3 reasons I’m not an atheist

Feb 29, 2016 by

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The following are some points that I have picked up through conversations with many atheists in both Europe and Canada. That being said, I am not an atheist myself and therefore realize that my thoughts are biased. I am happy to have a discussion with anyone who identifies as an atheist. I also apologize in advance if anyone is offended by this post, but I also believe that what I share here is the truth. Of course, if you’re an atheist, you likely think otherwise.

Over the years I have heard the same responses from my atheist friends. They ask me what the point of my faith is. They say the Bible is just made up of feel-good fairy tales that are impossible and never happened. Some of them have the audacity to say Christianity is basically a crutch to get through difficult seasons in our lives. It can be easy to become offended at comments like these, but let me suggest another alternative to you: sympathy. You see, I believe being an atheist is intensely hard work. It takes a lot of brain and will power to convince yourself that there is no intelligent design, that there is nothing beyond the grave, and that there may be seemingly no meaning behind all the pain and suffering we experience in our world today. That there is nothing better than what we already have and that all we have to live for is ourselves. I don’t think I am brave enough to engage in this “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you will die” mindset, nor do I think I have the strength to believe that there is no infinite being who guides us as a moral compass. If you have that type of strength, then all the power to you, but I do not. And I don’t think I ever will. Below I’d like to highlight the three reasons why I am particularly glad I am not an atheist:

Atheists don’t believe in the power of prayer. Over the past few weeks, I have been engaging in a lot of debates surrounding the issue of divine healing. Do I believe in it? Why or why not? The answer is: yes. I have seen healing take place in my own life and in the lives of many others. I have seen God opening doors because of prayer even though the world was doubtful. I believe that prayer changes our hearts and attitudes. Sometimes, for whatever reason, God doesn’t answer our prayers like we would have wished, but many other times I have seen God working miracles because of prayer. Therefore, I know first-hand the importance of intercession. I believe that when we (collectively speaking) pray a great and powerful energy is being released. God hears us because of our persistence and he honors our requests. Prayer has sustained me through some very difficult times and seasons in my life. In fact, I recently was reading a journal that I wrote when I was going through a particularly rough patch and nothing seemed to be working in my favor. I wrote: “The prayers of the saints sustain me. They are the only thing that has kept me going.” In seasons of distress, when we cling to God, he does not disappoint. He feels for us in the pain and sadness. He encourages us and supports us. He can do that when we are just praying to him one-on-one, and he can also do that when other people we know and love (or even sometimes don’t know) are remembering us in their prayers. I would not trade this divine connection for the world.

Atheists don’t believe in the sovereignty of God. Atheists don’t believe that there is any form of divine power. In essence, this means that humanity is responsible for itself. I can think of nothing worse. When humanity is in charge, it results in chaos. Think about people like Hitler and Stalin — those are classic examples of when people didn’t seek God’s opinion, but just did what they thought they wanted to do. It resulted in severe injustice and death. Even the most moral of people are not capable of making the best decisions in each and every circumstance. Yet, when we put our faith and trust in God, we believe that there is something greater than ourselves. When we seek God in prayer and humbly ask for his guidance, He directs us to new places we never thought we could be before. When things work out, it can be easy just to thank “chance” or “good luck,” but even my atheistic friends have admitted that there are times when there is really no logical explanation for some of the amazing events that have occurred. Why put your trust in your own intellect and might when humanity in and of itself is not able to understand the vastness of the universe or the intricacies of even the smallest of animals? Why not just put your trust in God who has created all these things and who we are told even loves and cares for us, though we are relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things?

