Responding to an atheist

A few thoughts on this sad post called why i am an atheist.  I think the person was a commenter here at some point (I had started a draft of this and never finished it until now).

religion was never a big part of my life.  when i was a young child, i believed in God because my mother did.  she was raised a Christian.

 i’m less sure about the beliefs of my father, who died when i was nine years old.  we rarely went to church, and we didn’t say grace at the dinner table.  my memories of church are only impressions now, and consist mainly of the remembrance of feelings of utter boredom and intense frustration.  my parents, especially my father, had always impressed upon me the need to ask questions and the danger inherent in unquestioning acceptance.  hence, my time in the few Sunday school classes i attended was not unlike a form of torture.  i recall intense feelings of rejection and isolation.  after one such encounter, (when i was probably about six years old) i went to my father and told him what i had been taught.  i told him that my questioning had been discouraged and asked him about the truth of what i’d been told, specifically about the business with the talking snake.  i told him i didn’t believe it, and asked him if that story was true.  ”of course not”, he replied.  and thus the seeds of doubt had been sown.

Ugh.  That is inevitable when churches are social clubs and people don’t take the Bible seriously.  How many people in the pews know it is their jobs to educate their children?  (Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.)

as i’ve said, we didn’t go to church often, and for that i am as grateful as i am for any other fact of my happy childhood.  i have immense respect for those who have been subject to religious indoctrination and have managed to free themselves of it.  things went on happily and peacefully until the sudden death of my father.  although i had profound doubts about the existence of a god, i decided then and there that any being that could visit such cruelty couldn’t possibly be good or merciful.

It is sad that he lost his father, but he also does what other non-believers do: Sit in judgment of God.  But if there was no God, then his father’s life was meaningless.

i adored my father.  i channeled my grief and anger into striving to learn.  the library was my sanctuary.  the following year, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos aired on PBS.  i was utterly fetched.  the beautiful explanations of the world around me and the universe beyond captured my imagination.  this soft-spoken man seemed to radiate…”goodness”, for lack of a better word.

Another irony: Without God, there is no grounding for “goodness.”

i came to see the scientific endeavors of mankind as the best expression of what goodness we are capable of as a species

That is illogical: Science deals with the material world, but things like goodness are immaterial.

(although all such endeavors have not been to our betterment), and i found in Cosmos an affirmation of my deep-seated questioning nature.   i also began to understand that there is really no need for “god”.  perhaps even more importantly, i saw no evidence for one.

Other than the cosmological, teleological, moral, transcendental, etc. arguments.

when i was twelve, i had a creationist answer my assertion that radiometric dating proves the earth much older than 10, 000 years with, “carbon-14 dating is the tool of Satan.  you are deceived.”  seriously.

So if an atheist gives a bad answer does that prove that there is a God?

as i got older, i came into contact with many believers, most (but by no means all) of them Christian.  like anything else, i found some good and some not.  i had many discussions with people of various faiths.  i sincerely tried to understand not only what they believed, but why they believed it.  i got many answers, but found only more questions.  i attended a Baptist church with my grandmother.  i listened to a grotesque litany of all the reasons that most people were going to hell.  afterward, i told the preacher exactly what i thought.  i don’t think he appreciated it much.  i read the Bible – cover to cover.  i’m not ashamed to admit that i found it one of the most boring exercises of my life, and i say this as a person who has also read James Joyce.  

Good dig on James Joyce (I had to read him in college.  Double ugh.).  But I do give the writer credit for reading the Bible.  That is always my aim with believers and non-believers.

but i really needed to see for myself what was in that book.  i found virtually nothing uplifting and much that was quite appalling.  

Yes, it lists countless sins of rebellious sinners attempting “deicide” each day by pretending God doesn’t exist or trying to take over his role by sitting in judgment of him.

i marveled at its many, many contradictions.  

And apparently didn’t study the readily available answers.

i learned about who wrote it, and also about the apocrypha.  i found that the arguments about what was to be included in the Bible as it is today were no less sordid or contentious as anything that occurs on Capitol Hill.  i’ve had believers knock on my door to give me the “good news”, only to have them threaten me with eternal torture for my failure to believe as they do.  

I wasn’t there, so perhaps those were poor presentations of the Gospel.  It isn’t about believing everything we do, but about believing the truth about Jesus.  In other words, it isn’t about us, it is about Jesus.

The truth is that the Bible never mentions torture (torment, yes).  But it is for your sins against God and not for failing to believe like we do.

during these years, i was also encouraged in my quest for knowledge by some truly talented and remarkable teachers.  i read On the Origin of Species and A Brief History of Time, among others works about the realities of our planet and universe.  everything that i learned and everything that i saw around me lead me to the conclusion that there probably is no god.  i found that i liked the idea very much.  i found it very liberating.  

I appreciate his honesty.  Sometimes atheists do admit that one thing they like best about their worldview is the (apparent) lack of accountability.

i found that it gave my life more meaning.

Now that is ironic.  If there is no God then life is truly and utterly meaningless.

i live in a very conservative area.  i don’t know very many atheists.  i’ve been asked by the few people with whom i discuss such things how i came to choose it and if i’m afraid of going to hell.  my answer is this:  i didn’t choose atheism any more than i chose my eye color.  i am simply not capable of believing in things for which no evidence exists.  because i have no reason to believe there is a hell, i have no fear of it.  i wouldn’t care to spend eternity with a deity who would punish perfectly reasonable doubt with eternal torture anyway.

