“If God is real, then why did he make me an atheist?”

Posted: January 22, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I saw an interesting video clip on Youtube the other day. It was an interview with comedian Ricky Gervais (recent M.C. of the Golden Globe Awards) in which he was discussing his lack of faith. Gervais reminisced about his childhood in which Jesus was treated much like Santa Clause. Gervais was working on Sunday School homework one day when his older brother broke the news to him that God was not real. He recalls his mom angrily trying to shush the out-of-line sibling, but that moment signified the death of his belief.

Gervais, in the interview, goes on to ask, “If God is real, then why did he make me an atheist?” It gets a few chuckles from the audience, but there is no twinkle in his eye when he says it. Indeed, he goes on to admit that he wishes there was a God, but he just can’t bring himself to believe.

So, does God make atheists? I think the fact that Gervais can even ask that question says that God doesn’t. No doubt “belief” is a complicated thing, and I completely agree when atheists say that can’t simply make themselves believe. However, Gervais and other unbelievers must understand that the choice to pursue the question of God with a truly open mind is still theirs.

When the psalmist wrote “The fool says in his heart, ‘God does not exist.'” (Psalm 14:1) I do not believe this “fool” is completely ignorant. It is not like saying “That two-year old is a fool because she does not understand String Theory!” It is dealing with a choice to remain in unbelief. 1 Corinthians 1:20 says, “Where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish?” Perhaps this is the difference between an atheist (one who has determined in his mind there is no God) and an agnostic (one who tries to remain neutral until convinced one way or the other). The world offers “wisdom” that has no place for God. When you start with a worldview that says “no God,” it becomes very difficult to entertain honest discussion and inquiry about Him! Perhaps a worldview of “maybe God?” is a better option.

But, it seems as though many atheists have determined in their minds not to believe—no matter what. They are like Ebeneezer Scrooge when he tries to justify his vision of the ghost Jacob Marley by saying it is a hallucination caused by some undigested food. Although their experiences may point to one conclusion, their presuppositions steer them in another.

Does God make people atheists? No. He has left evidence for those who are open to see it. Sadly, the Apostle Paul spoke truly of his culture and ours when he said, “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them.” (Romans 1:18-19)

Let us not approach questions about God with closed minds, since that will always lead to dead-ends. Perhaps an honest skeptic should ask his or her questions while taking the advice of the philosopher Blaise Pascal, who challenged unbelievers to live as if it were true for a time while keeping an open mind. Perhaps once they immerse themselves in the world of faith, they will see things they never saw from the outside. It is true that people cannot believe in something they truly no not believe in, but it’s amazing what can happen when you open up your mind to the possibility that it just might be true.

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Comments
  1. Keith Draws says:

    You do not “determine in your mind to believe no matter what”. You just cannot ignore the facts.
    In order to do so you would have to put yourself in a state of cognitive dissonance, which is a form of mental disorder. Its a case of “what has been seen cannot be unseen”.
    If I had a vision, the first thing I would do is go to the hospital for a brain scan and a bunch of tests. I would not assume I had been chosen by God. Its just a matter of likelihood. Its much more likely that I have some kind of cognitive dysfunction than it is that the supreme being of the universe appeared to me.
    Most visions are much more likely to be the result of eating a bad shrimp, than they are to be miracles.
    As for medical miracles. When a faith healer regrows a limb on a sick person, well then I’ll start to wonder. Though even then I’d look for a better explanation than God.. Nano technology, secret stem cell medication or some other medical breakthrough would be the answers I would be looking for first.

    Thinking rationally about these things is not something you choose to do. Its something you automatically do when you are mentally healthy and educated. It really is not a choice.
    Saying you choose to believe something is like admitting you have doubts about that thing.

