I was once at a college Bible study meeting, and its leader made an interesting point: “One reason I’m a Christian is that I don’t want to be like non-Christians.” To illustrate what he was saying, he told us that his girlfriend had a class with a prominent gay student, and that she had remarked that the student was “bitter.” The leader didn’t want to be bitter, however. He wanted to be joyful and at peace, which is what Christians are (in his mind).
I still have mixed reactions to this statement. Today, I’ll say what I like about it. Here is what I can affirm on a positive note:
1. The statement puts atheists in their place. I’ve often heard atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians say something like, “Judging from the lifestyles of the Christians I’ve seen, I definitely don’t want to be a Christian.” They usually refer to the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the nasty, hypocritical Christians they’ve encountered in day-to-day life to bolster their sentiment. Well, it’s good to see the shoe put on the other foot, for once. Why should I want to be like non-believers? What makes them think they’re so perfect?
2. Atheism would make me bitter too. “But you’re already bitter,” I can envision my readers observing. Fair enough, let me rephrase that. Atheism would make me more bitter than I currently am. If I had to believe that I was in this life alone, without the care of a loving God who is continually working things out for my good, then I would lose all hope. I’d have to rely on myself. Sure, I have talents, qualities, and a bit of charm, but there are a lot of times when I mess up. And, while I have a solid support system in my family, there are sometimes things that they can’t really control. Consequently, I am reassured to believe that there is a powerful, benevolent being in the universe who is guiding my situation.
Also, life would seem so meaningless if this were all there is. In the atheist worldview, we are born, we live, and we die. And that’s it! We can experience fellowship with our family and our friends, but they too will eventually pass, sometimes sooner than we may expect. If this is all there is, then we won’t be able to enjoy them forever. What is the point?
“Well, you should enjoy yourself and your loved ones while there’s still time,” I can hear atheists saying. “You must live this life to the fullest.” And that is indeed something to contemplate, for I certainly don’t want to use the afterlife as an excuse not to take advantage of what this life has to offer, while I still can. But not everyone makes the right decisions in this life. Should someone who made the wrong decisions have to go to his deathbed with a life that is totally wasted, without any hope of making things right? What about those who couldn’t fully enjoy life because of circumstances beyond their control (e.g., living in an impoverished country, abuse, etc.)? And even when we live this life to the fullest, many of us don’t want that full life to come to an end.
And, if all that exists is what I can see around me, then things are pretty bleak, not only for me, but for many others as well. From my own perspective, Asperger’s is a hard life. There’s a lot of social isolation that comes with it, even (or especially) when I’m around people. Atheists may tell me to stop trusting God and look instead to a human community. Look, communities are great, but they don’t always satisfy me the same way that they do for neurotypical people. I don’t necessarily view groups as warm, loving, accepting places. And other people besides myself have problems, such as poverty, infidelity, abuse, war, post-traumatic stress, and the list goes on and on. So thank God that this life is not all there is!
So these are my problems with atheism. I wouldn’t be surprised if atheists were bitter. If I had to believe that everything hinges on me making the right move, that all of the wonderful people, places, and things I’ve experienced are only temporary, and that this hard life is all there is, then I’d go crazy. Christianity at least offers some hope.