Over and over again atheists receive the message from Christians that we simply do not exist. It seems like a poor starting point for constructive dialog, but the bible is always getting in the way of that. For some reason Christians find it easy to have unshakable faith in the bible’s ability to speak for God. Because it is something we can see and touch it serves as a replacement for an absent god, who is more difficult to hold on to. When Christians feel the presence of god slipping from their grasp, the bible is what strengthens their grip.
Yes, the bible was written by men. But if god did not inspire those men, what do we have? It would mean we have nothing conclusive about what god would have us do. Just theories and hope, but no certainty. No explanation. Christian apologists will offer up all kinds of proof that the bible is special and therefore clearly managed by god, but they needn’t work so hard. The average Christian already believes they have made an excellent case and have no use for the details. It’s enough that someone else can explain it. This frees up the apologist’s time for the full time work of explaining all the things in the bible that don’t feel so inspired.
The bible says that atheists know god exists, so for most Christians this is not up for debate. It’s all about figuring out why the atheist refuses to acknowledge the truth. When a Christian loses faith, the first thing other Christians assume is that something has happened to make them angry with god. Clearly their faith is not strong enough. I know Christians who have made that assumption about me and it’s insulting. I wish they knew how faithful I was, because it would put fear in their hearts.
Their advice is always the same. Seek god, and he will reveal himself to you.
Who cares what other Christians think? Isn’t it more important to ask what the doubting Christian thinks? After all, no one wants to be wrong. I was willing to defend god with my life. What on earth could ever make me challenge that belief? If only it could be answered so easily. I have devoted an entire blog to answering this question. But I can tell you one thing for sure; I did search for god. With everything I had.
Questioning god with logic was easy. I could imagine a world where we had convinced ourselves of god. I was already a critical thinker and had spent years tackling those questions for the Christian team. I was perfectly aware of the holes in either side’s theories, but I was still left with the feeling of god’s presence. I felt him in my life, and that was more difficult to overcome. I was stranded in this place for a long time because I had successfully built a wall of faith around me.
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
As a Christian I thought about that verse a lot. I was always seeking more faith, but I never seemed to be able to move mountains. I still absolutely believed it was possible. When I spent that year on the road going into public schools I would often give my testimony at the evening concerts. The verse I quoted to the crowd was Proverbs 3: 5-6.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
I lived that. I recently wrote about loss of prayer, because this was the thing that fooled me most. I understood why god didn’t answer prayer. Bad things would happen, but that wasn’t for me to worry about. God was in control. He would help us through and would strengthen us. I gave my burdens over to him time and time again. I acknowledged him in every move I made. I trusted him to direct my path so that I would always be sure that whatever came I was at least going in the right direction. Toward god. This was specifically where I felt the presence of god. I never doubted he was taking care of me until I needed him the most.
When I first began to question what I knew about god my instinct was to give that burden to him, too. At first I asked for guidance and strength. Eventually I stopped asking and started begging- because I still believed it would work. The irony is that when I was at my lowest and most desperate for proof of god, I also felt as if I had finally reached that elusive goal of faith. I was seeking him more genuinely than I ever had before. But he wasn’t there.
I needed an actual intervention. Wasn’t god able to do that? I wasn’t asking for a miracle or some trivial thing. I was asking only for his presence in my life, as promised. Anything to help me believe what I already wanted to believe. I started to think of all the other times I had believed he was there and the meaning was suddenly lost. I knew he had never been there. This is how the presence of god slipped out of my life, and nothing in the bible could explain it. What was left?
So when Christians tell me to seek god, they have no idea what that means. I had no idea, either, until I was unable to find him on my own. The reaction was never that god didn’t love me. It was that I knew nothing about god. It was thrilling in ways, and so obvious. A relief. It set me free to explore questions of faith without help from god or the bible.
If Christians do not believe atheists exist, it is because they lack experience. They don’t know me or where I’ve been. And if god exists? They don’t know him, either. They have filled in the blanks so extensively that they have actually run away from him. Every piece of evidence Christians offer in the case for god offers zero indication that they have found their god of the bible; but they have put so much faith in the bible that they are unable to even wonder about who god is anymore. He is whatever the bible says he is. I don’t believe he exists, but if I am ever proven wrong I am certain I will not meet the god I thought I once knew.
As an atheist, I feel closer to knowing god than I ever did as a Christian.