By the very mention of the word, I might have made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. It’s a word that incites arguments that seldom get resolved. Whatever I say, be it negative or positive, I’m bound to make someone defensive. This blog may not sit with both sides of the aisle.
But I really don’t feel like arguing so if you’re in a mood to debate, you may as well save your breath.
I didn’t know any Atheists growing up and for some reason I had two misconceptions of them. First, they were illogical. There were really no such thing as Atheists. God didn’t believe in them. It was in the Bible somewhere.
The other misconception was that Atheists were all bitter and hostile and lived to persecute Christians. It was us vs. them. The right vs. the wrong. The completely innocent vs. big godless meanies. I’m exaggerating…but only a little.
In my adult life, I’ve had the privilege of knowing many Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and otherwise undeclared. I’ve known many of them on surface levels and a few very personally. They come from all different socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, and mindsets for their beliefs.
And my former misconceptions have been blown to bits.
Now, let me just be frank. Not all Atheists are created equally (sorry, bad pun). I’ve known a couple that were quite antagonistic that hid under a disguise of rationalism that in truth couldn’t think themselves out of a wet paper bag. But then again, I’ve known a few Christians like that as well.
Lately I’ve been forced to think about the issue. A few months ago I was listening to a professor who claimed that Atheists do not have the truth of God. Because of this, they cannot find God. Only God can find them; and apparently God has ordained many of them to stay Atheists.
Basically, they’re screwed – and it’s God’s will.
The professor went on to say that even Atheists who do incredibly good humanitarian things are doing it under false pretense; that they only do things for their own selfish benefit. True goodness comes from God and since they don’t have God, everything they do is evil.
Of course, I couldn’t let this steaming mound of crap slide.
I responded to the professor, “Having truth can’t be that simple and black and white. Aren’t we all made in the image of God? Even as Christians, don’t we see God through a proverbial dark glass?”
He looked at me and said, “But it’s in the Bible” and gave me a lingering stern look that said, “If you challenge me on this, I will end you.”
Now granted, this guy is a brilliant PhD that has a carefully formed theology. And heck, maybe he’s right and I’m just a punk kid being confused by my own sinful logic (or some other ridiculous comment I’ve received over the past few years). Hate me if you must, but I can easily take a handful of scriptures and make a good argument for just about anything. But that doesn’t make it right. I just can’t buy into any theology that violates what I know about God through scripture and through my innermost being. I also can’t believe something that just doesn’t correspond with reality.
Because the reality is, I know some really good Atheists.
I know Atheists who are verbal about saying that God doesn’t exist but on the inside they’re screaming, “God, where in the hell are you?” I know Atheists whose anger is a suppressed cry for divine love. I know Atheists who whole-heartedly believe that the concept of God is absurd – and they’re logic is sound. But it’s only because they were fed a really crappy version of God that I’m convinced enslaves the majority of Christian Americans into being judgmental and miserable.
If that’s the only version of God I know, I’d be an Atheist too.
And believe it or not, I’ve known some Atheists who are more Christ-like than me, Mr. Christian. I’ve known some who’ve loved and cared and concerned for people way more than I do; that see more beauty in the things around them and that follow an ingrained higher law of love better than I can.
Some Atheists are following God and they don’t even realize it.
Now before I am declared a heretic by my fellow Christians, let me say this. I whole-heartedly believe in only one God and Jesus is the only way to him. I am convinced that the only way to make sense of this world is through Jesus. The only way to make this world a better place is through the way of Jesus. No other philosophy or worldview or system comes even remotely close to the way of Jesus.
But God does so much more than just to reveal himself through his followers. God is revealing himself in everything good and beautiful. In every nation. In every language. Every wonderful breath we take is a glimpse of God who creates and sustains everything.
And God is revealing himself to Atheists, whether they want to admit it or not.
So to my Atheist friends, some of whom I can say it is with the deepest honor that you’re in my life, do I want you to become a Christian? Absolutely! The God I want you to find looks like this: Imagine every noble and beautiful quality you can think of. Imagine love so intense it’s manifested in physical form. Now take all that and multiply it by infinity. Now take that concept, and imagine that it has a heart that burns for YOU. Imagine it desperately wants to be allowed to show you your true worth and a love WITHOUT JUDGMENT OR CONDEMNATION that is as big as the universe, as small as the cracks in your heart that no one else knows about, and is as natural and symbiotic as a newborn with its mother. Imagine that it wants to comfort you though even the most hideous of times in this often profane and ugly world. Imagine that it wants you to play along in reconciling and redeeming the world and empowers you with the same crazy torrent of love to give to others. That’s what the Gospel is really about. Anything else is just religion.