I read a post today, responding to the accusation that atheists just happen to believe in one less god than Christians. I don’t really care about that argument, specifically. What difference does it make? It doesn’t get to the heart of the real difference between atheists and Christians, and it is only ever used to preach to each side’s own choir. But the author said two things which were worth addressing:

 

“Now, belief in the one true God can only come through revelation as he speaks to you, reveals his true character and causes you to see your need for him.”

“God clearly reveals himself to all as the eternal, loving, just, sovereign, personal God.”

 

Those two lines, for me, sum up how little Christians know about God.

I once thought God spoke to me and revealed his true character, too. I no longer feel that way. What do Christians say to former believers like me? They tell me what I experienced was different from what they experience. Of course, they have to say that, because to consider anything else would require them to doubt God.

That’s all there is to back up the words in those two lines – a “feeling” that the Christian knows better than others who claim to have had the same experience. The author also takes time to explain the process which leads to faith, which he calls “good logical thinking.”

 

“You do not have to counter all of the other options in one go to demonstrate the truth of your position. Rather, we can quickly sort our thinking into category choices.

So first of all the choice is between there being a god or there not being a god. In other words, the choice is binary. From there we move to consider what type of god.”

 

My atheism can be traced back to his first question about there being a god or there not being a god. I am making a guess if I say “yes.” Should I move on after this to decide what type of god exists? If I cannot answer the first question, I do not wish to fill in the blanks again to get to the next question. So I am stuck, you see. That’s the difference between us. The author possesses faith in how generations before us chose to fill in the blanks, and I simply cannot do it. The unknown spaces remain unfilled for me.

I am still back at question #1 while Christians have answered the next 3000 levels of questioning, filling in blanks left and right. Who knows how many wrong directions they have taken, but they don’t worry because they think God is in control of it. How do they know that? Because of some blanks they filled in a long time ago.

And all the while, the concept of prayer reinforces this belief.

I have written many posts about prayer. Prayer is what Christians will recommend first when your spirit is troubled. This is where God “speaks” to believers and reveals himself. It is also where, for many former believers, the God we thought we knew so well officially disappeared.

In a post I wrote called “When It Is Your Job to Lead, You Are Not Allowed to Remain as Silent as God” I attempted to explain one aspect of prayer:

 

Prayer is a connection to god. People offer thanks and worship, but the real magic happens when that connection brings personal comfort. You can turn your cares over to god and believe he has taken on that burden. If you are connected to god you may feel he is leading you. This will make you feel confident that the choices you make are part of his plan and not your own. You can’t go wrong when you are following god’s will for your life.

You can ask god for things, but you know that his answer may not be the one you want to hear. Prayer is often used to make a commitment that whatever happens will be accepted as part of his perfect plan. And if his plan causes pain for you or for others, you may believe that your connection to god and faith in his plan are giving you relief from that pain. You feel god’s presence in that comfort. You cannot prove it or explain it…. but you know it is true.

Prayer does not grant wishes. Prayer does not move god to change his mind. God has never promised to put us through trials in preparation for something even better in this lifetime. Sometimes the road leads to more suffering, and sometimes even the most faithful forget this detail. It is human nature to also hope for things of this world, but god does not offer hope for this world. Only endurance.

 

Every time I handed my burdens over to God I physically felt the benefits of that. I physically felt a connection to God. Because I believed. But prayers for spiritual strength and guidance are different. God always helps us when we ask faithfully. Right? And in times of faith, I did feel the spirit of God. Always.

But the word “faithfully” is a trick. A Christian struggling with doubt spends far too long believing their doubt is affecting their ability to ask faithfully enough…but eventually, their desperation in holding on to God forces them to realize they have never been more faithful in their life. Where is that connection now? God is not answering. He seems to be leading them toward more doubt, but why would God refuse a faithful prayer for spiritual connection?

Without that “feeling” you might attempt to save your definition of God through evidence. You go back to the beginning, but without that feeling you can see the question marks more clearly. You want to answer them to satisfaction, once and for all. You can’t possibly. So you start over. You ask yourself “Is there a god?” And when you can’t answer the question honestly…you get stuck there.

So when a Christian tells me “God clearly reveals himself to all as the eternal, loving, just, sovereign, personal God,” I am not very moved by it. I am even less moved when they claim to have a connection with God that I never had. I know how faithfully I followed God. I know how strong my faith was. I know how desperately I tried to hold on to him. If the Bible is right about God, why would he have remained hidden from someone like me?

I believe the answer to that question lies somewhere along the winding trail leading back to question #1. Christians have filled in an awful lot about a god they couldn’t possibly know as well as they think they do. Is God really guiding their answers?  It seems incredibly unlikely to me.

 

12 thoughts on “How Well Do You Know the One True God?

