Some of the most pain-riddled people you will ever encounter will call themselves atheists. While some atheists are calmly secure in their unbelief, others lash out at Christians with vehemence. I call these people, “reactionary atheists,” because often they do in fact believe in God. I know this because they are so very angry at him. I do not say this mockingly. In fact, I have traveled the paths they call home, and I understand why they do not believe what they believe. They are adamant that God cannot exist, and for very specific reasons. They do not believe in God because he lets bad things happen to good people. They do not believe in God because he lets little children die. They do not believe in God because mankind is capable of incalculable cruelty. They do not believe in God because of pain.
When I was in my early twenties, the severity of the child abuse I’d suffered came starkly into focus. Before then, I had known I was an abuse victim, but as an adult I developed a deeper awareness of just how evil and abnormal the abuse I experienced was.
I became extremely angry at God.
The Bible seemed like a big book full of promises that would never come true. Church felt like a superficial farce spouting joy and hope when all I felt was pain and despair. The people sitting next to me in the pews had no conception of the level of agony I was in. They said meaningless things like, “I’ll pray for you,” as if God had ever answered my prayers. They said, “You need to forgive them,” but failed to acknowledge that no one had apologized to me, and that my soul was shattered into a hundred excruciating pieces.
You see, people in general – not just Christians – want life to be neat and tidy. They don’t want child abuse to exist, they don’t want cancer to exist, and they don’t want bad things to happen to good people.
So, instead of doing something useful about it, many people pretend that these things aren’t real. They might not say that out loud, but effectively, that’s what they are doing. They minimize pain, and make believe that it’s not as devastating as it actually is. They turn the volume down on their emotions, and put their brains on auto-pilot. They pretend everything is all OK, or not as bad as it seems.
“I’ll pray for you and expect you to be happy by next Sunday.”
“Let’s sing a few Jesus songs, and all the sorrow of the past will go away.”
“Let’s preach about hope and love, and put our faith in God, and suddenly the hate and despair of mankind won’t be as big of a deal.”
These are lies people tell themselves to insulate their minds from the ugliness of the world. They are reactionary. Just so however, our anger at God is also reactionary.
“Because an evil man did evil things to me, therefor God must be evil.”
“Because innocent children die, therefor God must not exist.”
“Because I feel alone and abandoned, therefor I am alone and abandoned.”
These are lies we tell ourselves to explain the despair and orphanhood we feel. What we feel, however, is not always indicative of reality. What we feel may leave us vulnerable to a bent and twisted perception of God.
The Unspeakable Fear
We fear that the evil of mankind may prove that God himself is evil. This possibility is so terrifying to us, that instead of logically evaluating the idea, we would rather skip over consideration and presume that God does not exist at all. A God that does not exist is less frightening to us than a God who is evil or might abandon us.
If God were good and real, we reason, our childhood would have been ideal.
If God were good and real, we think, cancer would not exist.
If God were good and real, we worry, wars and evil governments would not ravage entire nations.
However, we are failing to account for two things: Heaven and Hell. I will explain, but first I must pave the way with some ground-logic.
An Eternal Perception of Time
If there is a Creator of the Universe, then he also created time. Therefor, God would exist inside and also outside of time. God then has the capacity to view all of the past, present, and future, the way we might view a snow-globe. There are no uncertainties for God. There are no unknowns. The future is not a blank canvass for God. He can see it backwards and forwards with perfect clarity, as if it has already finished. The future holds fewer surprises for God than that favorite movie we’ve seen fifty times does for us.
The Cursed Blessing of Free Will
If God is “love” as the Bible claims, then it makes sense that he would desire love from others. The fact that God created relational beings, indicates that God is also a relational being. Like us, he yearns for respect, appreciation, attention, and understanding. These are all things we ourselves feel, so it is not hard to imagine that the God who created us in his image would feel similarly. This then explains the existence of “free will.”
You see, a God who is authentically loving himself, will naturally desire authentic love from others. It would not be instinctual for him to create zombie-like followers without the capacity to choose to either love or reject him. Unfortunately, in addition to empowering us to choose love and goodness, free will also empowers us to choose hate and selfishness. The gift of choice becomes a curse for those who choose to be evil.
An Immortal Perception of Death
If God exists outside of time and space, then death must appear quite differently to God than it does to us. While here on earth, death looks like the end of life, to God, it looks far more like the beginning. Think about it. Imagine you are God looking down on your creation, witnessing your children suffering and in pain. If you have the power to take them out of that suffering and into an eternal, painless, sinless existence with you, would you perceive death as a frightening thing? I think not. There would be no mystery in death. You’d be on the other side, looking into this fallen state we call life. Death would seem much more like a bitter rite of passage into a wonderful life of relief.
