Atheists and answers

I know some great people who happen to be atheists. Smart. Kind. Compassionate. They have been my doctor, or fellow hobby enthusiast, or a parent of my child’s classmate, and they don’t believe God exists. When I talk to them long enough and listen to their story, I often hear their basis for believing in a world without God. They need an answer. In their mind, there is at least one glaring omission of reason within the known structures of faith. Frequently it is a concern about permitted tragedy, the unmerited death of a loved one, or a global disaster. Like I said, they seem to be very compassionate. They perhaps bear a greater concern for inexplicable suffering than many believing Christians do. For lack of a reasonable answer that justifies these events, they choose not to believe in God.

I see a problem with their dilemma in this matter. Faith should not be an arena for obtaining all answers to all questions. My faith tells me I will have some answers some day. As for now, I trust that a supernatural being (God) who is very unlike me (human) has the whole world and universe in His “hand.” How He chooses to “hold” matters may not look like how I would hold things.

For a short time five years ago, I became a secret atheist. In my perspective, God’s specific and repeated lack of effect and control on a longstanding, difficult situation finally equated with a useless God. If He existed and knew how painful certain events were, then how could He allow them to continue to happen? I had been holding out for 40+ years for answers, and all I received were repeated similar events. My faith “game” was over.

However the longer I thought about my faith in God, I realized I was not struggling with unbelief. I was angry. I had not been given an acceptable answer to what I thought were my very good questions. The other odd thing was, being quite creative, I could imagine all the answers someone like God could give me for my difficult situation, and I realized I did not like any of them. Was I really certain I needed to give up my faith in God because I did not receive personally satisfying answers?

Reflecting on the times in non-faith quests where I had searched for good answers, (like Medicare regulations) I realized my formula for a God who deserves my faith was similarly flawed. My satisfaction with answers shifts with the wind. Also sometimes, gaining answers to my questions does not always end the matter, but frequently opens up more questions. If I was basing my faith participation on the receipt of answers I would agree with, then I was wrestling with my human self, not a God who extended beyond me. If I am going to believe in God, then I do not want Him to resemble you or me.

If you want to learn more about a God who is not us, I suggest you read the Psalms from the Bible. The writer David, a king, continues to have his world turned upside down. His way of relating to God and what he sees God doing, in spite of difficulties and unresolved issues, is perhaps the most honest revelation of a man’s relationship to God that you could ever read.

Read it. You just might find an answer you are looking for. I found mine.

From David’s writing, I find a renewed reason to believe in God. Now my most amazing resource—the one that helps me live beyond the realm of my flawed self, for today and the future, is God! My deteriorating body and mind will soon end in death. The gift I have from God, through Jesus, is eternal life and a chance to have peace in spite of today’s calamity.

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