Exploring Atheism and the Struggles of Faith

Today, I want to delve into a fundamental question: Who needs God? And why is belief in God necessary? It’s a question that has likely crossed all of our minds at some point. Why do we have to believe in God? Why can’t we simply know? Let me illustrate this with a personal example. I have never doubted the reality of my marriage with Megan. There was no need for faith in that regard. And when my children were born, their constant cries served as tangible evidence of their existence. They were undeniably real. No faith or belief was required. So why is it that when it comes to something as significant as God, we are asked to believe? Why is belief in God necessary?

Perhaps some of you are also grappling with these questions. It doesn’t matter if you have a strong or weak faith, if you have lost or are regaining your faith. We all, if we are honest, struggle with belief in God at times. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean we lack faith or are weak. In fact, the deeper we delve into our relationship with God, the more questions we encounter. We reach a point where answers are not readily available.

Today marks the beginning of a six-part conversation. Each week will build upon the previous one, resulting in a unique series unlike anything we have done before. This introductory message sets the stage, and I will take more time than usual to lay the foundation. I hope that it piques your interest and leaves you wanting to come back. If I fail to meet your expectations today, I apologize, and I understand if you decide not to return. But let’s explore together the question: Who needs God?

When I posted this question on our church’s Instagram, many responded with “I do” or “everyone does.” While you might affirm the need for God, you may not always live as if you truly need him in the present moment. On the other hand, some of you may claim not to need God at all. However, deep down, you find it difficult to completely dismiss the possibility of his existence. And then there are those who are indifferent to the question of who needs God and are more concerned with who needs religion. The growing trend of people distancing themselves from religion is not primarily due to the attractiveness of atheism but rather the unattractiveness of organized religion. We have all seen instances where religion appears to be the problem rather than the solution.

Let’s address the rise of a particular group known as the “nones.” These are individuals began disassociating themselves from organized religion. The term “nones” refers to those who claim no religious affiliation. Approximately 25% of Americans identify as “nones,” with around one-third of millennials falling into this category. So, if you have found yourself expressing sentiments like “I don’t know about faith,” “I don’t care about belief,” or “I don’t need God,” congratulations, you are likely a “none.” You can now inform your worried mother that she can stop praying for you because you have discovered your newfound identity as a “none.” This revelation might not necessarily stem from an attraction to atheism but rather a disenchantment with organized religion.

Interestingly, the largest subgroup within the “nones” comprises individuals who grew up in the church, former Christians. It might come as a surprise, but it is the truth. And who do we hold responsible for this exodus? Well, we need to take a hard look in the mirror because it is our fault—the fault of the church, the body of Christ. As we study the New Testament and the life of Jesus, we discover that Jesus was well-liked by sinners and outsiders but not so much by the religious elite. Today, we seem to have reversed that pattern. We have become more like the Pharisees than Jesus, driving people away from faith with our actions and behavior.

The church’s responsibility is to represent Jesus to the world. We are the hands and feet of Christ. If Christianity is unattractive or easy to walk away from, it is because of us, not because of God. People are not rejecting God; they are rejecting the flawed representation of him by his followers. We must acknowledge our failure and seek to rectify it.

The problem lies in our misguided beliefs, misplaced priorities, and the overemphasis on certain aspects of religion. Many people have been turned off by hypocrisy, judgmental attitudes, and a lack of genuine love and compassion within the church. People want something authentic, something that is more than just a set of rules and rituals. They are longing for an encounter with the living God, a transformative experience that goes beyond religious practices. They want to see God’s love and grace in action, not just hear about it in sermons.

To address this, we need to have honest conversations about the doubts and concerns that arise when we step away from the church or struggle within it. We need to create safe spaces where people can express their questions and uncertainties without fear of judgment or condemnation. We must be willing to acknowledge our own doubts and wrestle with difficult theological concepts together. This series aims to elevate our understanding and equip us with the knowledge to engage in more intelligent discussions about faith.

We need to move beyond the superficial debates that often play out on social media and strive for greater depth and authenticity. Let’s transcend the shallow arguments and soundbites and dig deep into the heart of the matter. This is not a series about proving who is right or wrong, about winning arguments or converting others to our point of view. It’s about seeking truth, about engaging in meaningful dialogue that challenges our beliefs and opens our minds to new perspectives.

We will explore both sides of the coin: Christianity and atheism. We will deconstruct certain aspects of our faith, including our understanding of God and the Bible. We will also delve into disbelief itself and the misconceptions surrounding atheism. It is essential to have a well-rounded understanding of both belief systems in order to engage in respectful and informed conversations.

Atheism is not simply a lack of belief; it is a complex system of beliefs that warrants careful consideration. As atheists, individuals are expected to believe that something came from nothing, that life emerged from non-life, and that natural selection is responsible for all life forms. These beliefs require serious contemplation and examination. Therefore, it is not my intention to provide arguments against atheism or for Christianity, but rather to facilitate a well-informed discussion.

It is important to acknowledge that many people have left Christianity due to unsettling outcomes and beliefs. Yet, just because something is unsettling does not mean it is false. Sometimes the truth can be uncomfortable or challenging. We need to be willing to challenge our own beliefs and strive for consistency in our thinking. We cannot shy away from difficult questions or dismiss opposing viewpoints without careful consideration.

By the end of this series, my hope is that we will be better equipped to engage in intelligent conversations about faith. I hope that we will be able to elevate the discourse surrounding belief in God and promote a more respectful and authentic dialogue with atheists and skeptics. Let’s seek a deeper understanding, challenge our own assumptions, and foster an environment of intellectual curiosity and openness.

So, I invite you to join me on this journey. Let’s embark on a quest for truth together, with humility, compassion, and a willingness to explore the depths of our faith. Together, let’s discover why belief in God is not only necessary but also deeply meaningful and transformative.