I think it is about time we were honest. So this Baptist Minister is giving you ten good reasons why you should not believe in God* and risking being burnt at the stake or excommunicated. Perhaps your reasons are in here somewhere…
1. It’s old fashioned – believing in God is not really a 21st century thing to do, is it? It’s like believing in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy and we have grown out of it, haven’t we? It’s as old fashioned as breathing.
2. Christians – yes Christians can sometimes be a good reason not to believe in God. They can be annoying. They can be overzealous. They can be hypocritical. And they can do things and say things that hurt us and put us off God. And haven’t Christians been responsible for some of the worst atrocities in history – Crusades, Inquisitions…? Surely when you believe in God you become perfect don’t you?
3. Church – it can be a bit, well, churchy. Nobody likes being preached at. And sometimes it comes across as rather traditional and boring while at other times it seems to be trying too hard to be cool (and nobody says ‘cool’ any more). I wonder sometimes whether God doesn’t feel like going to some of our churches either. And while churches do lots of good things (we can’t deny that) so do lots of other charity organisations. Going to church is like looking at a stained glass window, it looks nice but it’s out of date and not very practical.
4. Bad stuff happens – this is surely one of God’s weaknesses (if he exists). How come he lets bad stuff happen? That’s not very nice, warm, loving and fluffy – not the sort of gentle Jesus meek and mild I was told about in Sunday School. God is supposed to be “in light in accessible, hid from our eyes” (as the hymnwriter puts it) – blindingly perfect. What sort of God would give people complete free will and risk them ignoring or hating him and doing bad stuff? What sort of love is that?
5. Bad stuff happens that is not anyone’s fault – you know, earthquakes, famines, tsunamis and the like. You can’t pin that on free will being exercised can you? If there is a God and he made this planet how come he made it with all of this hideousness as well? He can’t exist and if he did he’s some sort of monster. Car manufacturers put safety features in to stop them having accidents so why couldn’t God do the same? Admittedly the cars become less safe and more accident prone when you put a human behind the wheel and they decide not to obey the rules…
6. He’s anonymous – if there’s a God, how come we can’t see him? Why does he have to be silent, invisible and remote? If he was that interested in us surely he would let us know about himself, give us some clues, leave some fingerprints or DNA around the place from which we could at least deduce his existence? Surely he would show us how we can get to know him?
7. Science has disproved him – we humans are clever. We know how so much of this planet works, we have worked out the complicated maths behind so much of the Universe. We know so much of what happened from the fraction of a sliver of a tiny nanosecond after the Big Bang. We know about DNA and how it mutates and changes through the reproductive processes. From the smallest particle to the largest expanse of the Universe we know about it all. Yes, there are some bits that we don’t know yet, but surely it’s only a matter of time before we know how everything works. And ‘how’ is the most important question isn’t it?
8. Aliens – alien life forms disprove God don’t they? The Bible doesn’t mention aliens. What about Roswell, Area 57 and all of the evidence about alien life forms? Ha, God, get out of that one. The evidence for aliens is all around us. Everyone knows that.
9. The Bible is iffy – there are so many discrepancies and inconsistencies in the Bible. It’s been made up by people who wanted to try to explain why things happen – people who didn’t know about science. I’m sure we can all name hundreds.. maybe five… at least one inconsistency in the Bible.
10. If God is so nice, why does he send people to hell? That doesn’t sound very nice does it? Even if we can understand some of the horrible things that happen now, surely God wants everyone to be with him in heaven, so why does he send some people to hell? That’s not nice. If I invite people to a party what sort of host am I if I troll those who don’t want to come?
So let’s stop worrying about God and get on with not believing in him. If we say we don’t believe in him then he won’t exist. Will he?
Be blessed, be a blessing
*This bloggage is incomplete without understanding the irony. Because irony is not obvious in the written word I wonder if some of you missed it or need the irony above explaining a bit, so if you need them here are some further explanations to what I have written above.
1. I imagine you haven’t decided that breathing is unnecessary, so why ignore the possibility that there is someone who is beyond and within time who gives us that breath?
