I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people. - Vincent Van Gogh

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Creative Minority Reader

Hello Atheist, My Old Friend

Here's the latest from Dan Lord, who's writing some guest posts this month:

I’m not sure how many soi-disant atheists troll the clear waters of Creative Minority Report, so I’m thinking of this post the way a deep sea fisherman thinks of the chum he shovels overboard, relying on the scent of fresh blood to attract sharks from miles away.

Many of you say you don’t believe in God, but I don’t believe you. Call me an aatheist. I think you’re rejecting other negative things that you associate with belief in God, even you professional double black belt advanced level atheists who write whole books about not believing in God. I know you. You have been my friends, cohorts, co-employees and drinking buddies all of my life. I don’t believe there are really “40-50 million” of you in the U.S. as was blithely claimed in some article I read recently, but I know that the appeal of atheism is strong and you haven’t found a good reason to resist it. I can respect that. To a degree.

I don’t want to win an argument against you. I want you to know that God loves you. But I also think you need to know that to know that “God loves you” is not a knowledge that you give to yourself. I didn’t make it up—it was given to me by God. Yes, plenty of human beings in my life have told me that God loves me, but I don’t recall a single instance from my earlier years that made any impact on me. I think it’s good to have it repeated, the same way that Coca-Cola absolutely must keep advertising their product even if I personally don’t purchase a single Coke all day. It has to be there, staying within your field of perception, for that one moment one day when you really will be ready to try it. But never once, that I can remember, did I ever hear someone say or see a sign proclaim that “God loves you!” and get all warm and gooey in my heart and respond, “How very, very nice!” Sometimes my response was sarcasm, sometimes ire. But the vast majority of the time my response was…nothing. Just blankness. That is what I think most atheists experience most of the time in response to talk about God’s ineffable love for us.

It is easy to assume, based on that blankness, that you possess clear vision. Whatever that thing is in people that makes them get excited about a Creator, I don’t seem to have it. And I’m so glad, because I can see things for what they really are, without illusions.

There’s a rush of satisfaction that goes with that assumption—and it is that rush that can become a god. The notion of being smarter than everybody else is addictive, a non-spiritual Gnosticism that pinches all of our inmost prideful pleasure centers. Plus, it’s an easier approach to living—you avoid doctrinal disputes, moral complexities, religious hypocrisy, institutional baggage and embarrassing associations with the failures of co-religionists, all with the simple public declaration: I don’t believe in god.

But think how you’ve closed yourself off. You’ve made a solemn, formal dogmatic pronouncement, one that includes no possibility of change, transformation or alteration. Is this what open-minded people do? Is this what brave people who love reason do? I think not.

I am simply asking you to leave the door open, just slightly. You’ll go on feeling that blankness when people tell you that God loves you, but because I know I’m right, that 1) there is a God, 2) he loves you, and 3) you can’t really know that until he himself reveals it to you personally, I know that the space you leave between your interior door and it’s doorjamb will be the space through which God will come to you, eventually. Just leave it open. Perhaps, if you think you could stand it for just a second, make a silent, inward appeal to the god you don’t really think is there, and just give him a chance. See. And if you can’t stand that for even a second, what does that say about your atheism?

Dan Lord blogs at The Strangest of Wars.

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16 comments:

Mary De Voe said...

Dan Lord, this is a beautiful meditation on BEING. If I may add that the God WHO loves you is BEING, VERY EXISTENCE, ITSELF. Go look in the mirror and see how wonderful you are, acknowledge your BEING, your EXISTENCE and the love God shares with man, an individual substance of a rational nature, homo sapiens, made in the image of the Supreme Sovereign Being. Without BEING, man does not exist. Every man is a work in progress, so there is hope.

Heartfout said...

In that case, I do not believe you believe in God. I think you believe in positive things that you call God. I'm an a-theist.

Anonymous said...

As Dawkins says, he is a 6.9 on a 7 point scale an atheist. I am just like him. If some evidence of some god shows up, I will believe in him. I will never follow the christian god due to the terrible things he has done but I would no longer be an atheist. I don't understand how any moral person can read the OT and consider him loving.

"You’ll go on feeling that blankness when people tell you that God loves you, but because I know I’m right, that 1) there is a God, 2) he loves you, and 3) you can’t really know that until he himself reveals it to you personally, " How condisending!

I'm glad your religion makes you feel good but it is an undeserved superiority you portray.

You asked for atheists to respond, here you go.
Rover.

Robin E. said...

