It’s hard to want God. We can say He exists, we can call the Bible true, we can conform to the religious pattern of a typical midwest backroad King James-reading church, but we can despise God with every passionate fiber in our puny body. Jumping the bridge from “There is no God” to “I want God” is nothing short of a miracle. You cannot convince the blind to see or the lame to walk. It takes an act of God. Really us tiny humans can only describe the seeing and walking.
Two conversations with atheists —
The first: “The Bible was just written by people. We can’t know if God exists. I have good morals and I stay out of trouble.”
The second: “There is no objective proof that God exists. And there is no real world application to believe in God. I need math to go to the market, but without a God I can live a good life just fine.”
The first conversation is easily answerable. The second though, I absolutely agree.
So we ricochet between two walls: one says God is not knowable by the self and the other says the self is knowable without God. Many self-proclaimed Christians also live this way. He is too difficult to fathom or we’re into our own thing.
But wanting something takes a choice, and many are too lazy to really consider it all. If your entire life and purpose and trajectory and destiny was possibly determined by a being of infinite proportions, wouldn’t you be at least be curious in rooting out all the angles of such a thing? Wouldn’t you absolutely want to know beyond a shadow of an existential doubt if you wanted God? We could at least go beyond our familiar territory to see if He is desirable amidst all the hypocrites, bad preaching, and rotten pastors.
Instead most of us only read things to confirm our own beliefs, so atheists go on angry atheist websites and Christians stay within the safe church walls and Christian literature. Every narrow-minded soul has a pre-commitment to their truth, throwing arrows rather than asking questions. It is when we have considered all bases — truly allowed them to percolate in our heart, mind, and soul — that we should commit to anything. It’s the same way in which we wisely pick a car, a spouse, a house, a college, a career. But with God we tend to carelessly use our preprogrammed defenses and automatic statements — for or against — that we’ve never fully contemplated on our own.
Spiritual deflection: It wasn’t me. But it’s all about me. Except when it isn’t.
Some Christians claim that we need God because he has set an ironclad moralistic grid while the atheist opens himself up to heinous atrocities. The atheist counters in two ways: that we don’t need a concept of God to live a right life and that religion is a toxic catalyst responsible for every major massacre in history. I find both views simplistic. Atheists don’t tend to be axe murderers while religious crazies are just plain crazy who happen to be religious. And that is also too simplistic: it is more complex than slapping on a religion label, and there is really a gratuitous amount of credit for the nice guy atheist.
The atheist says sin is not the problem; rather the issue is society and selfishness and uneducation, so we do the right thing by withholding harm and freely benefiting others. Apart from God we can live the good life. And they claim the Bible condones slavery, misogyny, and genocide. Really this is intellectual laziness, a disingenuous go-to claim. The Bible describes that stuff but does not condone. At least once the Bible says a rapist should be put to death and that slaves should go free. And “harm” and “benefit” — who defines these terms? Couldn’t one action harm you but benefit me? What is really the definition of the “good life”? And if we who are relative beings can sense an absolute justice, what is that all about?
You may expect me here to say that we need God to prescribe morals, but really you don’t. Atheists can be just as morally upright as your taxpaying, donating-to-charity citizen. We would only need some higher power to keep our morals accountable. A Christian is called a hypocrite when he is rude, loud, cheats on his wife, and beats up children. An atheist can be rude on online forums, foul his taxes, and chase young girls but he’ll say he never adhered to any code of conduct anyway. Inversely a quiet atheist is commended for his ability to not disturb the peace, which means we could also commend the sleeping homeless guy, the unemployed artist, and most classes of amoeba. Let’s hand out fourth place medals. It is always noticeable when a Christian fails. An atheist, because he lives by infinite clauses and loopholes, cannot fail — especially when he does.
The Christian works from a self-denying deficit. That’s at least partially noble, even if foolish. We see how a Christian apologist is called crass for interrupting in a debate, but an atheist name-calls and it’s business as usual. The atheist can have no mercy, no accountability, and he likes it that way. Let’s call this what it is: savage, uncivilized barbarism, but domesticated by the systematic ridicule of any option outside There-Is-No-God. We also call that bigotry.
Sacred respect: You can believe what you want, just don’t slobber on me.
A non-Christian would be saddened or angry here. I’m not a bigot, but I know some Christians who are. That’s fair and also true. I’m just surprised when a person absolutely wants nothing at all do with God whatsoever. I remember a time when at least a non-Christian had a measure of respect for what a Christian would call sacred. Not the Christian himself: just the stuff he believed.
It went something like this: I like your religion. It has some good values and some cool stories. I like that part of it. Jesus is cool too. I just don’t like the parts about hell and miracles and the Holy Ghost and wars and sacrifices and wrath. All that stuff is so weird, but the parts I like, I like.
I see your point there. But for a long time now (and it’s nothing new, only repackaged into bullets), anything about God is called poisonous. There are shouts for the eradication of all things religious in the public square. Religion is correlated with the remaining stupidity of the world. Churches that do good work are accused of hate speech. Pastors are mocked by saying they’re wasting their lives. And to say Jesus out loud: well Hollywood has pretty much killed that to death.
Is this bigotry? Of course it is: it has simply been educated into a permissible, precise science. This is why an atheist can stop thinking at, I need objective proof for God. There is no such thing as this sort of proof, for or against. This is why atheists have convinced themselves, I can live a good life without the notion of God without answering what a good life means. We even look at nutrition labels on food more closely than we do the possibility of God. Perhaps this offends you, but at some point you’ll have to get over that and get to the bottom of it anyway.
I absolutely believe in the separation of church and state, but not the separation of the church itself. What troubles me is that more and more, before even hearing credentials, there is immediate suspicion of the general religious person that he must be a wholesale fool and left unheard. It doesn’t matter if he’s working on a cure for cancer, sending tons of food aid to hurting nations, or has conspired to kill Hitler. “That’s what Christians should be doing” or “Atheists can do that too,” but it’s never, “Well done.” A person who wants to want God is blasted and ridiculed out of an informed decision. Everyone else is already calling him stupid out the door.
So yes, it would be easier if I wasn’t a Christian simply because the world detests it so much. Jesus said it would be so. But despite it being so difficult, we would still do well to consider that a dude at some point in human history actually did a bunch of supernatural miracles and walked out of his grave. We chase so much else regardless of difficulty. Life, school, work, marriage: it gets tough but we still pursue. So if all this Bible-stuff even has a tiny one percent potential of holding truth, it would be a wise move to give it more than a cursory glance. “Easy” has little to do with it.
To be fair, I’ve met plenty of non-Christians who have investigated and still chose their own way. As a Christian I’d have to say they did not investigate thoroughly, but still they gave it a shot. Most of them emerge with at least a newfound respect for the divine. I remember telling an atheist friend of mine — a rabid disbeliever who could quote Scripture and speak Hebrew — that I was going to seminary. Of course he laughed, but he also expressed his admiration and respect in choosing that path. I do not see that sort of respect in online forums, blogs, and those who claim to tolerate all people. Really, it’s easier to hate God; it’s easier not to want Him.
Part Four, the conclusion, is here.
Part One is here.
Part Two is here.