I think I am so interested in Atheism because I used to claim it for myself. I used to declare quite vehemently that God did not exist. I was appalled at the idea of sacrificing my will for a God who would figure my every step out for me. I frequently visit atheist blogs (of which there are many) and am always stunned by how bold and militant (I use the word militant to describe the tone of their discourse, not because I actually believe they are armed and dangerous) many have become in their opposition to Christianity. Of this, I have noted two common threads. First, it is only Christianity that elicits such a response from the atheist. Of course they may object to all faiths that claim a higher power on paper, but it is only Christianity that makes their skin crawl. Secondly, most of the “militant” atheists are former Christians. Normally, they were raised by devout fundamental parents who forced them to go to church. In each case, they are able to tell their stories in great clarity of how they were wronged by their parents or their denomination. They remember with much angst every Christian they have ever met that fit the stereotype of the close-minded, Bible-thumping, fundamentalist that hated gays, women, and minorities all in the name of God. In most of these cases, I must admit, they are right. This post; however, is not aimed for such the atheist. Before I continue please allow me to offer the slightest bit of chastisement. If you fit the above description and have allowed a bad experience with a Christian, denomination, or family member the throw you into a tailspin and out of a relationship with God than shame on you. You should of had the courage to stand up in the face of such absurdity and proudly announce that the God of Abraham, Moses, Paul, and Mary found such behavior sickening. You should of had the foresight to study Scriptures and learn what the true living God felt about the behavior of His followers. You have allowed the actions of men to dictate how you feel about God and for that only you will be held accoutable. Quit using the actions of others as an excuse to be hateful, spiteful, and stupid.
Now that I’ve made a bunch of people mad at me … let me continue.
This post isn’t intended for those listed above. It is intended for the atheist who feels that perhaps they have made a mistake. Maybe they can’t decribe it, but there is a feeling in their gut that tells them there is a God out there somewhere. Maybe they’ve witnesses little hints of His existence but can’t quite put their finger on it. I know you’re out there because I used to be just like you. Even when I was boldly declaring there was no God there was a part of me that wondered if I was wrong. I didn’t know in what form God existed, but I slowly came to believe that He did. It was if the more I denied Him … the more I wondered about Him.
If this is your case, than I pose the following question to you. Which God will you claim? Which God is the God of the Atheist?
I suppose you could create your own deity. Perhaps you could sit down with your old D&D buddies and create the perfect God from scratch. You could first decide what qualities you would want in a God and then create the being and a theology to match. This might work for awhile, but it surely will not satisfy your curiosity. It would be a bit like trying to satisfy a deep hunger with the mud pies you made as a child. It may look like real food but it lacks the necessary ingredients to sustain your body. Let’s pretend, for an instant, that you are desperately lonely and in need of a friend. To meet this need you, like many children before you, create and imaginary friend; we’ll call him Ralph. Ralph may be fun to play with for a little while, but what happens when you are hurting and need a real shoulder to cry on? What happens when you are being bullied and need actual fists to come to your defense? What happens should you need a simple hug. Ralph will work just fine until you are in real need of a friend and then he proves inadequate. It is the same way with a false god of your imagination. The false God will only work until you need the real deal … then you are up a creek. So let’s dismiss this notion right away.
If we have decided not to design a god from scratch, we are left to consider some of the more popular religions of the world. Many of these religions are pantheistic. Of those, we can dismiss them almost immediately. Nothing can be more disturbing to someone with an atheistic bent than to find out there are multiple gods all around us … or that all things, including ourselves, are gods. There other holes within pantheistic faiths, but we are speaking only to needs of the atheist at the moment. While the leap from atheist to deist may seem incredible, monotheism should be somewhat more palatable to the atheist. Believing in one God seems to be a far shorter step for the atheist than believing in multiple gods. We can now dismiss pantheism along with a god of our own design.
This leaves us with only a couple of options left (if were are only examining the more popular faiths). I believe we can scratch Buddhism off the board right away. I’ve heard Buddhism described as being neutral on the existence of God and atheistic. Either way, it doesn’t meet out criteria. The atheist already doesn’t believe in god so to choose a religion that either has no opinion on the subject or denies His existence seems to be a step sideways at best and at worst a step backwards. Remember, we are trying to decide which god the atheist should choose … Buddhism may be a choice of religion or of practice, but it is not a choice of God. Thusly, Buddhism can be ruled out for th atheist.
After ruling out creating our own god, pantheism, and Buddhism; we are left with the three great monotheistic religions of the world. I understand there may be a god worshiped on an island somewhere that I am leaving out, but I am trying to be realistic. As a result, we are left to examine Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
Remember, this is geared for the atheist that is on the cusp of choosing a god. The following will not apply to everyone, but I ask that you momentarily put yourself in the shoes of the atheist.
Judaism: To the atheist, the conversion to Judaism may seem a little overwhelming. To the best of my knowledge, it is virtually impossible to convert to Orthodox Judaism as there are matters of culture and birth to be considered. Also, according to the tenets of the Jewish faith, it isn’t necessary for a non-Jew to convert to Judaism to be considered righteous. In fact, if I understand it correctly, a person who converts to Judaism is held to far higher standards than one who doesn’t. At any rate, the difficulty of converting to Judaism seems to outweigh the benefits.
Islam: Along with Christianity, Islam seems to me more concerned with converting non-believers than other religions. You may expect that my arguments against Islam may include the beliefs that they convert people through force and kill those who choose to recant the Islamic faith. It may surprise you that I will not use those arguments. While it may be true that directions to kill and use force may be found in the Quran, it is certainly not the practice of most Muslims to do so. I think in some cases, Christians twist the words of the Quran around and take them out of context. Please note that I said in “some” cases, not “all.” I believe an extensive review of the Quran reveals many things the Islamic faith is lacking … but there is one specific item that Islam is missing that should deter the atheist from choosing Allah as their God. This lacking will be revealed when we examine Christianity.
Christianity: If the atheist scratches home-brewed religions, pantheism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam off of her list, she is left with one viable option; Christianity. The question is should the atheist scratch off Christianity as well and return to a Godless existence or give Christianity a shot. What follows is a a brief argument for the latter.
As an atheist, Christianity offers the only God that shares your doubts. Let me explain. In His defining moment on the cross, Christ exclaimed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). I’ve seen many armchair theologians debate this passage, but I can only assume that Jesus was expressing exactly what he felt at that moment. He felt alone and abandoned by God. At that moment on the cross, Jesus did not feel God the Father’s presence in His life. To be fair, many theologians will argue that this couldn’t be the case because to doubt God is a sin and Christ lived a sinless life, so they will come up with any number of explanations for what Christ said in His defense. For them, I offer the following thoughts; I entirely agree that Christ lived a sinless life, but considering His words on the cross, I can only assume that doubting God and feeling abandoned or alone is not a sin. Perhaps Christianity is teaching that it is natural in some circumstances to doubt, question, and feel alone.
In Christ, atheists will find the one God who entered the world to feel the same emotions they have. To quote G.K. Chesterton, atheists will find “[the only] divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.”
Only one religion teaches that God entered our world and shared our doubts, pain, and took our sin upon Himself. It is Christ that all other religions lack.
Christ is the God of the Atheist.