NOTE: Here I wish to be very clear. Not all atheists are like Hitler or Stalin — in fact, few are. Many atheists can also be very loving people who do a great deal of good for our world. We also have Christians who destroy this earth. They ruin our ecosystem and hurt relationships. Sometimes Christians can act even worse than someone who does not believe in God. All I am saying is that if people are passionately following God 100 percent of the time and seeking to do his will for their lives, I believe they have the opportunity to become moral for reasons other than morality’s sake. Conversely, if people are just living for themselves because they believe that there is nothing beyond the grave, the world becomes rife with opportunities for caring about nothing else other than self-seeking, gratifying pleasures. But there are many who are in the middle. After all, C.S. Lewis once wrote, “a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.” (Mere Christianity)

What if you’re wrong? This one gets to me every time. I have some friends who grew up in the church, but have since left organized religion. In fact, they want absolutely nothing to do with religion. Period. Sometimes these same friends will say to me, “It must be nice to believe that there is a meaning behind everything.” Once I even had a friend admit she was somewhat envious of the fact that I believed God was in control over every aspect of my life: my marriage, my children, my future profession. She said she wishes she could have that type of trust because it would likely make her feel better, but she just couldn’t bring herself to believe as I do. This was so sad for me to hear. I thought, “But you can. You used to have it, but you chose to give it away for some reason.”

We are likely all familiar with Pascal’s Wager. In this wager, Pascal says that we essentially have two options. We can either believe that God is real or we can believe that he isn’t. If we believe the first, that God is real, but it ends up that he really isn’t, what do we have to lose? We end up dying and going into the ground. We don’t rise again, there is nothing more, just the endless abyss — but it doesn’t really matter because we will be dead and thus it will not concern us. On the other hand, if we believe that God is not real, and we die and find out he is, what have we got to lose? Everything, including our own soul. Therefore, it is really in our best interest to believe in God.

I see no reason why not to believe in God. It seems to me that the pros far outweigh the cons. Faith in God enables us to believe that there is something more than simply what meets the eye. It reminds us that life is not only about us and therefore relieves us of a responsibility of trying to be in control, but also gives us an invigorating sense of wanting to change the world. It surrounds us with friends who will pray for us during our darkest hours and who will truly be there for us. It can radically change us to become more loving, giving and self-sacrificial. My question to you is this: why do you not want that? Is believing that you were created by chance and that there is relatively little meaning to life because all we are going to do is eventually end up fertilizing dandelions really helping you to become more positive and happy? I personally find the prospect of being an atheist to be rather dull and lifeless. I even find it to be somewhat depressing because I feel like if I were an atheist, there would be nothing to live for. I would have an insane fear of death and being eternally forgotten. I would wonder why I was born since people are only going to forget me after about three generations (if not sooner). Instead I have put my trust in a loving Savior who breathes life-giving messages of hope and peace into my life. I have learned to find contentment in this life because I believe that it is really nothing more than a rest-over stop before my final destination, which will be even more glorious. A destination that promises no pain or heartache, no diseases or divorce, no abuse or apathy. Doesn’t that sound amazing to you? Then what’s holding you back? Why not reach out, take that step of faith, and place your trust in the eternal God who has truly promised us so much more?

P.S. I came across these super interesting blog posts after I had finished writing my own. Although I still stick by what I shared, Courtney’s (AKA: Godless Mom’s) post provided me with a bit more understanding and appreciation toward the atheist movement: Conversely, Jayson’s post provides some sound insight on a reasonable Christian response to atheism and is also worth a read.

Deborah-Ruth Ferber studied religious education at Tyndale University College in Toronto, and peace studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind. This post first appeared at Zwiebach and Peace, her personal blog.

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  • Brian Westley

    On the other hand, if we believe that God is not real, and we die and find out he is, what have we got to lose? Everything, including our own soul. Therefore, it is really in our best interest to believe in God.

    Aside from all the other problems with your assertions, this one is possibly the worst.

    You can’t even recognize that you are assuming that the only possible god is yours, since you are assuming a god, if one exists, will judge people based simply on whether they believe it exists or not.

    There are gods that don’t care whether you believe in it or not.

  • Rob Paschal

    Pascal’s Wager is not a good reason to believe in your God. For an atheist this is day 1 stuff and easily dismissed.
    You examples of Stalin and Hitler are weak as neither acted in the name of atheism. Plus, Hitler was a Catholic.
    And of course prayer doesn’t work. It violates the idea of Free Will that Christians erroniously cling to.

