Open Letter to Atheists From a Megachurch Pastor: Don't Go! (Part 2)

Dear Atheists:

Despite Pastor John Hagee's suggestion you leave the country, please stay.
Previously, I gave four reasons we need you to remain. Here are three more:

5. Positive affirmation is best appreciated as the counterpoint to perpetual negation.

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"The fool has said in his heart there is no God," says Psalm 14:1.

"Fool" is offensive in today's lingo. However, the original Hebrew of Psalm 14 refers to the person who tries to dismiss an idea by "scoffing" rather than reasoning. Ad hominem ("to the man, or person") tries to divert attention from issues by attacking the believer's – or non-believer's – personhood rather than the belief. Scoffing and scorn are essential components of the ad hominem tactic.

In the Mad-Hatter kingdom of 1970s Washington I seriously contemplated atheism. I was wearied by the conflict and injustices I had seen as a newspaper reporter in the 1960s, and the futility of the quest for world peace when I saw firsthand the insufficiencies of government and diplomacy. I examined the presuppositions underlying non-belief but concluded they constituted a faith system every bit as doctrinaire as belief in God. I didn't want to replace religion with religion.

Nor did I want the necessity of negation to govern my psyche. If I had to maintain in the core of my being a constant No regarding Ultimate Reality, then my central quest would be negation.

If I were an atheist I would have to keep the No alive at all costs, otherwise I would die intellectually and spiritually. I would be Captain Kirk trying to stamp out the rapidly multiplying tribbles – the constant rebuttals from history, science, philosophy (to say nothing of the Bible) to my non-belief. Every time I got rid of one, another would pop up. I would have to kill them all, because if even one of them were right my destiny would be at stake.

It's easy to dismiss belief in God by talking about destructive religious extremists. But if I am an intellectually honest atheist I must explain rationally Dr. Martin Luther King's passion for justice and antipathy to violence arising from his commitment to Christlikeness, Nelson Mandela's passion for forgiveness learned also at the feet of Jesus, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life-sacrificing decision to assert Christ's gospel against the demonic Nazis, and that nagging phenomenon, altruism, the round peg refusing to fit the square hole of Darwinism.

The necessity for negation makes me appreciate all the more 2 Corinthians 1:20: "For all the promises of God are Yes" in Christ.

Your No causes me to celebrate the Yes even more.

6. Love shines brightest in the gloom of hate.

C.S. Lewis said that as a non-believer in his early life, "like so many Atheists or Anti-theists," he lived in "a whirl of contradictions, maintaining "that God did not exist," but at the same time "also very angry at God for not existing." Lewis, in his atheism, was like the knight in Ingmar Bergman's film, "The Seventh Seal," who cries out, "Why can't I kill God within me? Why does he live on in this painful humiliating way even though I curse him and want to tear him out of my heart?"1

As a young adult I thought seriously about atheism, but as a child I toyed with hating God. Tragic circumstances I will not detail here made me think of Him more as one of those Greek deities who delighted in tormenting mortals. Bitterness and anger at God were corroding my personality and all my relationships.

My healing came in realizing that God is love, and all love begins with loving God. Augustine wrote, "Love God and do what you please." I would have never understood the liberating power of loving God had I not faced the imprisoning necessity of hating Him. As Jesus teaches, to love the Lord with all my heart and my neighbor (even the atheist) as myself is the highest expression of my humanity. Healthy love for others and myself begins with loving God.

Thanks for the reminder.

7. A symphony is never lovelier than when it first arises from the cacophony of the warm-up.

Some of the most beautiful chords in music are in "Nessun Dorma", Puccini's great aria in his opera "Turandot." But listen as the orchestra tunes up and the cacophony will make you appreciate even more the symphonic wholeness on which such chords ride like graceful galaxies on the score of the universe.

Music is math, and math is wholeness. If the universe were mathless it would be incoherent, and if incoherent a cacophony, and if a cacophony, then Newton would not be possible. David Berlinski, in his book, A Tour of the Calculus, writes that Isaac Newton was driven by the idea that "the universe in all of its aspects… is coordinated by a Great Plan… an elaborate and densely reticulated set of mathematical laws, a system of symbols." In his Principia, Newton called this "the system of the world."

But the try-until-you-get-it-right "multiverse" that some atheists posit against creation is a cacophony of desperation, like everybody in the orchestra trying to find the right note. Somewhere down in the maelstrom is that A-note. Einstein knew it was there, and sought the "unifying field".

John 1:1 sounds the A-note: "In the beginning was the Logos" – Reason, Intellect, Mind. Symphonic wholeness results, along with science.

Thank you for reminding me how much greater the symphony is than the warm-up.

So, dear atheists, don't go: we need you. You help us see more than you can imagine. And if you are open-minded at all you may realize you need us believers too, and the God we love and worship.

Love… with all my heart, Wallace Henley

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