Actual conversation from last night:
[having spotted me reading a book titled Introduction to Biblical Interpretation]
Him: So, are you a religious nut?
Me: A nut?
Him: Yea, do you like really believe in God?
Me: (to myself: does mere belief in God make you a nut?)
Him: Do you believe in Jesus? The holy Mary…
Me: Well, I’m not a Catholic. I’m protestant, so I don’t go in for that Mary business…
Him: I used to be a Catholic.
Me: And now?
Him: I’m an agnostic.
Me: What happened?
Him: Like I said, I was raised Catholic.
Me: You can believe in God and not be Catholic.
Him: I really don’t care. If there is a God or not, I don’t care.
Me: Not at all?
Him: What has God ever done for me?
Me: [fishes for business card]: Well, if you ever decide you do care, shoot me an email.
Him: Have a good night.
All in all it was an interesting exchange. I thought his explanation for his disbelief confirmed what I’ve been saying for some time about the church actually creating atheists. In fact, let me take a minute to single out a correspondent from a church in Indiana- is that specific enough?- who recently complained about my ‘law’ posts attacking the state of the church and how we are transmitting the faith and just ask him: do you ever even talk to people who are not Christian? It must be nice to operate in a little bubble where you figured you did your job after you confirmed all the kids in your youth group but then 48 out of 50 of them fall away in college- and you hardly are aware and are happily willing to go on doing everything the same way you’ve always done it. Meanwhile, we apologists strive to clean up the mess. It is a mess made worse, often, I think, then if they had never been raised in the faith at all. (Matthew 12:43-45) Yes, if it’s law, it is a law message that you need to hear.
But I digress.
The conversation I had last night raised a number of lines of thoughts for me (see previous paragraph for some) but on the off chance that this gentlemen decides to visit my webpage, despite not caring, let me take a minute and answer the question: Why should you care about God’s existence?
First of all, the common complaint that there are too many options out there to care about one or two of them is overblown. In other words, I can see one of my hard core atheist friends saying, “I don’t care about your God, just as you don’t care about Zeus.” This presumes, of course, that I haven’t investigated Zeus, or that educated Christians don’t have a reasonable basis for their dismissal of other religions. I would reply more generally, though, saying that there are nonetheless a finite number of categories, and no one is asking anyone to pursue every varying subcategories until the category itself warrants further scrutiny. (and in some cases, such as Christianity, the diversity of the subcategories is vastly overblown)
For example, the religions can be summed up under labels such as pantheism, theism, atheism, polytheism… you get the idea. These categories do not multiply endlessly, even if the subcategories do. The point: if you can eliminate a whole category you need not proceed further.
But why care at all? Well, the main categories contain most of the human race at all times. Out of a world’s population of 6 billion, probably a full 5 billion and a half believe in something. I think the inquisitive person will want to look into what all the fuss is about. Here we find that you can employ a Darwinist idea to sort out the ones to pay attention to- survival of the fittest. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism probably amount for half the world’s population. Do all of these people have no basis for their belief in God? If we ‘can’t know’ how in fact do people come to say they know? On the off chance that 3,000,000,000 people might be right, I think that justifies caring.
At the very least, it must be argued that there is something in the religious ‘instinct’ that must fulfill a human need, or else it wouldn’t be so pervasive. Even hard core atheists like Dawkins admit to this instinct (he calls it ‘Einstein’s God’). Few people have found Dawkins’s ways of fulfilling this instinct to be very satisfying. My point is, by not caring, one might deprive themselves of the satisfaction of an important human need.
An atheist might here provide another reason to care: you need to care enough so that you understand why religion is so dangerous. 🙂 But that’s not my thing.
But I sense from the statement “What has God ever done for me?” that there is something else going on that has nothing to do with such intellectual exercises. I sense that you believe that God has had opportunity to act in your life, but did not. As such, if he exists, he isn’t operative in your life (in the ways you would have cared about) and hence not worthy of your continued attention. But if Christianity is correct, we can answer this question directly. What has God ever done for you? He saw you in your misery and pain and saw your final end if he didn’t directly interact, and so he came to our planet in person, suffered and died, and rose victorious over death, and hopes that you will share over that victory, forever and ever.
In my book, that’s doing something! You might say that this is all fine and dandy, but where was he when such and such happened? First of all, I’m not sure Christianity has any promise that bad things will stop happening to believers. If anything, its the opposite (John 17:14-15 ). That might not be what you wanted to hear. But look, for all you know, God did act, and things weren’t as bad as they could have been. Had you looked at it from that perspective to see if there were ways things could have been even worse, but weren’t?
That is still just sideshow, I think. I think the more important thing here is that you understand that this is not new territory. We call it the ‘problem of pain’ and the ‘problem of suffering.’ Christians have been struggling with it for centuries. It is older even then Judaism (see the book of Job). Set aside for a moment what you’ve seen- or what you’ve done- or what you’ve endured- and realize for a moment that, despite the ‘problem’ having been around for so long, people still believe. Why? How do they come to peace? How do they reconcile a loving God with a hateful world? Perhaps there is a way… and perhaps you would find it, if only you cared…