Confessions of a functional atheist


GraveyardOne of the accusations against Christians is that we have a psychological need to believe a fantasy. In other words, the atheist thinks that we make up a belief in God to provide comfort against the unknown. Our belief in God is like whistling as we pass through the graveyard. It doesn’t provide any real benefit but it makes us feel better.

Honesty (the premise of this blog) requires that I get something out in the open. There are times when I don’t want God to exist. It would be oh so much more convenient if he did not and I could do whatever I want. There are times when I want to be god and I don’t want anyone telling me what to do.

This is the atheist position. The position that does not want God to exist and refuses to see any evidence that would point to God. I see this as more of a will issue than an intellectual one. My intellect tends to go where my will leads it. I often remember a line I heard a long time ago,

“a man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”

God tells me to forgive, even when I don’t want to forgive. God tells me to love when I would rather hate. God tells me to respect when I feel disdain. God tells me to give when I would rather take. God tells me to value others above myself. All of these commands are difficult and I sometimes do not obey them. In those moments when I refuse obedience, I become a functional atheist; I act as if God does not exist.

Too often we see this in the church. Pastors and elders have to deal with people who write off Scriptural commands with the magic words, “it’s all in the interpretation” or “not everyone agrees with such a literal understanding.” Jesus predicted that some would fall away because of the demands of the Christian life (see Matthew 13:3-9). At one point in Jesus’ ministry his disciples referred to his teaching as a “hard saying” (John 6:60). When you examine Christianity in its entirety, it is sometimes very inconvenient.

We serve a God who does care how we behave. We do not serve a semi-senile grandfather God who always pats us on the head and says, “that’s nice.” We serve a God who demands holiness, a demand so important to him that he sent Jesus to provide for us the means of obtaining holiness.

Every moment of the day, I must choose to live according to my belief or to deny my belief in God. By God’s grace, most of the time I choose correctly and move toward deeper relationship with him. Yet, there are times when in my pride and stupidity I choose badly. When I choose badly, I am then given the opportunity to repent and choose well (1 John 1:9).

I believe in Jesus Christ because he provides the best explanation of the world I see around me. I believe in him because I think that he is indeed the truth (John 14:6). Sometimes, it is a very inconvenient truth and I do not live up to it, yet it remains the truth.

You may choose to disbelieve but please make that choice based on an accurate understanding of Christianity. Too often those who oppose God present a caricature of Christianity, a straw man easily knocked down. The real thing is far more elaborate and far more beautiful than the caricature.