I couldn’t restrain myself.
Her reply asserted that she had been a “real” Christian, and that my critique of her presuppositions was unkind. My claim that atheism is a religion brought her spirited denial, and her claim that she rejected faith, and not just religion. She was very nice about calling me a bigoted Christian, though. So I’m posting this reply as an open letter to any atheists who were once “Real Christians.”
First, “Christian” is a generic termLabeling someone a Christian is like calling them a “Jew” or a “Muslim.” Despite the internal unity all religions claim, factions exist, often in the form of blood-feuds. Many atheists grab hold of that obvious phenomena as if they’ve uncovered some kind of religious conspiracy, then use that "insight" as support for their disbelief in God, or religion of any kind.
Personally, I agree with many atheists’ observations about religion, though some of them are seriously exaggerated. No one should be too surprised, however, that atheists often can’t get their facts straight; adherents of all religions misrepresent all other religions’ beliefs and practices. Religious folks can’t see their lies as being sinful, because, after all, those people don’t have the truth.
Second, God is not a ReligionHe’s not a faith of any kind. Denying or rejecting faith is a personal decision that has no effect on God. He/She/It (that’s a discussion for another time) doesn’t wring His hands when someone decides He doesn’t exist; nothing surprises Him.
Third, God Doesn’t ChangeThe God who wreaked havoc in the Old Testament is the same One who sent His Son Jesus, the Word incarnate, to the cross with our sin-guilt on His shoulders. Neither does God change His mind. For example, a loving parent might react to their child’s stinking attitude with, “I swear, I’m going to skin you alive!” (Raise "skin" about an octave for effect) Does the parent mean that literally? Of course not; they simply hope to change their little brat’s behavior with a threat, thoughtless and overstated though it is. God, however, never reacts to our stinking attitudes. Rather, He responds, by telling us what will happen if we persist. Here again, though our rebellious course of action doesn’t surprise Him, He allows us to disobey Him because He is just, and never clobbers us because of what we will do.
Fourth, God is good“A good god wouldn’t punish his creation for doing only what comes naturally,” the atheist will say, and I couldn’t agree more. In a very real sense, God doesn’t “punish” us at all. Rather, He simply allows us to enjoy the consequences that He’s already promised for those who disobey Him, and for those who obey him.
“A good god wouldn’t allow the innocent to suffer.” God “allows” two classes of “innocents” to suffer: Unborn babies, and small children, both of whom haven’t had an opportunity to reject their parents’, and thus God’s, authority. Does that make God unfair or evil? Hardly, as humanity’s blatant rejection of God’s authority removed, even for the truly innocent, the protective umbrella He promised for His obedient children. And it wasn’t just one little apple that caused all the fuss; His people Israel regularly rejected His authority by violating all of His laws and statutes, opening themselves, and us, up to the consequences He promised for those who disobey. That includes you and me.
The good God didn’t condemn humanity to perdition without giving us an alternative.
The AlternativeEveryone’s heard John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” What follows is also true:
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."By that one sacrificial act, God fulfilled all the laws He gave Israel, and all the prophesies He gave them predicting humanity’s coming Savior.
(John 3:17-21 ESV)
“I Don’t Need Any Savior!”As always, our good God will not force us to accept His requirements, even when the primary one is His Son Jesus. Neither will He force us to take nourishment if we prefer alcohol or drugs to healthful food and drink. The choice is ours, and He will never take it away from us.
Fact is, we are all born self-addicts, and though the solution seems extreme, it’s the same as for alcohol or drug addicts: We must kick the habit, despite all its withdrawal symptoms, and replace what doesn’t work with what does. Jesus works, and he did all the hard work for us. How we respond is up to us.