The Only Way Out of Atheism
[My article Why People Become Atheists, which appears below, ended with this paragraph: “These objections to religion are heartfelt. We can’t dismiss them lightly. Even weightier arguments can be made. And there are strong counterarguments to vindicate belief. I will not give them here. Instead I’ll propose an alternative to all organized religion – yet one that organized religion should not object to. But if atheists don’t want to hear it, why bother?”]
The Downside of Atheism: Renouncing Hope
Because however heartfelt the aversion to religion is in many atheists, there is an occasional doubt. The sense that God may exist in spite of all their arguments and denunciations. Still more embarrassingly there is in many a recurring wish that he did exist, because, well… he wasn’t all bad. Atheism delivers us from restraints, inhibitions, and irritations. It does not deliver us from the frailties and vulnerabilities of the human condition. We are weak and mortal in a brutal universe. Whether there is a God or not, we need one. Without him we’ll perish – and most of us don’t want to.
Moreover we have a subliminal hunger that is felt if seldom recognized – a craving for something ineffably beautiful and good that we can seize and hold and never lose. We want to be happier than anything or anyone ever makes us. The Dream, in all its splendor, never comes true. Or at least never stays true. We must soon learn to love the dream without the splendor. Honeymoon becomes marriage. We must lower expectations and be content with the irksome and mundane, with small love moments, not the enveloping rapture we once tasted, or divorce will follow.
Art, romance, success, wealth, erotic adventure, fame for a few – all can be thrilling, but the thrill fades, the glories fade, we fade, and all will be taken from us, or we from it. The only possible satisfaction of our thirst for unfading love, bliss, and glory is God. So for every atheist who occasionally doubts the infallibility of his denials, and feels the tug of the transcendent, I propose… Pure Theism.
One Step Out of Atheism
Look anew at the question of God’s existence completely apart from the Bible, Judeo-Christian theology, and the theology of any organized religion. The doctrines and scriptures of Jews, Christians, and Muslims need have no bearing on the elemental question of whether a personal and loving God exists. If he does, we can conceive of him apart from all established theologies and scriptures. We can commune and build a relationship with him directly -- without intervention of a rabbi, priest, minister, or imam.
Though I have embraced an organized religion, I was a pure theist for years. For me it was the only way out of atheism. I began with the most simplified and essential concept of a supernatural being: One who created the universe, loves what he made, and follows with benevolent concern the fate of every human life. Not the God of Abraham, not the Trinitarian God we Christians believe in, not Jesus, the incarnate Son of God. That would have been too much for me – and I had said no to it again and again. Just God, a Supreme Being who cares about his human creatures and wants a relationship with them. The distance between No God and Just God, Pure Theism, is immeasurable. I was there for two years after atheism, before Christianity became possible for me.
Grasp the Essence
Pure Theism is a life-altering option that should be considered by anyone who cannot accept the images and stories of God – or onerous rules of conduct – that are embedded in established religions. I could not have emerged from atheism directly into any formal religion, so I don’t advocate that. Nor do I insist on Christianity as the destination for everyone who comes out of atheism. Organized religion is an option but not a requirement for a new believer.
Pure Theism can be the start of a journey, as it was for me – or a harbor where you cast anchor and build a home. Whether you move on or stay, you will not be cosmically alone, as you were before. When the divine penetrates the human, present and future are transformed. You see the world, yourself, and your destiny with a changed eye. You are freed from atheism’s demand that you suppress hope in its most luminous forms. Death, though still grim, is transitional. Life, though still hard, has a transcendent source of wisdom and strength – and a shining sequel.
[To be continued.]