I used to be one. A few of my closest friends are atheists. I have no problem with atheists any more than I have a problem with someone who gets a different answer than I do working the following problem:
I doubt the above is math, which makes it even more like the disagreement between atheists and believers.
The problem with the problem is that it’s complicated, and most of us don’t like complicated. Per Thinking Fast and Slow, paraphrasing one of the parts I read (great book that bored the shit out of me, at the time): with complicated questions, we are often not dead set on getting the right answer so much as the one that costs us the fewest calories, and doesn’t prove a total disaster in results.
Thus… per Daniel Kahneman, the book’s Nobel Prize-winning author (economics), presented with complicated questions, we compress our thinking and accept whatever comes out, so long as it is plausible and dispenses with the problem.
All well and good. Atheists arrive at a different answer than I do on the biggest question of all, but that’s cool. We each ought to have a little skepticism in us if only to ensure we don’t expand the reach of institutional stupidity and deception.
A lot of the claims the atheists put out are true — even though they have nothing to do with the existence of the Creator. Organized religion is often corrupt. A lot of people use religion to foster hate and to judge other people. I know a lady who considers her spiritual gift — given to her by the Holy Spirit — to be judgement. It’s hard not to resent her even though I know she’s working with the sentience of small rodent.
And the nonsense presented by churches when they want your money — that alone probably accounts for a decent fraction of atheists. I did a deep, deep study on the tithe a few years back when I taught a biblical financial worldview class at my church, back before I gave up on churches in general, and the bottom line is that the tithe was designed for a different people at a different time, (Old Covenant) and the Christ-filled person (New Covenant) spends so much time and energy honoring God and loving other people, the tithe is superfluous. That was kind of the whole point of Paul saying the law was dead. The essential desires of the law remain, but enforcement isn’t necessary because the person who honors God and loves his fellow human being — truly loves — regardless of their differences — is far more giving and just than the person following ten thousand laws because they were commanded. And through love, acts more beautifully toward God and other humans than anyone obeying laws because of fear of punishment.
You can’t legislate morality, the saying goes.
But anywhere there are men and women there are deceivers, and it’s no different just because some claim to speak for God. We were warned: we’d know them by their fruit.
I look at the fruit of a lot of organized religion and my heart goes out to the atheist grappling with the honest atheist questions, like how a good God permits evil. I hear ya, buddy. We should get stoned sometime and I’ll tell you.
But here’s where some atheists get my goat. Some of you guys do this all the time and it’s like walking outside into a beautiful day and having a bunch of gnats swarm your face. In the big picture they change nothing, but the irksome little bastards make it difficult to show love.
(Incidentally, when I was a kid, I used stinging insects as a reason to disbelieve God.)
Like some Christians, Jews, Muslims, and all the others: some atheists don’t respect the people they’re communicating with enough to work with them squarely. Either that, or they don’t know how to communicate squarely because almost no one does it anymore. Propaganda everywhere.
I’ll give some the benefit of the doubt. Most people have little interest in thinking before they speak.
But to draw a line: some atheists know reasonable people can be confused — they clearly are — but instead of admitting they can’t plumb the depths of (3x)*(4x)+19b/.1002*(102+1/2/2/4)*14a =, they use their awareness of other people’s confusion to dissemble. They pretend to be intelligent, claim atheists are more intelligent than believers, and then pretend (the kicker) atheism is an intellectually unassailable position.
Hell of a thing, for a person who can’t do the math.
How do I know they can’t do the math?
Instead of saying something intellectually unassailable, they quote some atheist genius who is so damn smart we all just have to take his word when he makes sweeping statements followed by no evidence or logic.
Or, they make idiotic statements that have no relevance, but provide other low horsepower people — looking for the expert — with something convenient to believe.
One meme I saw recently quotes Psalm 14:13, The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.”
The meme’s punchline: And the wise man says it aloud.
Okay. I’m convinced. That’s some high-octane brain power, there.
Another I saw goes on and on about the number of errors in the Bible. Help me out, Delmar. Think this one through on your victory lap. Are you saying the Almighty wrote the Bible?
If God wrote the Bible, He’d have to exist to do it.
If God didn’t write the Bible, men did.
Wait a minute! Are you shitting me? Men make errors?
Stop the press!
Wait! The atheist says, it’s more nuanced than that. You see, blah blah blah.
Memes aren’t for nuance, I guess. Mostly they’re for antagonizing other people and provoking them into helping you create a more-shitty world.
I guess I’m in a fairly small demographic. I grew up a hateful atheist and had to dispense with all the lies I found on both sides. I found my belief that Christ lived, died, and was resurrected through studying history and apologetics long before I ever found a place in my mind where I connect to the living God of everything. I understand that most people, even those who profess faith, never find that place in their minds. I surely understand how easy it is to give up hoping it exists, and I have no condemnation for the person who tries and fails. None whatsoever.