  • Randy Wanat

    1: Power of prayer
    Prayer has been objectively demonstrated in multiple studies to have no discernible ability to increase the chances of a particular outcome. Prayer as an activity has the same therapeutic effects as basic meditation. No belief in deities is necessary to get these benefits, therefore it is the physical activity and mental processes, and not divine anything, that has power. When there is something beyond unverified and unexamined anecdotes supporting the power of prayer, we’re more than willing to view it. But, until then, we won’t believe it, just like you won’t believe fairies in your garden make the flowers grow until it’s demonstrated to be true.
    2: Sovereignty of God
    Do you recognize the sovereignty of Zeus? Vishnu? Zoroaster? Mithras? No? You don’t believe they exist, therefore you can’t recognize their sovereignty? Well, the same goes for us. Demonstrate the existence of your deity, then demonstrate its sovereignty. Just like you won’t accept the sovereignty of any of those other deities until such time as those demonstrations are made, neither will we regarding your deity.
    3: What if you’re wrong?
    What if YOU are wrong, and the Muslims are right? You’re going to Hell for eternal torture! Why would you risk that punishment by refusing to embrace Islam?
    How much time do you spend worrying about going to Muslim Hell? Any? If you think your use oc Pascal’s wager is compelling, it must be equally compelling for every promise of punishments after death. But, you think the only options should be no gods or your god. When you can demonstrate the existence AND exclusivity of your deity, your “what if you’re wrong” will continue to be nothing more than your tacit declaration that you have not thought very deeply about any of this. If your failure to rationally contemplate your religious beliefs is why you’re not an atheist, I’m afraid you are not making a convincing argument for us to join you. If a Hindu used these arguments with you, would you convert to Hinduism? If not, why do you think anybody (including you) would, or should, find such arguments compelling for ANY religion?

  • Wilbur H Entz

    According to the http://amazingbibletimeline.com/bible_questions/q10_bible_facts_statistics/ site there are 3268 fulfilled-prophecy verses in the Bible. It is absolutely impossible to find a counterargument to this truth. Only the supreme God could have authored the Bible. “Thy word is truth” John 17:17.

    • Charlie Kraybill

      This is funny. Not sure you’re serious, but I’ll assume you are. I have no idea how your website came up with the number “3,268.” But here’s the counter-argument: The Bible actually contains “0” (zero) fulfilled prophecies. Because in every instance where an event was supposedly predicted, the biblical authors were writing after the fact. That is, the text containing the prediction was written after the predicted event had already occurred. Modern scholarship has demonstrated this time and time again. Further, there are many “biblical prophecies” that exist only in the active imaginations of Christian theologians, due to misreadings, faulty interpretations, and wishful thinking. You believe the birth and death of Jesus were predicted in the Hebrew Bible? I urge you to consult your local rabbi about that. He or she will explain to you what each of those texts actually mean, in their Jewish context. And please don’t presume to know more than a rabbi about how to interpret the Jewish scriptures. It is their holy book, not yours.

      • Bruce Leichty

        Last time I checked, the Old Testament was part of Christian Scripture, and the idea that today’s rabbis should have a lock on it and that rabbi Jesus should not, is not defensible except as a statement of (Jewish) faith.

        • Charlie Kraybill

          I’m really surprised you would take this view, Bruce. To say that a Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Bible would ever take precedence over the interpretation of the Jews (the people who wrote it) is like saying that the Mormon interpretation of the New Testament could take precedence over the interpretation of orthodox Christians. How would you feel if a Mormon missionary suggested to you that Christians can only truly understand certain NT texts from within the context of a Mormon world view? I expect you would find this laughable. Such is the case when Jews are confronted by Christians who claim to understand the Hebrew Bible better than the rabbis.

          • Linda Rosenblum

            Mormons consider themselves Christians. Just sayin… — Linda Rosenblum

          • Bruce Leichty

            See my response inadvertently made to you above. The other thing I will say is that Christians have every bit as much a claim to be inheritors of the Hebrew Scriptures and interpretation thereof as do Judaics. You like many others have just been hornswoggled by labels and self-interested Judaic claims.

      • Wilbur H Entz

        Mr. Kraybill, Like I say, you have exactly zero (0) arguments for the noninspiration of Scripture. You might try reading Ray Comfort’s “You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics”. It is available on Amazon.