    • mikeblackaby says:

      Hey Keith, thanks for your thoughts. I agree that you cannot make yourself believe no matter what. It just seems as though many atheists have determined NOT to believe no matter what. Here are a couple of your comments: “If I had a vision, the first thing I would do is go to the hospital for a brain scan and a bunch of tests. I would not assume I had been chosen by God. Its just a matter of likelihood. Its much more likely that I have some kind of cognitive dysfunction than it is that the supreme being of the universe appeared to me.” Why is that explanation more likely? We have to get past our presuppositions that automatically discount any sort of supernatural explanation. What makes me worry that you have not done that is when you say things like this: “As for medical miracles. When a faith healer regrows a limb on a sick person, well then I’ll start to wonder. Though even then I’d look for a better explanation than God.” So even if a legit miracle happened, you would still look for an explanation besides God? To me, that shows a commitment to anti-supernaturalism, where you will look for ANY explanation…as long as it doesn’t include God. But is that really freeing yourself to go where the evidence leads? You talk about not ignoring the facts. I completely agree! And since there are many questions that atheism does not (in my mind) provide valid answers for, I’m willing to remain open to other explanations. I have yet to hear a good explanation that discounts the resurrection of Jesus. So should I still refuse to believe it happened, even though there has not been a convincing argument for me? That seems like I would be more committed to my unbelief than I was to finding the truth. I don’t believe in a blind faith, but I do believe in an open mind.

      • Keith Draws says:

        First of all I did not exclude God as a reason for any of the hypothetical situations I proposed. I simply pointed out that There are many much more likely reasons for what ever happens to happen. In the case of the ” regrows a limb on a sick person” miracle, lets assume that every line of investigation finds no evidence of any outside medical influence. This means that it slightly increases the possibility that it was an act of God. But that possibility is no greater than it being the work of a child psychic, or the Giant spaghetti monster, or the sun God Ra or a Ghost or an invisible smurf. Basically to know it was God there would have to be evidence that showed it was. Without that we can only say it may be.
        As for your argument about the resurrection of Christ. “I have yet to hear a good explanation that discounts the resurrection of Jesus. So should I still refuse to believe it happened, even though there has not been a convincing argument for me? ” There is a big difference between a convincing argument and actual evidence. There is no actual evidence that Jesus Christ was even a real living breathing person. You may have heard some convincing arguments but for me that is not enough. I simply cannot believe something that has no actual evidence.

        You probably will again say I am anti supernatural. In a way I agree because I feel that to call something supernatural before exploring other possibilities is not only irresponsible, it is downright lazy. When my car stops working I look for a reason and if I look hard enough its very likely I will find one and be able to have it repaired. I do not automatically assume its the will of God and kneel down at the side of the road praying that God will provide a miracle so that my car will work again because we all know how successful that would be.

        Not having an explanation for something does not mean there is no explanation other than Gods will. There is always a reason for whatever happens. Without the desire to find those reasons we would still be living in caves, in fact we probably would have died out. Its our very desire to discover the truth about the universe around us that has allowed us to survive.

        I’m committed to truth rather than assumption.

  2. mikeblackaby says:

    I have a question for you. What kind of evidence would be enough for you to consider God? I’m assuming you will ask for something scientific, as most skeptics seem to. But I’m not sure that would satisfy. Not that scientific evidence is a bad thing. The disciple Thomas said “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!” (John 20:25) Then Jesus shows up, lets Thomas do exactly that, and he responds “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) So for those who ask for physical evidence, God gave it to us in the form of the physical Jesus. The problem is that skeptics then question the reliability of the historical accounts, claiming that we can’t really know that Jesus ever did or said those things. That is like saying “I refuse to believe anything about the Roman Empire unless I can go back in time and see it for myself!” If you question the historical reliability of the gospel accounts, I encourage you to check out “The Historical Reliability of the Gospels” by Craig Blomberg. Also, you would be in a very small minority of scholars (both Christian and secular) if you believe there is no evidence that Jesus was a historical person. In fact, that is hardly even disputed these days. (There are good works by William Lane Craig and Michael Licona, among many others, that deal with objections to the resurrection of Jesus)

    I’m not sure what you are looking for as far as evidence goes. Who says evidence has to be of a certain kind? Who decided that? Recently the philosopher Alvin Plantinga has written some interesting things about what sort of “evidence” is needed to justifiably believe in God you may want to check out (see “Warranted Christian Belief”). I don’t necessarily buy in to all that he says, but he raises some interesting questions.