That said, I suspect finding faith in God, for some, is like running a marathon. Many quit while they still have legs to walk. Parly because of other quitters along the way holding placards saying, “GIVE UP. YOU CAN’T DO IT.”
Believe what you believe. If you’re an honest, thinking person, I’ll cheer you on. But if you’re one of the people who quit thinking because it’s too damn hard, and now you’re out there encouraging others to fail too, that’s shitty. You’re better than that.
One good thing: You won’t reach the intelligent person with your nonsense. Categorically, no intelligent person takes to heart what she reads on facebook.
One bad thing: You’ll reach people starving for truth and you’ll feed them word salad. As you fail to be an instrument of light, you’ll be one of darkness.
Ok. Off my high horse. We’re all just people. Let me put my wing over your shoulder a minute.
Everyone in the modern world is trying to get mules to carry their water. Don’t accept anyone’s thoughts — even the ones you accept as foundational to your belief system — until you’ve examined them inside and out, have tested them at every angle, and found them worthy.
Over and over Jesus said, Come and see.
There’s merit in that. Respect for your agency.
Live up to it.
Most of what passes for thinking isn’t. Be skeptical of conclusions presented without overwhelming evidence. The question of God is simple. The evidence on one side is stunning and overwhelming and impossible to ignore. The evidence on the other side never really gets at the point, distracts like gnats, and only sows confusion. You’ll know them by their fruit.
If they, we, I, aren’t sowing love, what are we sowing?
(I can hear the atheist go off, right there. Christians don’t sow love! They sow hate! And I say, Sure, some. They use Christ’s name and don’t know him at all, like he predicted. Your point?)
Don’t believe in experts. Not because they don’t exist; not because they don’t know more than you or I; be skeptical because everyone, absolutely everyone, is selling something.
I sell books and sticks, but with this sort of post, I’m selling my understanding of the Kingdom.
What’s your run of the mill expert selling?
I don’t know. It’s worth considering before slapping down a credit card.
If you believe you just don’t have the horsepower to think the big questions through for yourself, I suspect you’re not giving yourself full credit. Regardless, be especially wary of the expert who caters to your bias. That’s how liars get good people to carry wicked water.
Most of today’s evil is perpetrated by people who believe they are doing good. That’s why Jesus told us to pry the plank from our own eye before addressing the mote in our neighbor’s. I have no problem confessing the planks in my eyes, and that many atheists are more loving, caring, supportive, and all-around more decent people than I.
Which has nothing at all to do with where they stand with the Almighty. We can call out Lord! Lord! all day long and if we don’t choose love, we don’t know him. I’m on my knees, humble and contrite, there.
4 responses to “Atheists”
I really enjoyed this. You present an age old discussion in an enlightened way.
In my youth our home was guided by a strict Mexican catholic upbringing. Bible study, Saturday bible school and Sunday church….in Latin. I was the oldest of 4 boys. I made it through first communion and was studying for my confirmation when my mom and dad got divorced. That changed our lives quite a bit. One of the ways it changed them was now that my mother was looked at and treated as a divorcee in the church she developed a strong distaste for Catholicism which remains with her to this day. I didn’t care for it either after being rapped on the knuckles for being naturally left handed or daring to question the unfathomable God is, always has been and always will be. I just couldn’t grasp it and every time I would ask questions about the infinity of a being I would get into trouble as well as slowly lose respect for those trying to pound their dogma into my young brain. I was freed from organized religion by my parents divorce. That was the only good thing to come from it actually. I had 3 younger brothers who suffered greatly from losing their father and I was now, at the young age of 12, the “man” of the house. That was a moniker I neither enjoyed or was proud of. At least my brothers were not subjected to the attempted brain washing of the organized religion for as long as I was. My mother was lost and has looked her whole life for something else to follow, to give meaning to this life. At 89 she is mostly Buddhist but only as a quasi description. She claims nothing can describe her beliefs as a whole. My brothers have their own private beliefs that they do not share and I am left half indoctrinated and half still questioning. I had the fear of the devil put into me for sure so if there is a devil doesn’t it stand to reason that there must be a god? The beauty and wonder of life here on this planet can’t just be an accident….can it? The terror of the savage garden where everything is born to be eaten by something else can’t be a mere coincidence….could it? This life we share in these temporary bodies is not all we get…is it? These are all questions that I ponder more seriously as the years go by. The one thing I can hang on to is that I have a conscience…as a guide…that I can choose to follow or ignore. When I follow it, I feel at peace and better about myself. When I ignore it I feel remorse and regret. Can that be god or is that the remnants of Catholic dogma? I don’t know for sure but it’s the closest thing to an answer I have convinced myself to try and believe.
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