He apparently misread the Bible.  Again, Hell is torment, not torture, and it is for countless sins against your creator and not for reasonable doubts.  That’s a double straw-man argument.

i’ve been asked to explain my morality, and my answer is this:  i am a good person for its own sake.  i try to treat others the way i wish to be treated not because i hope for some reward or fear some punishment for not doing so, but simply because it is the right thing to do.  i’m happy this way.  i’m comfortable with not having all of the answers.  i have no need to ascribe a supernatural answer to the unknown, simply because so many things that have been ascribed a supernatural cause have been explained by science.  i see no reason why that would change.

why am i an atheist?  because I can’t be anything else.

I hope God makes him spiritually alive someday.

14 thoughts on “Responding to an atheist

  1. This sounds so much like what we hear every year at our ministry in Iowa City. A huge number of the college kids who talk to us start by telling how they grew up in church and then they give a litany of the problems encountered there (at least 90% grew up Catholic). Then they’d tell about how science has proven the Bible wrong, that the Bible is full of contradictions, yada yada yada.

    It is very difficult to get these people to actually listen to our defense of the faith and our explaining the Gospel.

  2. I remember I was in a school reading the Bible, I met someone who is an atheist, he had insulted against me and he said horrible things at me because I am a Christian.

  3. I think science has begun to point moreso to a creator and confirm the truth found in scripture. Maybe that is just me seeing it from a believer’s perspective. I debate atheists often. Unfortunately, it is often ‘Christians’ that turn people away from the truth with a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. We often forget Jesus came for the lost and broken. The beatitudes reflect this. The establishment of the day rejected him whereas the outcasts and ‘lowlifes’ were accepting.

    • Unfortunately, it is often ‘Christians’ that turn people away from the truth with a ‘holier than thou’ attitude

      That’s a small part of the problem. The bigger part is the cast of liars and fakes on TV and in Liberal denominations who teach the opposite of the Bible: That it isn’t the fully inspired word of God, that Jesus isn’t the only way to salvation, that Jesus is pro-abortion, that adultery, homosexual behavior and most divorces aren’t sins, etc.

      • I see it is a big part of the problem. Yes, a large part are the fakes in our media and the many denominations that have strayed from the message, but they would not have a platform without support or to fill a demand.

        America is often called a Christian nation. We like to think it was founded on biblical principles and that these principles still govern our land, but that simply does not hold water. Yes, most of the founders were deists, though not all were Christian. We have strayed from the righteous path upon which we began. We often tout our moral and cultural superiority, yet to outsiders, we do not appear anything like the Jesus depicted in the New Testament. We delude ourselves if we think that is how we collectively look or act. Our money says “In God We Trust”, but really it is in money and possessions that we trust.

        To the heart of it, I think the church has been infiltrated by many with malicious intent. I think that has been the case since the beginning of Christiandom. I also wish we had available all the books the Bible itself references. So much has been entrusted to man over time and man has proven time and again untrustworthy.

  4. @eMatters,
    “But it is for your sins against God and not for failing to believe like we do.”
    What about John 3:18, John 3:36, 2 Thess. 2:12, and Jude 5?
    Everyone sins against God, but atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, some who claim to be Christians, Hindus, Mormons, and others who “do not believe as we do” will not be going to heaven, so will suffer eternal torment.
    Rom. 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
    Salvation is all about believing, and believing the right thing.

    Good article, but that one statement kept bothering me.

    @Glenn,
    When the students talk about how science has proven the Bible wrong, do they give examples? I’ve never heard any examples of that. I’ve heard often of scientific discoveries and archaelogical finds that prove the Bible to be accurate, but not the other way around. I’ve even challenged atheists to show me scientific or archaelogical evidence proving the Bible wrong. No such evidence has ever been presented to me.

    Thank you gentlemen.

  5. It’s always perplexing to me when theists say that atheists’ lives have no meaning, or a world without God has no meaning. It’s one of those things that is very true for the person making the statement, but hardly applies to everyone. It’s like the people who think that unless you are playing in the major leagues, your sports efforts are ridiculous – a feeling not shared by the millions of parents who cheer on their kids in Little League, a game with no consequence outside of the lives of the people in it.

    Beyond that, this is not the first I’ve heard of someone becoming an atheist after losing someone when young. When a young man whom I know died, his friends heard Christians say that God killed him for being a non-believer. Those friends asked pastors and rabbis why their dear friend was taken from them so young, who had so much promise, and received nothing meaningful in response.

  6. I didn’t find the his post so sad in part because it reads very much like my own testimony (down to the fact that my father died when I was nine. Interesting) which means that God can blow past these things and grip her heart.

  7. I am the author of the post in question. I find it interesting that you see no basis for goodness or morality without YOUR god. when you have OBJECTIVE proof that YOUR god exists, then you feel free to let me know. Until then, feel free to enjoy your smug self-satistfation and narroe world view. I’m sure it suits you. And by the way, I am a WOMAN. Thanks for playing!

    • Hi,

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. My point was that there is no grounding for goodness or morality without A God. That’s step 1. Step 2 is pointing out how the God of the Bible is the real God.

      We have lots of objective proof — cosmological, teleological, moral, etc. In fact, your comment is evidence: You imply that self-satisfaction and narrow views are bad. Says who? Only in a world with a God is there any rational argument for something being truly good or bad.

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