FAITH: How come some don't believe there is a God?
"I've always wondered if there was a god,
and now I know there is, and it's me."
Tell me, what do the following have in common - renowned feminist Gloria Steinem, film maker Woody Allen, billionaire Warren Buffet, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, martial arts expert Bruce Lee, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg and last but not least Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger?
Scratching your head? Stumped? Let me give you a hint by adding to that list Jim Gibson, the mayor of Head, Clara and Maria who sits on the Renfrew County council. If it didn't click before, now it has. All of the foregoing lay claim to being atheists. That means they're not theists. A 'theist' is one who believes in God, but put an 'a' in front of that six-lettered word and you come up with what the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as 'one who denies the existence of God'. That's an atheist! And let's face it, whereby in another era many atheists kept their personal denial of God's existence somewhat private, today, in this post-Christian age they're out of the closet and not just out of the closet, but preaching their unbelief with unashamed evangelical fervour.
Take for instance Ronald Reagan Jr., the son of the one-time Christian president of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan. Junior is now part of the 'Freedom from Religion Foundation' that bemoans the intrusion of religion into the political sphere. In a series of television ads Reagan advocates for the complete separation of church and state, finishing the brief ad looking straight into the viewer's eyes with the bold pronouncement, "Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in Hell." That's bold isn't it? I mean, really bold! But there is a brash radical boldness about today's atheism, just listen to some of the front runners of the movement, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, they are preaching their ideology brother, and there's an enthusiastic chorus of atheistic 'Amens' coming from all corners of the globe!
I don't know about you, but a few weeks ago I stood in the Maternity Ward of our local hospital and looked at a pair of newborn twins, and then the other day I held them. It was an awesome moment for me, I was in absolute awe, strangely and mutely silenced as I touched tiny fingers, beheld tiny eyes, felt skin as soft as velvet and pondered to think that what I now held in my arms, these beautiful babies, had their mysterious beginnings in a microscopic cell. Who, I ask you, but a Supreme Omnipotent Creator could engineer such a marvel? You simply cannot look into the face of a newborn and declare "There is no God!"
But all that asides, I've discovered throughout the years that there are many reasons why many men and women today align themselves with people like Mark Zuckerburg and Ron Reagan Jr. I think there are many people who are atheists today because they've experienced human tragedy, painful traumatic events in their lives, wars, rapes, a dysfunctional childhood, abuse, the tragic loss of a loved one and they've simply not been able to come to a satisfactory answer to the perennial perplexing question, "If there is a loving, all-powerful God, then why would He allow this to happen to me?"
Outside of their own personal traumas, many embrace atheism today because they read of the Jewish Holocaust, see and witness human tragedies on a widespread scale, famines, genocides, ethnic cleansings and they ask themselves despairingly, "If there is a God, why would He allow such atrocities?" Together with that, there are many who fly under the banner of atheism today because at some memorable junction in their lives they have been desperately hurt, wounded and scarred by someone who professed to be a believer. Tragically the messenger has discredited the message by his/her inappropriate behaviour and the wounded one has committed the classic error that all of us are inclined to do, of throwing out the baby with the bathwater!
Personally, I would love to sit down with guys like Woody Allen or Mark Zuckerburg and Mayor Jim Gibson. I would love to ask them "Why are you an atheist?" And then I would love to sit and listen, without interruption or defence on my part, them tell me why. I would venture to say that some of them would come up with some very strong intellectual arguments as to why they reject God, but I'm also absolutely convinced that many of them would tell me that they have embraced the belief system of atheism because they've been wounded by professed believers, or they've seen too much hypocrisy in the ranks of those who believe.
As a theist and a Christian, I'd love to ask any of them what they think of Jesus Christ. I'd furthermore like to invite their responses to the question, "What do you think of the comments made by historian after historian down through the generations that this man Jesus Christ is the most important man who ever lived?"
I wonder what they'd say. I wonder what Gloria would say, and I wonder what Woody, Warren and Bruce would say. And I guess for that matter, I wonder, I really wonder, what Jim Gibson, the mayor who sits on the Renfrew County Council would say. It would be interesting to know, wouldn't it? For let's face it, if you forthrightly profess to be an atheist, deep down, at least according to you . . . there's a substantial reason why!
Rev. Eric Strachan, New Life Community Church, Petawawa