Atheists like to claim they don’t believe in God, but talk with an atheist for a while and you are likely to find that it’s not that they don’t believe in God, it’s that they are mad at Him. I have had this experience many times. In fact, I saw a person I was close to go through it. When he was a teenager, my friend planned to pursue a seminary degree and enter the ministry. He was well-versed in the Bible and actively involved in his church. His best friend was the pastor’s son and he looked up to the pastor as both a mentor and a father figure. So what happened to change my friend’s course in life from seminary candidate to angry, committed atheist? His mentor and father figure—the pastor of his church—left the ministry, left his wife, and left his family to pursue a secular life.
I told my friend that he was placing too much trust in a pastor who, like all men, had feet of clay. I counseled him to avoid being overly influenced by one person’s failure. But all entreaties fell on deaf ears, and a young man who had planned to enter the Christian ministry instead spent the rest of his life shaking his fist at a God he claimed did not exist. At the end of his life—a life cut tragically short—he was still angry at God. Such is often the case with those who claim to be atheists.
Dinesh D’Souza speaks to this angry-at-God phenomenon in his new book, God Forsaken, a treatise on human suffering in the world. D’Souza had gotten to know Christopher Hitchens before his death and considered him a friend. In his book, D’Souza says this about Hitchens: “The late Christopher Hitchens, perhaps America’s leading atheist, was a friend. Yet I was quite surprised to learn in his recent memoir that when he was a college student, his mother eloped with a former Anglican clergyman—and that sometime later, the two of them made a suicide pact and killed themselves.” One can understand and even appreciate the anger Hitchens must have felt. What young man would not be affected by so tragic a loss of his mother? But as atheists are prone to do, Hitchens aimed his anger in the wrong direction.
One of the most frequently asked questions by atheists is this: If there is a God, why does he allow so much suffering in the world? In fact, world suffering is the reason given by many atheists for their lack of belief. Perhaps the best example of an individual who became an atheist because of his concern over suffering in the world is Bart Ehrman. D’Souza explains in his book that Ehrman—a former Christian fundamentalist and graduate of Moody Bible Institute—gave up his faith when he “…discovered the magnitude of evil in the world.” One wonders if, when studying the Bible, Ehrman was paying attention. The Bible is full of examples of evil. Jesus Himself had to confront the personification of evil face-to-face when Satan tried to tempt Him in the desert.
Ehrman’s rationale for turning from God is shared by many of his fellow atheists. This rationale can be summarized as follows: Bad things happen in the world. Hence, there can be no God. When questioned about the bad things that have happened in his life, Ehrman is quick to point out there have been very few. He claims to have suffered very little in life and that he has been extraordinarily fortunate. Ehrman’s life has been one that Christians would call “blessed.” But, then, Ehrman is quick to point out that although he has not suffered, suffering occurs daily in third-world countries.
D’Souza points out the irony in Erhman’s rationale: “What a remarkable situation. Ehrman experiences his own life as a great gift, but refuses to thank God for it. Yet he blames God for the suffering that he has not himself experienced, the suffering of others.” This is typical of atheists who refuse to belief because there is suffering in the world. But suffering is neither new nor unique. It started in the Garden.
When God gave man free will, He gave him the capacity for both good and evil. But the evil you see in the world does not mean there is no God. It means that men of free will are not following God. Next time you are talking with an atheist, point him to the Bible and ask how much of the suffering he sees in the world would go away if people simply obeyed the 10 Commandments and God’s admonition to be their brother’s keeper.