      • Brian Arbuckle

        Mr. Kraybill, I suggest you reconsider your argument against fulfilled prophecies. I’m sure that the obvious flaw will become apparent even to you upon examination. However, if upon further examination you fail to see it then I recommend you seek out the nearest Rabbi. Actually, you could even consult a Christian pastor since both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are his holy book.

      • Bruce Leichty

        I won’t quarrel with the idea that Jews will laugh, but then they also scorned Jesus. No local rabbi — representing those who rejected and vilified Jesus, because that is in part what Judaism represents — is going to interpret Scripture for me. The early church at its best — and not Judaism — carried on with the true Essence of being Jewish. I will listen to a rabbinic perspective, but would expect the rabbi to do the same with me. You are very parochial In your deference to the rabbinic set. You lack a historical perspective. By their fruits ye shall know them.

        I see that I am typing this comment in the wrong reply box. I meant to reply to your reply to me in which you used the term laughable. Hope that is good for a small laugh instead.

        • Charlie Kraybill

          Bruce, let me give you a small example of why the early church’s interpretation of Jewish texts should not be trusted. In Matthew 21, the author tells the story of Jesus riding two animals — a donkey and a colt — into Jerusalem. The version in the other synoptics only has one animal. The author of Matthew, however, viewed the story as a fulfillment of Zechariah 9. Now, if you ask a rabbi about Zechariah 9, he/she will explain to you that not only does the passage not refer to Jesus, but that it only mentions one animal. The author of Matthew was not a skilled reader of Hebrew and didn’t understand the concept of parallelism, so he saw two animals in the passage when there is really only one. Yet, in order to make the Jesus story fit his misreading of Zechariah, the author of Matthew made Jesus ride two animals into Jerusalem. This is a clear case of a gospel author slipping up and showing his true methodology — he routinely scoured the Hebrew Bible looking for any and all details that could be made to apply to Jesus, even when doing so meant twisting and distorting the original meaning of the text.

          • Brian Arbuckle

            Was Jesus standing up? You know, like in those Wild West shows?

          • Bruce Leichty

            Interesting theory. As a former graduate student using the historical critical method of studying the Bible I am certainly open to consideration of this critique. It would bear further examination. But it doesn’t prove anything about the identity of Jesus. And one should not generalize from it to conclude that rabbis always know best. Or that Jesus’ own articulation of the law and prophets, or that of the early church, can never be trusted!

  • James M. Branum

    Deborah… there are many good reasons to believe in God but fear of damnation is not a good reason.
    A deity who would torture people for eternity for failing to believe in said deity is not worthy of worship or love but rather would be a monster.

    – James M. Branum

    • Debra B. Stewart

      Thank you, James. The sad thing is, when most “believers” are being totally honest, one of the main reasons they believe is to avoid eternal damnation. I decided long ago I didn’t want to live my life in fear of the unknown. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof . . . ”

      • Bruce Leichty

        A fixation on eternal damnation is a distraction from the Christian faith. Really? You think that “most” confessing believers are just trying to avoid Hell? Not among most Mennonites I have known.

    • Phil Schroeder

      Hell or condemnation is not so much for unbelief as it is for lack of acceptance and submission to him as our creator and savior. Nature itself testifies to an awesome creator so that we are left without excuse. God allowed his only Son Jesus to suffer and die to pay the price of our free salvation. That is love. For us to reject this free gift is defiant hatred. God is loving and just. Any who experience eternal separation from God will do so because of their own stubborn hatred, not God’s.

  • Orion Jones

    “They say the Bible is just made up of feel-good fairy tales…”

    It’s sounds like you and your friends haven’t read the whole of the Bible, cover to cover, Old and New Testaments. Many parts of it are shockingly unpleasant.

    • Linda Rosenblum

      I just looked at your profile and it appears that you have some kind of RSS feed of any discussion in favor of theism or against atheism. How interested are you really in the greater Anabaptist/Mennonite world? My guess is you aren’t a regular Mennoworld.org reader. Just need to chime in against someone discussing why they feel faith in God is better than atheism? Is your intent to dissuade others from their faith too? Just asking… Linda Rosenblum

      • Orion Jones

        The article is about atheism, the author specifically says in the introduction they are happy to have discussions with atheists, and directly asks questions of atheists in the article. So you shouldn’t find it particularly surprising that atheists will reply. My intent is to discuss people’s reasons for their theism, their misunderstandings of atheism, and my reasons for atheism. If I dissuade others from their faith, so be it. Of course, it’s always possible the opposite will happen. I have nothing to hide – unlike those who keep their profiles blocked.