2. Christians are not always the best free samples of Jesus. We are human, we are flawed, we are ‘works in progress’. If God used angels or any beings other than humans to tell others about him it would be very difficult for people not to believe in him because we will have seen the evidence of the supernatural so he takes the risk that Christians will mess things up in order not to compromise the free choice he wants all of us to have. I don’t excuse the hideous things that Christians have done in the name of Jesus, but atheists are no saints: Holocaust, Stalin, Mao…? I am not saying that you can excuse one atrocity if you excuse the other. But let’s not throw stones if we live in glass houses.
3. Don’t judge a book by its cover. And if you want to see the best of a stained glass window you have to go inside the church to experience the light streaming through it – it’s the same with church and being a Christian. You can’t fully experience it looking from the outside. But do you trust your friends who are Christians? And people who are not ‘church’ doing good things doesn’t mean there isn’t a God, it could be evidence of his goodness at work beyond the church.
4. The existence of light mean there is also likely to be shadow? There is a ‘shadow’ to our world. Suffering can have a purpose – pain signals to our brain tell us that there is something wrong or to take our hand out of a fire. Sometimes people’s greed means that others suffer – why are shanty towns built in vulnerable areas: because the rich people have the good land. Sometimes we humans have to take responsibility for our own failings.You can’t give people complete free will without risking that they will ignore you and cause bad stuff to happen. And you can’t give people complete free will without allowing bad stuff to happen because if you intervened they would have no choice but to believe in you. Because if you built a perfect sentient robot with self-awareness and the ability to think for itself you couldn’t make some rules about it having to love you.
5. Yes, there is suffering in the world that makes no sense and has no human cause. But free will (if it is genuinely free) risks rebellion and that rebellion is at large in the world. You can call it evil, the devil or whatever you like, but this world is not as God intended it because it is at odds with him, just as a malfunctioning robot might destroy the environment in which it is based. The robot designer did not intend it to malfunction. And if there is a malevolent force around doesn’t it make sense that it would exist in the shadows of this world and try to point us away from God by making us blame him for the bad stuff that happens? Bad stuff happening is evidence of a malevolent force in the world. Wouldn’t it make sense for a loving God to be trying to sort that out for us?
6. Read one of the gospels and then ask if God is anonymous. And take a look around you. The Universe we inhabit is astonishing isn’t it? Isn’t it possible that it has a Designer? Why is that less plausible than that it happened purely by chance?
7. Science tells us how things happen. It doesn’t tell us why. Science can tell us how God put things together but it can’t say why. It can tell us about the patterns and laws and rules and maths behind everything, but it can’t say why those patterns and laws and rules and maths are so perfectly balanced to allow for this Universe (other than to hypothesise an infinite number of Universes so that this one can exist and sustain life).
8. You can believe in aliens but not in God? The ‘evidence’ for alien life forms is somewhat sketchy at best. And even if they did exist, why does that disprove God? Bearing in mind when the Bible was written, wouldn’t it have rather freaked out those people to have been told about beings on other planets?
9. The manuscripts of the Bible exist in many fragments found in many different places and they are in harmony with each other in 98.5% of the all of the manuscripts. The 1.5% were caused by mistakes in copying (no photocopiers or scanners, it was all hand written); explanations added in the margins and then incorporated; and some words changed to try to make it easier to understand. None of these differences make a difference to any of the major themes of the BIble. Did you know that 24 carat gold is 99.9% pure gold, but 18 carat gold is 75% and 9 carat gold is 38%. The Bible is almost 24 carat gold!
10. I don’t believe that God sends anyone to hell (whatever your view of ‘hell’ is). If he is consistent he will always respect our choices because he respects our free will. He won’t force anyone to be with him who doesn’t want to be with him. ‘Judgment’ (whatever that is) is about God (sadly, perhaps even reluctantly) accepting our decision whether or not we want to be with him. Whatever you think hell may or may not be, it at least is an absence of God: he respects our decision – if we want to be with him we are with him, if we don’t we aren’t. Whatever you choose, he will respect.
You may not believe in God, but he believes in you.