Great post, Dan. I have never been an atheist, but as a recovering materialist, I can totally identify with what you describe. For me, leaving the door open was not enough. I had accepted the moral system of the Catholic Church for entirely secular reasons, and the smells and bells for anthropological reasons for many years before I could hear the "God loves you" thing without cringing. I had to take the crazy challenge and solicit the attention/aid of this mysterious God to experience conversion.

Rover, I could never subscribe to religions of the Book based on the wild and crazy OT story either. Fortunately, unlike most atheists I have known, I had very little interest in religion per se, and ended up coming to it from the opposite direction. A personal experience of being knocked off one's horse, so to speak, can put things in perspective. It isn't really offensive to the intellect to imagine a God who might handle a corrupt and incorrigible people in such a manner. Loads of pagan gods exhibit a far more terrifying, yet somehow more acceptable, bloodthirstiness. It is really only offensive to our residual Christian moral sense. But the way in which he chose to meet humanity at the beginnings of their attempts to grapple with notions of morality and the supernatural really shouldn't surprise us when we consider those other gods and the mindsets of thise who made them.

What is very surprising is that an alternative approach to God and Being was revealed in a graphic and bloody way (so that we could understand?), but with entirely different implications. Looking at the OT from this perspective, one can begin to see how intricately he laid the foundations for that turning point in the story of the OT, and how radically different he must have appeared to humanity, even then.

By the way, lest any atheist think that the notion of faith as a gift implies some sort of favor, please be assured that, speaking for myself, I received all kinds of favor, invitations, etc. before ever recognizing them or accepting them. We all think it is the same for everyone. You have to take that leap on your own, though. On a lark, out of desperation, or as an experimental way to disprove the Christian assertion that if you ask God to reveal himself to you he will....

john said...

Reminds me somewhat of aquinas' chair argument against atheism and agnosticism

Donald R. McClarey said...

"Many of you say you don’t believe in God, but I don’t believe you."

Neither do I. Most atheists, at least of the atheist variety, seem to have a strong belief in God. They simply hate Him.

"Atheists express their rage against God although in their view He does not exist."

CS Lewis

What Dan Makes said...

To all the commenters so far: thank you for reading, and for your interest!

To Anonymous: I appreciate your thoughts, and what you have to say about your atheism (which sounds more like agnosticism) I think are fair enough. However, the OT God (though it can seem otherwise) is actually a profoundly loving, good God, and is identical with the NT God. But humanity didn't know him as well then. We were still shedding ancient, pagan conceptions of God when the books of the OT were being written down--that safely accounts for quite a few of the "terrible" things you find in the OT. It was Jesus who definitively showed the world just how astoundingly merciful and charitable God actually is.
And I'm not being condescending when I say that God has to give us faith--I'm being a wise-ass in places in the article, but I'm not kidding when I say I've been close with a lot of atheists in my life, and they would appreciate a little wise-assery. I'm sincerely glad you commented, and I'd love it if you took a stroll over to my website (thatstrangestofwars.com) and we could continue the conversation.

Anonymous said...

As a former athiest myself......hats off to the writer! Great points, I couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

Wow--if I wasn't an atheist before... Yikes! The term "condescending" doesn't even scratch the surface here. Why can't you just be comfortable with the faith that you have?

Anonymous said...

This piece reminds me of a few years ago when the Boys Scouts told a young scout who said he was an atheist that he had a deadline by which he needed to stop being an atheist (i.e., start believing in god) or he would be kicked out of the Boy Scouts. They basically told him, "If you don't start believing by Friday at midnight, you are no longer a scout." Sooooo ludicrous.

Therese Z said...

Why ludicrous? The Boy Scout Promise insists on belief in God. Can't they regulate their own organization their own way?

Anonymous said...

Not the regulation, the imposition of deadline. It is ludicrous to impose a deadline on belief. To assert that faith in god (or most anything, really) can start/stop upon command completely trivializes it. Faith is about one person's relationship with god. This need to foist it upon other people demonstrates a weakness in that person's personal relationship. Anyone bent out of shape because atheists exist is just grasping desperately for further validation of his or her own faith. It's a shame.

Anonymous said...

Dan, I will head on over and continue the conversation. But, make no mistake, I am as sure there is not god as I am sure there is no santa.

I have also read every book of the bible (methodist bible, not catholic) and find the OT deplorable and Jesus reinforcing every line.

As I said before, If I was convinced Yahweh did exist, I would no longer be an atheist, but I would still not follow him. No more than I could an enlightened Hitler. Too much bagage.