Certainly, God does detest death though. He is not apathetic. For example, when Lazarus died, Jesus wept, even though he knew full well he would raise Lazarus from the dead mere hours later. Has that never struck you as odd? Why did Christ weep? He knew Lazarus would come back to life.
The pain and suffering leading up to death – and the sorrow death causes our loved ones – grieves God. However, we are also told that when God’s children arrive in Heaven he welcomes them with joy and open arms.
So you see, if we believe that God exists, we must also believe that he views death in a very different way than we do. An eternal perspective on death, and seeing death — not as the end, but rather as a shift in environments and manner of existence — is extremely different indeed.
A Righteous Judge
If God is good and just, he will punish evil people. As finite beings, the span of our lives is a mere 80 years, 100 if we live to be very old. To an eternal God, this lifespan must seem a mere blink of the eye. The Bible describes God’s perception of time as, “a thousand years are but a day in your sight.”
To us mortals on earth, it may feel like God’s judgment is slow in coming. That does not mean it will never come. To a small child, Christmas may seem like it is decades away, when in reality, it is mere weeks in the future. Just so, we as finite beings may feel that justice is far off, when in actuality, it is just around the corner.
Many evil people will never see justice in this life. We can all think of people who seem to have dodged justice, and gotten away with heinous atrocities. We can all think of people who have received earthy justice in court or prison, but their judgement felt shallow and unsatisfying compared to what they truly deserved.
What will happen to such people after they die? God may not judge them in this life, but do not forget that God exists outside of time and space. Just as God waits for his loved ones to join him in Heaven, he also waits to judge those who hate him and devastate others. Just because we cannot see Hell, does not mean that Hell does not exist. Just because we have not personally witnessed God’s wrath, does not mean it does not burn.
The Logic Behind God
If God exists and God is good, then God is just and Hell is real. A good God would not allow evil to prevail unchecked forever. A just God will not allow evil to abide forever in his presence.
Just so, if God exists, and God is good, then God is loving, and Heaven is real. A loving and good God would never allow his created beings to vanish into meaningless nothingness forever. A loving and good God would also not rush to judgment, but would give even evil people the time and opportunity to repent and change.
Contrariwise, if God exists, and God is evil, then goodness cannot exist, and all the goodness in this world is inexplicable.
If God exists, and God is unjust, then he would be incapable of creating beings who long for justice, as you and I both do.
Chaos cannot create order. Evil cannot create good. However, order can create order that trends toward chaos, and good can create good that may grow corrupt.
We know that light exists in part because we are familiar with darkness. The light does not create the darkness, but rather it defines and limits the darkness. Just so, we know that goodness exists in part because we are familiar with evil. Goodness does not create evil or incite evil, but it does define it and reveal it. Just so, God – if he exists and if he is good – is not the author or creator of evil, but rather the definer and revealer of evil. Evil exists outside of God, just as darkness exists outside of light.
A Tarnished Reflection Of God
The fact that you long for justice, hate evil, detest death, and desire mercy, proves that the God who created you does as well. If he did not, he could not have created you with these qualities. If God were evil and unjust, so would you be, and you would not be able to even conceptualize the possibility of goodness, because goodness would not exist.
Our fear that God is evil then, is illogical. It cannot be true, and it should not be allowed to inhibit us from exploring the truth about God.
Now you are probably thinking, “But what about evil people? Did God not create them?” Yes, he did, but he did not create their evil. He gave them free will, and they chose to nurture their baser desires.
An overly simplistic analogy would be, that I can bake a really wonderful cake, in the most hygienic kitchen imaginable, with prime purified ingredients. However, left to itself for a week, that cake will become covered in mold. I did not create the mold, yet there it is, in all its sickness-inducing grotesqueness.
Just so, God originally created humanity without evil. However, left to our own devices, mankind became infected with the decomposing rot of sin. God did not create sin, yet here it is, in all its hideous toxicity. We are still here, proof that a Baker exists, because where there is cake there is a Baker. Yet, we are a poor example of his craftsmanship, and a tarnished reflection of his goodness, because we are so dreadfully corrupted.
Thankfully, unlike moldy cake, human beings are redeemable. We can be forgiven, influenced in a positive direction, changed to desire righteousness, and eventually ridden of sin forever. That last bit though, does not happen in this life. That is why Heaven is what so many long for. That is why a merciful God promises everlasting life to those who love him.
If I am wrong, then you and I will die, disappearing into nonsensical nothingness. Of meaninglessness we are, and to meaninglessness we shall return. However, if I am right, then I shall die and enter a far better place, where sin is no more, death itself has perished, and all my tears and pain have been wiped away.
What you choose to believe in this life has implications for eternity. God has given you choices. You can believe that we are pointless beings who today exist and tomorrow cease to be, or you can believe that we have a purpose, were designed with intention, and you can seek out the God responsible.
God looks down from Heaven
on the children of man
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all fallen away;
together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.