    Consider a pot boiling on a stove top. One person might say “Well, this is scientifically what is happening with the heat elements and the water molecules” and go on to explain it scientifically. Someone else, however, might simply say “My mom filled the pot with water, set it on the stove, and turned the heat up.” Who is right? They are both right, and there will be different evidences to explain why (some based on scientific experiment, some based on interviewing those who were in the room when it happened, some based on logic and reason, and even some assumptions based on what has the most explanatory power). You seem to have bought into the naturalist assumption that science and science alone explains everything that is explainable. The problem is that you use philosophy to come to that conclusion, not science. Science can’t explain the statement “Science explains everything.” How do you put that statement in a test tube and experiment on it objectively? I agree that there must be SOME kind of evidence in order for truth to be convincing. However, I think we disagree on just what classifies as convincing evidence. Trust me, I don’t see God in my corn flakes or assume He is punishing me every time I stub my toe. I need to be convinced just like you. But experientially and rationally, I have been.

  3. Keith Draws says:

    So how do we test that this being is actually the omnipotent God in a way that is completely conclusive.
    Well its pretty simple really. I do not know the answer but an Omnipotent God would so I’d ask him what test or tests are required. If he could not provide a test or set of tests that prove his claim then he proves he is not God.

    Now I’m going to address a major error in your argument.:
    “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) So for those who ask for physical evidence, God gave it to us in the form of the physical Jesus. The problem is that skeptics then question the reliability of the historical accounts, claiming that we can’t really know that Jesus ever did or said those things. That is like saying “I refuse to believe anything about the Roman Empire unless I can go back in time and see it for myself!”
    The Bible is not a historical account and specifically you are talking about the gospels, They are four very different accounts, written by people decades after his death, and there are only four accounts and it is disputed whether or not these were even eye witness accounts. It is also very clear that the similarity of Matthew, Mark and Luke means that some Gospels were used as sources for other Gospels. There is much more information in this vein if you care to search. Suffice to say that at best the New testament is basically documented hearsay. It is not a historical account.
    The Roman empire on the other hand is documented by multiple witnesses from multiple sources covering events at first hand, and a great deal of the accounts have been backed up by physical archaeological evidence. That’s the difference between hearsay and history.

    As for Blomberg’s book. Well he starts with the conclusion that gospelsare historical accurate and then links any evidence supporting his conclusion while discarding anything that contradicts it. That’s not science , its not history its misrepresentation.

    Your final paragraph is a nonsense. What you are calling a scientific explanation is not scientific. Its a description of the events that happened to make the water boil. The second description is a simplified version. There is no difference.
    The scientific method is the most accurate way to examine the truth of a claim. Applying the scientific method is doing science. There is no mystery and its not a belief system.

    Science does not even come close to explaining everything. That is a fact that amy scientist will confirm, but we can continue to explore the universe and the most reliable way to test ideas is to use the scientific method.

    It seems clear to me that you see science as a rival belief system to religion. This is not the case. It is the most effective way of confirming or discrediting any theory about anything.
    It also seems clear to me from your last paragraph that you do not understand what the scientific method is so here is a link:

    http://www.scientificmethod.com/sm3_whatissm.html
    incidentally “Science can’t explain the statement “Science explains everything.”” actually it can, but I just can’t be bothered anymore.
    When you actually get top grips with what science actually is then I’ll talk more.

    • mikeblackaby says:

      Whoa there cowboy, no need to get upset! Are you looking for truth, or are you just looking for an argument? Judging by your Facebook, I’m guessing the latter. Either way, let me give you some more thoughts to pass over condescendingly, and maybe we can continue a discussion.

      You admit right off the bat that you don’t know what sort of evidence an omnipotent God might supply, and so you are not in a position to criticize what he HAS supplied. Who’s to say he has not already given enough evidence? We are certainly not omniscient enough to know. There are many people around the world who have been convinced by the evidence He has already supplied.

      The Bible IS a historical account. Nothing you bring up against the gospels disproves their ability to present truth: They were written after Christ’s death, borrowed from each other, and there are only 4 accounts. I fail to see how any of those leads to “Therefore, they are false!” Documented hearsay? What would you rather have, an official document with the seal of Pontius Pilate that says “I hereby declare that the accounts of Jesus’ life found in the gospels are true”? The problem with history is we can’t choose what it leaves behind for us. We have to work with what we have. So how many documents are enough? How many different authors? How much archaeological evidence and of what kind? I think if we applied your standards for the Bible’s accuracy to any other history from that era, we would have to discount most of what we have in our museums!

