Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Saint and Cynic Talks to God Again

Lord, sometimes I think that I would like to be an atheist. Really.

I wouldn't want to be one of those obnoxious, in-your-face atheists who tars all religious belief with the same broad brush and makes snide comments about “your invisible friend” almost as a knee-jerk reaction to any mention of God. The kind who mistake cheap shots for bon mots. Who insist that they aren't fundamentalists, but who are really just as bad, just as dogmatic, as the pushiest religious believers.

No, I'd want to be a friendly atheist, like most of the atheists I've encountered. The kind who will gladly discuss their lack of belief with a person but won't insist that they share it. The kind who are intelligent and reasonable and moral. The kind who just see no need for you.

Sometimes I think that it might be nice to believe in nothing that cannot be proved by observation, logical proof, or mathematics. It might be nice to rely on reason alone. It might be nice to have no higher authority than myself.

But of course you know, Lord, that I can't do that. Even though I can't prove your existence...

Is existence even the right word? Didn't Tillich say that existence is the wrong category to apply to you. That you, the Ground of Being, are essence beyond existence? Dear Tillich, you've got to love him. Right, Lord?

Anyway, there is too much of the mystic in me to insist that you exist. The mystic saints have taught us that you are known also as the Deus Absconditus. (That's Latin for “Hidden God” but I'm sure you knew that).

So let's just say that even though I cannot prove your existence, I can't deny your reality. I've tried. But there you are, anyway, tantalizing, mysterious and just out of reach, drawing me to yourself. So, I work my way toward you as best I can, praying, and studying Scripture, and clinging to the cross of Jesus, because that is the only way I've found.

And still, I sometimes think that I would like to be an atheist. To live without the demands of your holiness. To live without the demands of your grace.

It's hard to live by grace, Lord. It's hard to reach the end of my resources and have to trust in you. I'd much rather do things for myself.

You can be so demanding. You call me into account. You tell me to love my neighbors. I mean seriously, Lord, have you met my neighbors? And even while I'm busy failing at that, you tell me to love my enemies, too. That's why I sometimes think that I'd be happier if I didn't believe in you.

But I can't deny you, Lord. I'm stuck again. Stuck with you, with your unprovable reality and your demanding holiness and grace. And I guess you're stuck with me, too. Recalcitrant, unholy, unloving me.

Help me to walk in your grace. Inspire me to be a better person, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


  1. If you were really wise - as of course you are! - as an atheist you would be living pretty much the same way you do now, since you would have deduced that the way to live described in the Bible really is the best way to live. You would see that God's way (even though there really isn't a God, of course) really is the way to life at its fullest.

    But then you would miss out on knowing you are truly loved by the creator of the universe and your life has actual meaning...

    ...but, details!

    It amazes me when I think how "the world" tries to go its own way, and live apart from God and His ways - and how clearly it doesn't work! The world is a huge mess, with wars and pain and suffering because we don't live the way God created us to live.

    Imagine what the world would be like if we ALL did!

    ..well, I guess that would be heaven!

  2. ...although, I have wondered now and again, what it would be like to do whatever I wanted, without any thought of eternal consequences.

    And I think that is where the Law of Unintended Consequences kicks in.

    It all seems fun and fine and grand at the start - but always ends badly. I think that is seen in the world time and time again... witness Whitney Houston, say. And thousands of others.

    God's ways really are the ways that lead to the fullness of life because He is the one who designed it. He knows how it works best!

  3. One thing an atheist and I have in common is that neither one of us is much concerned with an afterlife. The atheist doesn't believe one one and I trust God for it. i have no other choice.