To be honest DIY is not my strength. My dad, Jim, was terrible at DIY and it seems to run in the family. My wife, Anne, was concerned about the lack of shelving for books in the house and I was commissioned to find the right tradesman. Imagine my delight when I found an advert in the local newsagents promoting the work of a local ‘handyman’ who specialised in shelving assignments. I rang up Ron and the next day he arrived at our home full of the joys of spring. Within ten minutes we had a deal and I knew that Anne would be pleased.

Ron asked me what I did for a living. I told him I worked for the West Yorkshire School of Christian Studies. Ron’s face contorted slightly in a supercilious direction. He stated his case pithily.

“To be honest Mark, I’m on the side of science rather than religion.”

I had something in the locker.

“So do you agree with Eric Harris, the Columbine killer?”

Ron looked at me with a slightly baffled expression.

“Just to fill you in Ron, Eric Harris and his friend, Dylan Klebold shot 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School, Colorado, USA in 1999.”

Ron was keen to make a point. “But what’s this got to do with science?”

“Eric, the cold-blooded murderer, completely agreed with you Ron. He wrote in his diary: “just because your mommy and daddy tell you blood and violence is bad, you think it’s a f―g law of nature? wrong, only science and math are true, everything else, and I mean every f―g thing else is man-made.”

I paused for dramatic effect. I pressed home my point.

“So do you agree with Eric that only maths and physics are true and everything else is man-made? Therefore there is nothing wrong with cold-blooded murder.”

Ron was now rather rattled and he seemed rather shaken by my story.

“To be honest I’m not sure what to say, Mark.”

“Ron I’m just trying to help you think about what you believe about life, the universe and everything. Are you a materialist like Eric?”

Ron was candid. “Tell me more about materialism.”

“Materialism is the belief that everything is just physical and only the natural sciences hook onto reality. If only ‘physical stuff’ exists then the only things we can believe in are those things that can be measured by scientific equipment. This translates into the belief that only maths and physics tell us the truth about the world. This then leads to the conclusion that moral statements such as ‘murder is wrong’ are human made and have no truth. In addition a materialist would say that Eric Harris had a brain bug, a glitch in his brain and that’s why he did it. In other words, Eric’s brain made him shoot his victims! So Ron I’d like to know – are you a materialist?”

Ron now looked subdued and rather troubled. His supercilious demeanour had vanished.

“I think you are the first person in my life to challenge my materialist beliefs. To be honest I don’t want to be a materialist but it seems to make sense to me.”

I had a wrap up spiel. “To be frank Ron I used to be a hardcore materialist like you but God spoke to me and told me about His Son, Jesus. Ron if you believe in Jesus…I’ll rephrase that…if you trust in Jesus, if you eat Jesus, your sins are forgiven and God will give you a fabulous resurrection body and you will live in a new heaven and a new earth. Ron, do think about this!”

If you would like to know more about materialism and how understanding it can help us in mission and discipleship do consider taking our brand new RealityBites course Slave Chronicles and Dangerous Beliefs: Discipling Others through Creative Storytelling.

Mark Roques

Mark Roques

For eleven years Mark taught Philosophy and Religious Studies at Prior Park College, Bath. As Director of RealityBites since 2005, he has developed a rich range of resources for teachers and is a popular speaker at educational conferences in the UK, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. Mark is the author of three books, including the Religious Education textbook The Good, The Bad and The Misled, and his innovative approach has led him to appear on television (Channel 4) and radio.