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It has often struck me as quite interesting that those atheists that I have met over the years seem to fall into one of two main categories

  • The first category sounds like this: “I don’t believe in the concept of “god”. Such a belief system is unscientific, irrational and nothing more than superstition”.

     

  • This other group sounds like this: “I don’t believe in God. I look at the suffering in the world, the injustice etc. I can’t believe in a God who would allow such obscenities”.

Can you see the subtle but important distinction between the two statements? The first group are making what I would call a “head statement”; in other words they have arrived at that conclusion by considering the case for and against the very idea of there being a “god”.

Now the second group are not, in the first instance denying the concept of god but they are denying the existence of a particular god. That almost always is the God spoken of in the Christian Bible. For them, their claim to be atheists is a “heart statement”.  

It’s on the second group that I want to focus.

On those occasions when I have had the opportunity to explore the background of a few of these “atheists”, almost without exception the reason(s) for their position is because of events or experiences that have occurred in their lives that have been totally incompatible with what they believe “god” should be like. Scientific evidence etc. does not feature in their rationale for their position.

It might have been the death of their young child through Leukaemia. It might have been an accident that left a close friend a quadriplegic. Maybe a financial investment promised so much but went belly-up. Then again, it might have to do with a marriage that went sour and led to a bitter divorce.

We could add to the list many times over. Whatever be the cause, the inability to reconcile the event with the image they have of God as they assumed Him to be, means they have to abandon their view of God (who allowed, permitted or maybe even instigated that negative event) or become hypocritical and pretend to believe in the face of adversity. That’s not faith. That is not integrity.

May I suggest another possibility? For some of those atheists that I have met there is a third option.

Theirs is not an issue of faith but of trust

They have thought that if they cannot reconcile their understanding of God with the event or events in their lives, the only option is to walk away from their faith (if they had faith in the first place which a few of them did) or adopt a more agnostic or atheistic approach to life.

This third option helps them to honestly face their struggle with pain and suffering by owning the fact that it is not a question of belief in God for they really do believe in God, they just don’t trust Him. “How can I trust a God who would do this…allow that….fail to intervene when…….ignore my prayers about….??

Sadly, while ever they hide behind the label of atheism little can be done that will bring the real issue into the light.

However, for those willing to own their struggle and recognise that they have deep trust issues with this god in whom they don’t believe, a whole new paradigm can open up before them.

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