        • Brian Arbuckle

          What is the most frequent misunderstanding of atheism you encounter?

          • Orion Jones

            The most common misunderstanding is that atheists deny gods, rather then just lack belief in them. Very few atheists actually assert with 100% certainty that no gods exist. Most just think that it’s very unlikely any gods exist.

            But there’s a lot of close runner up misunderstandings:

            Atheists have meaningless lives.
            Atheists are immoral, along with the guilt by association comparisons to Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong.
            Being an atheist is hard work.
            Atheism is a faith/religion.
            Atheists are angry with God.
            Atheists fear judgement.

            Note, I’m not saying the current author has all these misunderstandings.

          • Chris Hall

            I can’t speak for Orion, but I think it must be that we atheists really do believe in gods (and your one in particular) and we just reject and hate him for some bizarre reason. Phil Schroeder demonstrates that mentality in a post just below this one.

  • Orion Jones

    “I believe being an atheist is intensely hard work.”

    Yes, many theists mistakenly think atheists struggle with their atheism in the same way theists struggle with their faith. The psychological term is ‘projection’.

    “It takes a lot of brain and will power to convince yourself … that there may be seemingly no meaning behind all the pain and suffering we experience in our world today.”

    The alternative is that there is some meaning (i.e. some god) behind all the pain and suffering we experience. I think that would be a far worse situation.

  • Orion Jones

    “[Atheism] … That there is nothing better than what we already have and that all we have to live for is ourselves. I don’t think I am brave enough to engage in this ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you will die’ mindset”

    Well, try making things better than what we already have, and try living for and helping others. There’s no reason that atheism entails being selfish. The fact that some theists think that says more about those theists than it does atheists.

  • Orion Jones

    “the issue of divine healing. Do I believe in it? Why or why not? The answer is: yes. I have seen healing take place in my own life and in the lives of many others.”

    I’m not sure if you’re talking about physical or emotional healing here. If it’s physical, then you might ask why you’ve never seen amputees regrow missing limbs. It’s only ever things that could happen naturally by themselves. If it’s emotional healing then you might be interested in this link to a recent study of over 8000 people showing being religious or spiritual is linked to getting more depressed: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-raj-persaud/religion-depression_b_3928675.html. The study also demonstrated it was more likely a spiritual and religious outlook was leading to future lower mood, than the other way around.

  • Orion Jones

    “[Atheism] … In essence, this means that humanity is responsible for itself. I can think of nothing worse.”

    That’s the stark reality. Believing that humanity is not responsible for itself and some god will bail us out if we make too big a mess might explain why so many Christians are unconcerned by global warming.

    “When humanity is in charge, it results in chaos. Think about people like Hitler and Stalin”

    Hitler wasn’t operating the gas chambers on his own. Germany in the 30’s and 40’s was overwhelmingly Christian (95-98%). Can you give any quotes from these tyrants indicating that non-belief in a god was the reason they did what they did?

  • Orion Jones

    “Why not just put your trust in God who has created all these things and who we are told even loves and cares for us”

    Unless you don’t believe in him of course, in which case it’s eternal torture. Why don’t you put your trust in Shiva, Allah, Zeus, Freya, Xenu or any of the rest?

    “What if you’re wrong?”

    What if you’re wrong? You might be praying to the wrong god(s). And what if the god(s) couldn’t care less whether people believed in him/her/it/them or not, and just wanted people to be good to each other, think rationally and critically for themselves, and not to unquestioningly accept any old superstitious nonsense they are fed. Then you’d be the one in trouble, and atheists would be safe.

    “Therefore, it is really in our best interest to believe in God.”

    Don’t you think that any all-knowing god is going to see straight through that sort of selfishness?

  • Orion Jones

    “I feel like if I were an atheist, there would be nothing to live for.”

