Everything happens by God’s will and His (this is the only time in the article I was capitalize the pronoun when referring to God) alone—from the fall of the tiniest of sparrows to the birth of a Savior for Mankind. At least, that’s what I was taught, and that’s what I believed . . . for a time. However, there were questions that prodded my mind the older I became and the more I studied the Bible and Christian theology. And the questions I had were never met with good answers. Here is a list of some of those questions and my thought processes, plus the often unsatisfactory responses I received:
“How can we tell the difference between God’s answer to prayer or God’s intervention in the world and a plain and simple coincidence?” I asked this because it was impossible for me to tell. If I prayed for a parking space and one opened up, was that God, or was that just coincidence? I could never decide, and the Christians I asked didn’t seem to know how to decide, either. Their solution was often to state, “Well, everything that happens is God’s will. In that case, there is no coincidence.” Really? Then what about all the times God says “no”? Why would he open up a parking space for me today and not tomorrow? Is it his will the leaf fell on this part of the sidewalk instead of that side? It seemed preposterous to me that things like that mattered enough to need God’s control. Just let the leaves fall where they want to. The issue of how much control God uses, however, prompted another question.
“Do we really have free will?” The private Christian university I went to said, “Yes, we do have free will, but God guides us to make the decisions he wants.” That sounded a little . . . interesting to me. Does it count as free will if God manipulates us into every decision just so we are technically then responsible for any consequences? “Yes,” my instructors stressed. “Suppose there’s a boy in a bathtub, and the dad says that he has to leave the water and get dressed. The boy doesn’t want to, and the dad knows that if he turns the light out, the boy will get anxious and leave the water and get dressed. This doesn’t mean the boy lost his freedom to choose, it simple meant he was much more likely to choose what his dad wanted.” To be honest, I didn’t see the difference. You’re still influencing (and manipulating) the other person to make choices you desire. You manipulate someone into doing something good, and you reward them for it. You then manipulate someone into doing something bad, and you punish it. I couldn’t help but think of drug addicts. According to the arguments my university put forth, it was clear drug addicts were likewise being manipulated by God into choosing (of their own free will, of course) to do drugs, wind up in jail, and commit suicide. I just didn’t buy it.
According to the beliefs my family grew up with, if a baby died, it didn’t go to Hell. God would never send babies to Hell, and therefore, any infant who died when straight into God’s arms in Heaven. My question was, “Why don’t we all, out of love and concern for our children’s souls, just murder them at birth (or just not have kids at all)? Wouldn’t anything less be irresponsible in the long-term?” Honestly, I don’t even have anything else to say on this topic. The train of logic speaks for itself.
“How can we tell the difference between God’s answer to prayer or God’s intervention in the world and a plain and simple coincidence?”According to those same beliefs, anyone who died and had never heard about Jesus (and thus never been given the chance to be saved) went straight to Heaven. My question? “Why send out missionaries? Let people live in ignorance so they can all go to Heaven. Isn’t that the loving thing to do?” Alternatively, my university taught that anyone who doesn’t even know about God and dies is going to Hell, even though they never had a chance to be saved. The logic behind that? First, that God predestines who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell, so he already decided these peoples’ fates for them (so much for free will . . .). Second, the people who never heard of Jesus saw the beauty and power of God’s existence in the natural world around them, which is enough to point out to them that a God must exist. Third, if they don’t happen to catch the link between a mighty mountain and the belief that God exists and loves them and requires them to serve him, then they go straight to Hell (sorry—you should have been faster connecting those dots!)
“Why does God want all the attention?” God tells us to be humble, lowly, meek. He also tells us to worship him only, love him only, do whatever he alone says. He wants humankind to be servant-like and humble, yet he wants all the glory for himself. And for what—bringing human beings into existence and then creating Hell and deciding who got salvation and who didn’t? Uh, thanks? Tell me again why you deserve that much attention (or even, quite frankly, respect)? My younger self argued, “Well, someone needs to be in charge, and it might as well be God.” My older self wasn’t satisfied. For a God who demanded humility (or, you could always choose Hell, if you preferred), he seemed anything but humble.
“Why are Christians the ones causing all the problems?” This was a big one for me, and full of so many different aspects. I was raised in a religion (born-again Christian) that stated it was being persecuted, even here in the U.S. (yes, not being able to post the Ten Commandments in a school full of people with different beliefs than your own equals persecution). It was drilled into me in church that the outside world was full of atheists just waiting to stamp us out and put us down. When I became an atheist, I was surprised. I realized a lot more people than I’d thought profess to be Christian (it seems like the majority of people I encounter believe in God, and I’m talking about outside a church environment). Most of the oppression I’ve seen has been coming from Christians who insist they are being persecuted. Take gay marriage. Christians talk down on gays, try to stamp out their rights, and then turn around, with a wounded look on their faces, and insist gays are hurting them. When all around them people who are part of the LGBTQ community are committing suicide because of the pain they are experiencing from these God-loving souls! Or look at the feminist movement. I believe both sexes should be treated equally and given equal opportunity, but many Christians still think women are less than men (my university even told me women could not serve as leaders in the church—though they could teach Sunday School, if they wanted). Actually, it’s frustrating as an atheist, because I feel as soon as I open my mouth about my beliefs, I will be shut down, disregarded, or—worst of all—prayed for in the hopes that I might find God again. Also, atheists don’t seem to go around trying to convert people by pushing their beliefs on someone else. I’m sure some atheists are like that, but this is a trait mostly linked with religious types—likes Christians. So really, who is harassing who?
These are just some of the questions I encountered, but they resulted in my leaving Christianity and starting down a much better road. Maybe they will help you, too, and maybe you've even encountered similar questions of your own.
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