Rover.

Sophia's Favorite said...

Of course, anyone who says they do not believe the Christian God exists is admitting they do not know what the word means.

Our God is, solely, exclusively, and only, the fact that things exist. If you deny that there is such a thing as existence, you are not only denying the reality of external reality, you are denying Descartes's "cogito"—meaning you have to explain how you are here to say such stupid things.

The question of God's existence is not open. The question of whether he has revealed himself, been incarnated, or otherwise gives a damn about people, is still open, but to say our God does not exist is to admit that you're—at best—an ignoramus, and probably a flabbergasting moron.

Rover, I'm glad being an atheist makes you feel like you're not a wrestling helmeted mental defective. But that is an undeserved non-inferiority you portray.

Your self-righteous—and anti-Semitic—nonsense about the Old Testament, on the other hand, is wholly unwarranted, since you troglodytes are the ones who murdered an order of magnitude more people, between 1917 and 1989, than all religions put together have murdered in 6000 years. And that's only half the killing you dimwits have to your name—it doesn't count forced abortions, dead from all the wars you start, or the political murders in atheist regimes after 1989.

Also, again: Nietzsche. Your belief that there is still morality in an atheist cosmos has been disproved. The only moral position that makes sense in an atheist cosmos is Nietzschean nihilism, and over a century of your co-irreligionists' wishful thinking has not been able to change that.

Gail Finke said...

Dan: I was never an atheist, but I was an agnostic for a long time, by which I meant I had other things to think about and would save God for later... unless I had a few idle minutes to think about Him, during which I would come up with a few things off the top of my head that I thought were profound doubts and questions. Unlike some of the anonymous posters here, I would never have been angry with you over this post, but I would have been insulted that you thought you knew more than I did. What did it for me, other than God Himself, was realizing that some of the smartest people in the history of the world had been thinking about this for thousands of years, and that I was being a TEENSY bit arrogant to think that a few minutes or hours or even weeks of thought were coming close to scratching the surface. Perhaps, just perhaps, someone had thought these things before me. Once I realized this, it opened the door for all the rest. I was blind to things all around me, and various Anonymous posters: I really mean that. It was ALL around me, and I was blind to it.

Like you I never felt the slightest thing one way or the other to being told that God loved me. To me, it was like being told "have a nice day" -- something nice to say that has no actual meaning behind it. I figured that the people saying or writing it were either trying to convert me or trying to be nice to me, not a statement of any kind of fact. Your analogy of advertising is a good one. An advertising message doesn't hit you until you need it, but it's always around in the back of your mind.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan,
Interesting piece. I guess I am one of those 'soi-disant atheists' that you refer to in your opening passage but as you rightly assumed, I don't 'troll the clear waters of the creative Minority Report' with any frequency. I just saw this article posted as a facebook link and felt compelled to check it out.
I'm not here to argue against the existence of god, as I'm sure that you and your regular readers have some personal experience that makes him real for you, and therefore no level of argument would convince you otherwise. My only reason for commenting was simply to ask you to look again at you views on atheism. To me, stating that you don't believe that someone could truly be an atheist shows a lack of perspective or understanding of the views of others.
Given my current understanding of how the world works, I could never be religious, but I don't attempt to be so arrogant as to say that anyone who claims to see god's presence in their lives is simply lying. I give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are really telling me how they feel.
I can honestly say that I don't believe in god and am unlikely too in the future, but I think the main misunderstanding that the religious have regarding atheists is that they can never change their mind. You state this clearly, saying that we have 'made a solemn, formal dogmatic pronouncement, one that includes no possibility of change, transformation or alteration', and for me and the majority of atheists this is not true. Atheism simply means 'lack of theism (belief in deities)'. It is not a statement that there are no gods, simply that we do not believe there are.
Any true skeptic is always open to the possibility of new information and advancements in our knowledge. If I found evidence that would prove god for me, then I would have no problem accepting the truth of the claim. Atheists do not have an agenda to suppress a dogma they secretly believe to be true. That idea is preposterous and actually a little bit insulting.
I just want you to know that I understand that religion is an integral part of your life, and you probably can't imagine living without it. But please believe my sincerity when I say that I do not believe in god. I know this may be uncomfortable, that someone could simply dismiss a philosophy that you hold so dear, but everyone is different and the opinions they profess, however alien they may be from yours are likely to be indicative of their true feelings.
Maybe it is you who should open the door a little, and try to see things from others perspectives, even if you don't plan to change your views

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