Advice for the Good Atheist

My brother died several years ago after a two year bout with cancer.  Needless to say it was heart-breaking – it still is.  During that time I tried to understand his thoughts regarding God and the afterlife.  We talked about it a couple of times, I wrote a couple of long emails trying to explain what I believed as a Christian.  But, it seemed that it was a subject that he had no interest in pursuing, at least not with me.  When he died, I was left with the uncertainty of his mindset, and now, that is something only God and he knows.  However make no mistake; my brother was a good man.  He was kind, compassionate, and generous.  He was a loving husband and caring father.   He was a great brother and we had many really terrific times together laughing and sharing in each other’s lives.  With his wife, he ran a successful and honest business.   He had many long time friends whom he treated like family.  He was a guy you would have been blessed to know.  And because of all that, somehow I know he is at peace.

If the most conservative counts are correct, there are likely some 10 million people in the United States that consider themselves atheists.  My guess would be that most atheists, like the population in general, are good people; you love your country, have good family relationships, are good friends, are loyal employees, and most probably have good causes that you dedicate your time and money to.  I’m guessing though, you just aren’t convinced about this particular matter regarding God.  Sort of like those out there who don’t believe that we ever went to the moon.  There is likely a level of proof that you personally need to make that leap of faith and believe in a God that you cannot see or touch.  (Note: I left out hear and feel because even as an atheist I am pretty sure there is a small voice, call it your conscience, and an inner feeling, call it intuition, that comes into play that is leading you along.  We believers call it the Holy Spirit.)

I think we were all born atheists, even if it lasts for a moment, a day, a month or many years.  The exact moment when understanding and accepting (or not) the concept of a creator God is unique for each of us.  Like most knowledge (fire is hot), this mystery is revealed to us either by someone, something we read or saw, or in the case of God-knowledge it is sometimes revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, regardless if we call upon it or not.  But apparently in the case of atheists, knowledge of God is not enough.  I think I can get that to a degree.  I’m a New Yorker of Italian descent, stubborn, not easily convinced, skeptical, and somewhat intelligent (all disadvantages when it comes to accepting something I can’t see).  But I also have this driving desire to know – to be sure – to make sure I was making the right decision – to be on the right side of an argument.  So, long story short, I took the time to research and hear out the arguments, seek out the experts and here I am today satisfied to know there is a God that created it all and that He has a plan for our afterlife.  So to my brothers and sisters out there that are still unconvinced, or maybe just confused, and if you have a desire to reach a greater level of certainty one way or another, I hope that you also consider the following:

  1. As an atheist, there is still something inside you that defines right versus wrong – really study from where that originates and how it perpetuates itself.  C.S. Lewis does a great job on this in Mere Christianity.
  2. As an atheist there will also be times in your life when you will be grateful for something or somebody, but be unable to assign this gratitude to anything or anybody on this earth. Think about that, un-assignable gratitude, how is that possible?
  3. As an atheist there will be times in your life when you will admire something strictly because of its beauty – a sunset, a landscape, a flower, a haunting melody, a baby’s thumb. Where is the evolutionary necessity in recognizing and acknowledging beauty?  How do we explain that?
  4. Consider that with all of the scientific effort and resources known to man over the millennia of the past and into the extent of the future unknown, whatever science discovers about our origins and how the universe itself came into being – or even if it always existed – science will never be able to resolve the questions as to why are we here and what is our purpose without a Divine intervention as part of the answer.

So, be honest with yourself.  Can you say with all of your conviction that you have truly given this matter – the matter of your eternal destiny – an appropriate amount of thoughtful consideration?  Have you spent as much time in this consideration as you have say, on planning your next vacation?  I decided that if it took me as long as I spent in obtaining my college degree (5 years) to understand what I needed to be convinced one way or another, regarding the matter that would mean the most to me in my life, that would be a reasonable investment.

Lastly, I mean no offense in offering up this unsolicited advice as there was a time when I had my own serious doubts.  But, if in the end if you still remain unconvinced I have one more recommendation:  study the New Testament – specifically the four books of the Gospel.  Not with the goal that these readings will suddenly convert your thinking, but simply as a guide to living life.  If nothing else you will come to see Jesus as the great philosopher of his and our time and the source of the truth that you are undoubtedly seeking.  And always, regardless of what you believe, remain open for something special to happen in your life.

gravity – an omnipresent force with extraordinary power that no one can see, but exists without doubt to those who place their faith in it every day – just like God.