Atheists are Right
By Rick Chambers
claims require extraordinary evidence. (Carl Sagan)
No doubt my devoted and sincere Christian
friends are stunned by the above headline. So let me clarify: No, I've not abandoned my faith. I just fear many churchgoers
have abandoned theirs.
For some time I've listened to the growing
cry of people who do not believe in the God of the Bible, or any god for that matter. There are a number of reasons for their
skepticism. Some can't get past the paucity--certainly not lack, even Richard Dawkins won't say that--of empirical evidence;
if God exists, why doesn't he show himself? Some are appalled by the atrocities done in the name of religion, or those hidden
by the church. Others point to incidents of hypocrisy among the pious. A great many of those who reject God have themselves
been rejected--personally hurt or shunned by people claiming to believe in the loving, compassionate, forgiving Jesus, yet
displaying none of his traits.
The problem is, when I open my mouth to counter
these arguments, I find some of them hard to refute. Because the atheists are right. They challenge Christians to show the
proof of God in their lives, only to watch many of them turn their backs, huddle inside their church buildings and declare
the coming damnation of everyone but themselves.
Again, let me be clear. I believe in God.
I believe in his son, Jesus Christ. I believe in forgiveness of sin, not because I deserve or earn it, but because of God's
unfathomable love and grace.
But here's the kicker: I also believe that
if this grace is real, and really part of my life, I must show it to those around me. That's the proof, the evidence to support
the extraordinary claim. Not that it's a requirement, but because I am grateful that it was shown to me and I'm willing to
By no means am I perfect at it, or even relatively
good. I wish I was better. Indeed, at times I am guilty of the very things I criticize here. But I refuse to stay in that
place. Each new day brings a new opportunity to reject the wrong and to enter the world treating others the way Christ would
treat them, the way he's treated me.
And yet I encounter believers who would just
as soon see an atheist or a homosexual or a pro-choice advocate burn in Hell than show an ounce of God's grace to them. They
pick up stones to punish the sinner, and when Jesus says, "Whoever is without sin, throw first," they say, "Gladly!" and let
fly. They call those of a different political persuasion "liars" or less-family-friendly names, then sing hymns on Sunday
and think that's somehow okay. They weep over an abortion but cheer over an execution. They worship the Prince of Peace and
dismiss the casualties of war. They demand society follow biblical tenets, fighting in courts and legislatures to make it
happen, but ignore any that inconvenience them, like eschewing divorce or helping the homeless or serving the poor.
I came across an interesting quote on atheism,
variously attributed to Justin Brown and Madelyn Murray O'Hair:
An atheist believes that a hospital should
be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An atheist strives for
involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated.
Anyone who is a true follower of Jesus Christ
ought to give an "Amen" to that statement.
(But let's keep both the prayer and the deed,
You see, Jesus said something quite similar:
I was hungry, and you gave me something to
eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in. I needed clothes, and you
clothed me. I was sick, and you looked after me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me. ... I tell you the truth, whatever
you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:34-36, 40)
Many churchgoers are bewildered by the rise
of anti-church, anti-God sentiments. That's because they don't give any reason for people to think differently. Their attitude
is, "the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and imprisoned--it's their problem, it's government's problem, but it's not my problem."
They are quick to point to the splinter in another's eye while ignoring the plank in their own, then gleefully give that splinter
a hard, painful twist.
So what am I suggesting? Should Christians
take a laissez-faire attitude in the world, a hands-off-anything-goes approach? Not at all. I'd argue that's part of the problem.
But we need to get our priorities straight. There are moral absolutes, and there is evil in the world; we need to stand up
for what is right, and stand up in a loving way for those who have been wronged. We need to put our comforts and our routines
in the back seat so that others can join us in the front. We need to spend less time accusing and more time helping, less
time judging and more time repenting. We need to embrace those who don't agree with us, respect those who despise us, and
be willing to consider, if only for a moment, whether our own perspectives are God-given or self-driven.
I'm talking about a return to the basics of
the faith--love God above all, love others before yourself. Will that resolve the tensions between believers and non-believers?
Sadly, no. The differences will remain, but at least we can meet on some common ground. At least we can be true reflections
of what we say we believe.
And if perchance Christians are hated, let's
be hated for what our faith really stands for and not what it's been twisted into.