    Yes in an absolute, grand scheme of things sense life has no meaning. But to me personally and my family it does. It couldn’t possibly have any more meaning, because it’s the only life I get. But it’s for Christians this life should have little meaning. Their life is just a fleeting moment of hardship in comparison to the guaranteed eternity of heavenly perfection beckoning ahead. If you really believe what you claim, shouldn’t you be eagerly looking forward to your death? If you’re not looking forward to dying, doesn’t that suggest your beliefs aren’t as strong as you think?

    • Conrad Hertzler

      I certainly understand this question and think it’s a valid one. You can’t be expected to grasp the significance of the life that a follower of Jesus lives and the hope that he/she has unless you have been there and experienced that life. You are absolutely right that life for a Christian is fleeting in comparison to the eternal joy and life that is waiting for us. But the hope that we have inspires us to live this life on earth to its fullest. The Apostle Paul said while waiting his imminent death, “For me to life is Christ and to die is gain.” His life on earth was about Christ. A person living that kind of life is one who expends himself on behalf of others as Christ did. In his service to others he finds immense joy and meaning in life. Not the kind of happiness that just makes him feel good about himself but the kind of joy that comes from serving and pleasing his Creator. And so life has meaning and joy but the follower of Jesus does look forward to spending eternity with his Creator. The Apostle Paul said basically that he was in a quandary because he didn’t know what was better. He wanted to stay on earth and serve the Church which gave him a lot of joy but he also looked forward to spending eternity with Jesus. That’s why he said, “For me to live is Christ, but to die is gain.”

      So, Orion, you are right that a Christian does look forward to eternity but that does not make this life short, meaningless, and full of hardship. Rather it ADDS meaning to this life while also giving us an incredible hope for the future.

      It is interesting to see the Atheists coming out in this discussion and I welcome your comments. My hope is that the Christians can be winsome and discuss in such a way that will draw people to Jesus and refrain from throwing out generalizations that will marginalize you.

      • Orion Jones

        “a Christian does look forward to eternity but that does not make this life short, meaningless, and full of hardship”

        I wasn’t meaning to suggest that the lives of Christians are literally short, meaningless and full of hardship. It’s only when compared to what they claim lies ahead that they should seem like that. But I’m not convinced that most Christians really do believe, deep down, in an afterlife. They are as heartbroken and inconsolable as atheists when a loved one dies before their time; and they try just as hard as atheists to prolong their own lives.

        • Conrad Hertzler

          Again, I have to concede that you have a point about what Christians believe about the afterlife. I wouldn’t be willing to say that most Christians don’t believe in an afterlife but it certainly seems to be true of some. I too have seen and read about Christians going to great lengths to lengthen or sustain life and I can see how this could be portrayed as an unbelief in eternal life. I think the problem comes, as in many other areas, when what we say we believe is put to the hard test as in the death of a loved one or even our own approaching death. Then we Christians dig deep to discover what we really believe and how that dictates our response. Sometimes we pass the test even though we grieve, and sometimes we don’t do so well.

  • Craig Anderson

    Wow. Ouch! I strongly identify as a Christian and a Mennonite. I try to practice that Faith daily. Obedience to God and seeking to follow Jesus are the very most important things in my life. (Apologies to my wife, my children, and BOTH of my small groups. :-) I read and study the Bible. My apologies in advance to you, Deborah-Ruth, and to the other Christian commenters here, but, on the whole and based ONLY on what I read here, I find the the content of the posts by the atheists MUCH more compelling than I find those by my sisters and brothers in Christ. Telling! And I am not just speaking intellectually or about the logic in and behind the posts. I actually feel more affinity for many of the points of view atheists have expressed here. Don’t worry (or hope! :-)) that this provokes in me an existential crisis of faith. I don’t think it does or will. I just want both Christians and atheists out there reading this to know the feelings of this one Christian. I suspect that I am far from alone among MWR’s readers.

    • Bruce Leichty

      You should be more specific about the atheists’ points of view for which you as a Christian have affinity. I would suspect that they are not necessarily atheistic at all. Otherwise there is a contradiction, no? Give us the synthesis you’ve managed to achieve between belief and science, Craig. I agree that there is no incompatibility but I’m wondering if you’re on that same track or some other.