When I was younger, although I claimed to be Christian, I was in some cases, a functional atheist. That is, I lived parts of my life as if God did not exist while saying that he did.
I had little plans for my life. I would graduate from secondary school, go to the university, and get a job, a husband and kids. That was the height of my ambition. However, a few months into my college life, I began to wonder why the heck I was there. What was the whole point of life anyway? Why do we do all the things we do and why do they matter? Part of this was because life was not as easy any longer. I now failed some tests and was under more stress. My goals in life were pretty simple. I was looking for things that would make me happy – a marriage and children – but I had begun to realize that even with those things, I would still have bad days. I would still get hurt. And I didn’t want that.
That’s a part of life I started to see. You can go through each day if you think it’s going to turn out alright. But once the idea is planted in your head that it might not, if you realize that your entire family might die in a plane crash, and you might flunk college, things change. And if you look around you and see all those things happening, if you think your life sucks, well the question of why you go on with it appears. “Why does my life matter?” becomes a very important question to answer. “What difference does it make if I die now versus if I live through all the garbage that is the rest of life and then die?”
I confided in a friend that I felt my life had no purpose to it and her reply was “But it does!” And she was right. Christianity teaches God has jobs he has prepared for us to do. It also teaches that what we do in this life has effects in the next. I hadn’t been thinking like a Christian. I had been thinking as if life ended at death. In that scenario, it didn’t matter for me whether I died now or later. In both cases I would be dead but in the first, I would suffer less hurt. Heck, the same probably applies to the rest of the human race. Even the world is going to end eventually. Whatever I contribute to society would end up in the cold dead world that was the future. It might matter now to some people, but in the end, not so much.
And that was how, even though I was a Christian, I formed views about atheism. My life is a lot less than perfect. There are things in it I would rather not go through if I didn’t know it was going to end well. I cannot stress that point enough. I do not care for all the ice cream and park rides in the world. They do not make up for the pain and they are meaningless. Unless their effects last on into the future, they are unimportant. My life is the same in the end with or without them.
If I have effectively communicated my thoughts about life if God does not exist, then you have a picture of what I think of atheism. Perhaps it is possibly true, but I cannot believe it. Note that this does not amount to saying that God exists because I dislike the consequences of his non-existence. It is saying that even if it were true that God does not exist, I could not believe it without slitting my wrists within a week. That of course rules out atheism for me. My options are believe God exists or die.
I know that lots of people do not think about it this way. In fact, there are probably atheists who don’t think their lives are pointless. I would love to hear their justification for that if it does not involve the simply stating it as if it were obvious.
As you can imagine, this causes me a lot of distress. It means that there is at least is one factual claim in the world which I cannot believe regardless of its truth value. I do not know what that says of my claims to rationality. It is also a problem for a different reason. You would think that given what I think of atheism, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. It’s practically a potential death sentence. But I can’t stop studying. I can’t stop trying to make sure that I have reasons to believe that God exists and I can’t shake the conviction that I ought to seek the truth however unpleasant it might be. I realize that this might possibly lead me to what I hope is not true, but that is the price to be paid.
Jesus claimed to be the truth and from that it follows that whoever finds the truth finds him. In that hope I feel safe because I know that while I sincerely and relentlessly seek the truth, I draw closer to him. I can read atheist literature and have no fear of finding that he is not who I think he is because the truth is his. He is the truth. So, in the end, it doesn’t matter if I fear atheism and can’t believe it. It’s not true anyway.