      Your accusations against Blomberg are you’re own opinion. Also, the exact same accusations can be made against any of the books you have read that start from a different conclusion. Read his book and deal with the evidence he presents, don’t just write him off because you don’t like his conclusions.

      I have no problem with the scientific method and I believe science/faith/reason all work together in tandem. However, you have to differentiate between “science” and “philosophy of science.” You say “The scientific method is the most accurate way to examine the truth of a claim.” So please be bothered enough to explain why this is true, but without relying on the scientific method. If you use science to explain why science is the best method, it would be like me saying “The Bible is the best source for truth because the Bible says so!” Without using circular reasoning, please explain WHY the scientific method is the best way.

      • Keith Draws says:

        Well I’m not looking for an argument, I’m looking to exchange ideas. I’m sorry if I came off that way. I had a lot to say and not much time to say it.

        God hasn’t supplied any evidence of his existence that can be directly attributed to him. The best we have is second hand accounts from the bronze age.

        I don’t claim the gospels are true or false. I have simply concluded that they are very unlikely to be true. They certainly are not classed as historical documents by the vast majority of historians. Since they are far more qualified than you or I to understand what makes a document a reliable account of history I feel it’s safe to trust their judgment. My trusting these people is not an act of faith, its a decision based on evidence. To become an historian of any merit one has to prove oneself by obtaining qualification and the respect of peers and its not that easy to achieve.

        As for the scientific method, I’ll try:

        Basically its this:

        Make an observation

        Ask a question that addresses the observation

        Form a hypotheses (ie a theoretical answer to the question)

        design an experiment or to test the hypothese and conduct it

        Ideally experiment will either prove or disprove the hypothersis ( If it does niether then a better experiment must be designed.)

        If the hypothersis is proven a paper is published. Other scientists then read the paper , seek to find flaws in it and repeat the experiment.

        If the experiment can be repeated by multiple scientists and no flaws can be found in the paper it will be become a “scientific theory” which is basically a proven fact.

        The thing that makes it the best method is the reapeated analysis and testing by other scientists. Generally they are a competitive bunch and will do all in their power to disprove any other persons hypothesis, but if they can’t they will publish the positive results anyway.

        This is a vastly oversimplified explanation and many other things can and do happen along the way. A scientist may come up with a modified and improved hypothersis and so design a test for that. That then goes through the published paper and repeat analyisis and testing. This happens to many scientific theories all the time.

        Some things though have been tested so much we now know them to be correct (eg, the temperature water boils at). However even these things are still up to be questioned.

        The scientific method is not about faith its about proof and it can be applied to anything.
        Even the statment “science acn explain averything.” This hypothersis can be tested by experimentation. Pick objects or ideas a random and see if there have been papers published about these things and if they have become accepted as theories. However we both know there is no need to such work since we already know there are a great deal of things science cannot explain.
        For a more detailed explanation you could read : http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/scientific-experiments/scientific-method6.htm
        Its not too long and does give a half decent overview of the process.

        I’d also be interested to know what in my facebook makes you think I am looking for arguments?

        Anyway hope this helps you see my POV.

  4. Rayed says:

    The ruinous legacy of Abraham

    The Abrahamic religions have existed as the disastrous reign of false spiritual enlightenment. They essentially reflect what their adherents thought and experienced during their initial genesis. And thus Judaism was a man-made ideology exclusive to Jews; Christianity a progressive reformation of Judaism; while Islam was born to unify Arabian tribes using the two former ideologies as a benchmark against which to impose a worldwide theocracy.

    If a supreme, omniscient and omnipotent being (spirit) were real, it would have sent down one revelation not to one person but to one world. It would be a book written and bound void of human hand, contradiction and abrogation. A book that could be copied word-for-word for entire future generations to see and read. It would be a polemic against violence, murder, rape and all forms of slavery while explaining why such things exist. In sum, such scripture would become a manifesto not for a chosen people but for a chosen world where all are invited without recrimination, condemnation or damnation for non-acceptance. Belief and faith would thus remain a purely personal matter beyond reproach.

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