sufficient evidence, which is why I don’t call them “faith” positions.”

          You claim to be open to evidence, but I challenge you to provide evidence against Christianity. You provide board games and Monty Hall. This is not evidence, but instead these are just-so stories and what-ifs. Would I change my faith if enough evidence were provided? Good question. I certainly haven’t seen any such evidence from you or others, and have been researching these topics for over 35 years. I started researching because some folks challenged my blind faith in what I had been told to believe about evolution. As I did that, I changed my views on evolution because the evidence FOR it simply doesn’t exist. So I have a track record of changing my views concerning this general area.

          Can you say the same?

        • We have centuries of well thought out theology that you equate to leprechauns. Really?

          No, not really. If you’ll read my stuff, you’ll see that I really didn’t say that. Christianity = leprechauns isn’t what I said. I said that choosing to believe is not possible and encouraged you to choose to believe in leprechauns as an experiment.

          Your faith is in the atheism in spite of decades of evidence that I and others have provided, in which you say, “I’m not convinced.”

          Don’t imagine that I’m the odd one here, awash in compelling evidence but with my fingers in my ears. Most people agree with me that your beliefs are false.

          Or like the evidence of any historic character, like Lincoln, Washington, Cicero, Plato, or even Jesus.

          Historians weed out the supernatural claims in the stories of all these figures. You can either keep your beliefs or approach this as a historian.

          Another dodge.

          Yeah, what else could explain my not being convinced except that I’m dodging compelling and overwhelming evidence?

          So because you have heard of it and it has a name, it is irrelevant?

          I’m saying that Pascal’s Wager is a poor argument.

          I challenge you to provide evidence against Christianity. You provide board games and Monty Hall.

          In the first place, I don’t need to provide evidence against Christianity, just like you don’t need to provide evidence against leprechauns in order to reject the idea. Second, I have made several posts on this very topic. To see them, go to God Doesn’t Exist: Historians Reject the Bible Story.

          Can you say the same?

          I’ve never had “blind faith” in evolution or anything else within science for that matter. On that we are different. But I’ve gone from Christian to atheist. That sounds like a big change.

  4. Bob, I’m not sure if I should interrupt your discussion with Rick, because I agree with most of what h says, but here’s a few extra comments.

    You say: “Here’s how you win: you must accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. Yep, that’s a pretty bad game. The motivations within the game have absolutely nothing to do with how you win.”
    Even in your hypothetical, it isn’t that simple. (1) To win the “prize” you’ve got to get into the game. (2) To live long enough to make the choice to win the prize, you’ve got to get around the board and survive long enough.

    It’s the same in the real world. I could never be a christian believer if I wasn’t born, or my mum didn’t feed me, or I died by being run over by a bus at age 5, etc. I also needed other people to live long enough to give me the message, I needed to be able to understand English language to hear and read the message, I needed to be able to think logically to believe it. Other people don’t necessarily need all those things, but I did.

    So christianity isn’t necessarily out of touch with the game of life, we need to live to believe and obey. But there are other questions which you could much more profitably ask (IMO) – Why did God set up such a complex world? What happens to those who don’t even get to hear about Jesus? These are much better questions, and there are answers to them too, but you won’t hear them if you don’t ask them, I guess.

    Let me finish by making something very clear. On first impressions, you seem like a really decent and thoughtful person, and I appreciate the tone in which you write and the opportunity to comment. But I think little thought experiments like this one and the probability one are fairly trivial, could have the effect of painting christianity unfairly and so helping you miss the real arguments and divert you from the really important questions. I guess you have to keep the posts coming, and you can’t say the same things over and over, but ….

    • These are much better questions, and there are answers to them too, but you won’t hear them if you don’t ask them, I guess.

      I guess. But there are more blog posts to come, so perhaps you’ll see a broader inquiry with time.

      If I paint Christianity unfairly, I invite you to make a correction. I have no interest in setting up a straw man.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s