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The main reason people ditch God

iStock / Getty Images Plus/mirsad sarajlic
iStock / Getty Images Plus/mirsad sarajlic

I’ve had a flurry of in-your-face confrontations over God lately.

The most recent occurred at (of all places) a funeral. A person at the visitation went on an extended rant that pinballed in every direction and included me being peppered with so many, “How can you believe?” that I lost count.

Then there’s the 30-something girl who bailed on the faith after a terrible, failed marriage to a person in the ministry (who turned out to be a moral failure), which included extra heapings of guilt thrown onto her by the “loving” members of the church she used to attend.

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Last but not least is another woman raised in the faith who now views Christianity as repressive and kicked it to the curb because of her sexual and other moral preferences.

It’s been quite the scene, I have to say.

A couple of years back, I wrote an article on three reasons people reject the faith and all of them were present in these latest encounters, along with the ever-present dislike of God’s moral Law.

The first person had bad events come into his life that pretty much train-wrecked everything. Although not aware of it, they were wrestling with the issue of theodicy that hits all of us at some point.

He was now nodding in agreement with atheist Richard Dawkins who wrote, “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

The second person had bad people come into her life. She was locking arms with Gandhi who said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  

The third person had bad morals well up within her life. She’d settled into the position articulated well by Aldous Huxley in Ends and Means: “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning … For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.”  

When you talk with these three people — and others in their same shoes — long enough, you find that they may have different reasons for stiff-arming God, but they all have one thing in common.    

There is no God. And I hate Him

As the guy at the funeral went on about why God couldn’t exist, I noticed something interesting about him: He. Was. Furious. Same with the two women I described.

That’s a strange feeling to have about something/one you don’t think exists. No one gets that mad at Santa Claus because they don’t get what they want at Christmas.

Pastor Doug Wilson, who debated the late atheist Christopher Hitchens on multiple occasions, said that many atheists have two declarations: 1. There is no God; 2. I hate Him.

On the one hand, the Bible talks about the mind of the unbeliever being “hostile toward God” (Rom. 8:7) and “rage” being directed at the Creator (Ps. 2:1-3). But there’s something more going on here.

The mindset is that we’re not getting what we want and deserve and are angry about it.

In his message, "Mercy, Not Sacrifice," Tim Keller talks about two atheists he knows who aren’t married and are fuming over their singleness. Not just distressed; they’re mad.

They’ve told him that others who aren’t as good, kind, thoughtful, etc., as they are have spouses and they feel that is so…unfair.

Unfair? How do you get unfair from life if you’re an atheist? Go back to Dawkins’ quote and tell me where fair is in that.   

The fact is people in their shoes know down deep there is a power behind life and they’re mad because a. that power hasn’t delivered for them or b. they’re wracked with guilt over their behavior because of the built-in moral law we have from the Creator (Rom. 2:14-15).

On that latter point, C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity: “The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience will demand of you. And your natural self, which is thus being starved and hampered and worried at every turn, will get angrier and angrier.”

So, what’s a person in this enraged state towards God supposed to do?

The first step — and it can be a hard one — is to work towards the realization that there is no existential mismatch between the hardships and moral temptations we experience in life and an all-powerful, loving, and omnipotent God. Scan the Bible and you will see bad events, people, and moral struggles everywhere in its pages.

And yet, Scripture isn’t shy about showcasing all that and declaring a sovereign Creator. The same Jesus who said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34) also promises “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

This is why Paul lists all sorts of awfulness that can whipsaw us into a hot mess and follows it up with “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).  

They say things come in threes so I’m not sure if there’s another angry person headed my way who’s had it with God. But if there is, I’ll do what I did with the others I’ve spoken to lately — be patient and hear them out, knowing that we all get disappointed with God from time to time.

The great thing is that God is patient towards us just like he was with the minor Old Testament prophet Habakkuk who let his fury fly towards Heaven on one occasion. After he received insight from above, he recovered and ended his book with a statement of hope and trust that I hope we can all declare when our life feels like being caught in a barbed-wire fence: “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord GOD is my strength” (Hab. 3:17-19).

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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