  1. Thank you for taking to read the post and to respond. Happy to respond further. I prefer not to ping back and forward soundbite comments playing to the gallery but feel free to use the contact page and I will try and respond thoughtfully by email. I promise to try not to second guess your feelings and experience

  2. Hi dear, long time.

    I was reading this, and this stuck out to me:

    “I once thought God spoke to me and revealed his true character, too. I no longer feel that way. What do Christians say to former believers like me? They tell me what I experienced was different from what they experience. Of course, they have to say that, because to consider anything else would require them to doubt God.”

    But really, it is certainly easier and more advisable to doubt YOU than to doubt God. Especially as there are many deceivers, who STILL claim to be Christian, not to talk of those who have denied the Faith. And secondly, how can you deny our experiences as real…and then claim that you had THE SAME experience? You can not even validate your experience, and you think you KNOW someone else’s. How can you even know what our experience collectively is, or what my personal experience is? In all of this doubting, how much doubting of yourself do you actually do?

    Cheers, Ufuoma.

    1. I think you have missed my meaning. I have no interest in who is right or wrong. I don’t think there is any reason you should believe me – for the same reason you telling me that I am incorrect about my own experience would be pointless. Do you see how it is the same?

      When I say “…because to consider anything else would require them to doubt God.” I’m on your side in that. I know it is the bridge you cannot cross. It’s a fact, not an accusation. You read it the wrong way, and then attempted to defend yourself by agreeing with me.

      I only claim to know my own experience. I do not wish to talk you out of faith, but there appears to be no way to express my personal experience without Christians making the assumption that I am offering a challenge. I am explaining the thought process which unraveled Christianity for me, and I know you see errors in that thought process – but those thoughts are not about you in any way. While painting a picture of how I got from point A to point B, I cannot be bothered to stop every 5th sentence to offer disclaimers and apologies.

      I don’t want you to agree with me. I want you to imagine that maybe Christians don’t know as much about the process of losing faith as they think they know.

      “In all of this doubting, how much doubting of yourself do you actually do?” Now that feels like an accusation. I am sure it is difficult for you to put yourself in my shoes and appreciate how difficult it was for me to first doubt the God I was sure of. And right now, I doubt more things than I have ever doubted before. But what you want me to doubt is my belief that Christians cannot possibly understand God to the extent they claim. Really think about that. I doubt your advice is very good.

      1. What is my advice? That it is better to doubt you than to doubt God? You really can’t compete with God…

        As someone who has had to doubt yourself, doubt the Faith and other believers and finally doubt God, you should be able to understand what I am saying. The main thing here is to own your experience, and I appreciate that you are trying to do that. But when you claim to have the same experience as me or other professing Believers, and know the nature of my relationship with God, then you are using your experience to validate or invalidate mine.

        If you can say with confidence that you know your experience is the same as mine, then you should appreciate that I can say with confidence that I know God and it is not the same. They are both subjective statements. The same way you can claim that I don’t really know God is the same way that I claim that you never did. You can’t be right on both counts, because you only know for sure your experience.

        Cheers, Ufuoma.

        1. Again, I am not claiming to know anything about your experience. I don’t know. You are simply arguing something you imagine I am saying, and I have no idea how to make that any clearer. I am not claiming you don’t know God, I am only offering my personal experience and what I have concluded for myself.

      2. “I do not wish to talk you out of faith, but there appears to be no way to express my personal experience without Christians making the assumption that I am offering a challenge.”

        This has been my experience also LAD. They seem to have a filter that makes this assumption automatic. Rather frustrating I know.

        1. It’s practically unavoidable. I think it’s a natural reaction for most of us, not only Christians, to want to argue when someone begins explaining why the things we believe in don’t make sense. But I cannot explain losing faith without being critical of faith. In a perfect world, Christians would not become defensive and make it personal – but rather attempt to understand how I might think differently, if only to better help those among them who may be struggling. It’s hard to do.

  3. I think you did a great job of politely rebutting the idea of clear revelation. Admittedly, though, it’s been something I can’t help but keep noticing after leaving the faith. How does one square the idea of clear revelation with the many different denominations, religious tracts, heresies, cults, and proliferation of different orthodoxies over the span of the religion’s history? It’s anything but clear.

    1. Thank you. I know Christians who have all the same information I do, but it makes sense to them in an opposite way – and I suppose they feel their conclusion is crystal clear. But I’m with you. It’s anything but clear.

  4. Quite honestly, this is the exact line of thinking was the final straw that broke my faith. I cannot overstate how devastating it is to honestly, fervently, and painfully pray for some sort of relief or comfort and have those yearning come back void, time and again. As far as I was concerned, no god that had the qualities christians attribute to their god could leave such a person with absolutely nothong. I cannot seem to get this point across to believers I know though…

    1. I still can come up with no logical reason why the Christian God would ignore a faithful prayer for spiritual guidance. A Christian’s best guess is that our heart was rebellious, even if we did not realize it. Is that compelling to you? Of course not. God has certainly revealed himself to those with far less faith, and with greater rebellion. It doesn’t fit. And I think it means something incredibly significant; something that should shake anyone’s faith.

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