For convenience sake I will refer to myself as Nat (Neophyte Atheist Turtle) and feeling a bit intimidated I found myself a guide whom I will call Mat (Mature Atheist Turtle).
One day Mat called me and invited me to go along on an outing to a church. "A church," I said surprised at the suggestion."
"Yeah, a church," he replied. "Just be ready in 10 minutes. I'll swing by and pick you up."
I hung up the phone, got ready and exactly 10 minutes later a large red bus stopped in front of my house (see picture).
"It's really something isn't it?" Mat asked pointing to the sign.
"Yes," I said, "What on earth are we going to do with it?"
Mat laughed, "We're going to park it in front of the biggest church in town just as their service is ending."
"Can we do that?" I asked.
"Sure, Christians are idiots. They let us get away with anything because they have to be nice.
C'mon, we don't want to be late."
True to his word Mat parked the bus directly in front of the Church got out and stood facing it, waving, pointing to the sign and smiling as the congregation exited the church and walked by. Most of them seemed a bit confused, then looked down and hurried away without saying anything.
"Look, here comes the preacher. Be on your game. Remember C.R.U.D.E.," Mat said.
"Good afternoon." the preacher said with a wide, apparently genuine smile.
I was pretty nervous and kept running C.R.U.D.E. through my mind.
Mat nudged me and I blurted out, "Circular reasoning!"
"Not yet," Mat said rolling his eyes and shaking his head. Then to the preacher, "How do you like our bus?"
"It's very nice. Is it new?"
"No, but the sign is. Do you agree with the sign?" Mat asked.
'Science flies you to the Moon, Religion flies you into buildings' the preacher read, his smile gone. He thought for a minute before saying, "Yes, I suppose I would have to agree."
Mat clapped his hands and rubbed them in anticipation. "So, you agree that Christianity is dangerous?"
"What does Christianity have to do with your sign?" the preacher asked.
Mat's smile disappeared. "It flies you into buildings. It's a religion." Mat replied in as emphatic a voice as he could achieve.
The preacher shook his head. "No, it isn't."
Mat looked at me then back to the preacher in disbelief. "Of course it's a religion."
"No, Christianity isn't," the preacher replied.
Mat was clearly frustrated at this unexpected em passe. "Don't just stand there. Say something," he shouted at me.
"Rationalization!" I yelled.
Mat punched me in the shell. "Why did you do that? I'm right, this time he is rationalizing."
Mat ignored me. He pointed his right index finger at the preacher. "Christianity is so a religion. Everyone says so. If it isn't what is it?" he choked out.
"It's a personal relationship with Jesus Christ," the preacher said quietly.
Mat was quiet for a minute, then laughed. "How can you have a personal relationship with someone who isn't real?"
"But He is real."
"Do you mean to tell me that He is here, now? Why can't I see him?"
I looked around.
"We live in two worlds; the physical and the spiritual. We are so focused on the one that we become desensitized to the other," the preacher said.
"So, you claim to see Jesus?" I asked.
"For now we see through a glass, darkly.* Each Christian experiences the relationship with Jesus differently. It's personal."
I was feeling dizzy and Mat was not happy.
"All of that may be so, but you still haven't shown why Christianity isn't a religion," I said.
"It doesn't fit the mold of a religion. Muslims don't have a personal relationship with Allah. Buddhists don't have a personal relationship with Buddha. Even in the Old Testament, one could not have a personal relationship with God; you had to go through a priest. When stripped to the core, Christianity is just that personal relationship with Jesus; it is not religion."
Mat looked like he was in pain. I kept running over C.R.U.D.E. in my mind. "Deluded, he's deluded, yes?" I asked nudging Mat.
"Be quiet and Turtle Up," Mat said less than enthusiastically.
*1st Corinthian 13:12