Since loosing my faith, a number of Christians that I’ve interacted with through email have implored me not to give up on God, with comments such as: “nothing and no-one should stop you from serving God”, “God still loves you”, and “I would plead with you to continue to follow Christ”. I know that those who wrote these comments mean well, and I truly appreciate their concern. However, I’m always somewhat perplexed when I read these kind of comments, simply because they are based on a faulty premise: the premise that I, an atheist, still believe – deep down inside – that there is actually a God out there who wants me to serve or follow him; that there is a supernatural being who I can “go back” to.
If I’m a person who still believes in God (as some Christians would believe), why don’t I follow him? Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, in their apologetic work I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, provide an answer that fits well with this faulty premise. When speaking about atheists, they write:
“. . . many believe that accepting the truth of Christianity would require them [atheists] to change their thinking, friends, priorities, lifestyle, or morals, and they are not quite willing to give up control over their lives in order to make those changes” (pg 30).
So, according to the Christian paradigm, I, an ex-Christian and atheist, still believe, deep down inside, that there is indeed a God out there, and atheism is simply an excuse for me to live a life free from the moral constraints that God has imposed on humans.
Is this true?
The simple answer is no.
Let me spell this out clearly: I did not leave Christianity because I wanted to snub God or his laws, or because I wanted to live a life of reckless abandon. I did not leave because I was angry with God, or for any other emotional reason. I left Christianity simply because I stopped believing the incredible claims of the Bible. I did not reject God as an actual, personal being (like a wife rejects her husband). Rather, I rejected the concept of God (like a growing child rejects the concept of Santa Claus). I did not turn away from God; I simply stopped believing in his existence. This is the subtle difference that some Christians have difficulty grasping.
How can I be angry at something I don’t believe exists? How can I reject the love of a being I don’t even seriously consider as being real? When a Christian asks me a question like: “Why did you turn your back on God’s love?”, I do not have an answer. It is like someone asking me: “Why did you turn your back on Apollo’s love?” The question makes no sense to me, simply because it assumes that I still have some sort of belief in the supernatural being under discussion. How can I turn away from God when I don’t even believe that there is something to turn away from in the first place?
In order to reject the love of a specific being – or express any kind of emotion associated with that being – you have to first acquire the prerequisite of belief in the existence of that being. Without this belief as a foundation, all talk of said being in terms of relationship, emotional rejection or anger is meaningless.