There have only been a couple of brief times in my life when there wasn’t any dog in the house. For most people, it goes without saying that dogs are great companions, entertaining, and protective. But their loyalty is legendary and often puts us to shame. Even if we take them to the vet, which we cannot explain the reasons for doing, they never think less of us. They are the epitome of unconditional love and friendship.
But they also give us a powerful object lesson that applies to the Christian faith: if they wander off, and bad things happen to them, they don’t turn and hate us for it. Yet this is what many who call themselves ex-Christians do; they hate God for not protecting them from the world. They don’t understand that restrictions God may place upon us are for our protection, just as we might have a fence to keep our dogs from running away. In fact, they resent being protected, and howl at the notion that people can be compared to pets that God owns.
Now I’m not saying that every point of this analogy applies; as human beings, we are “made in the image of God” and can freely choose whether to put ourselves under God’s protection and join his household. Though Jesus did “purchase” us, we are not forced to “go home with him”; we can stay in our cages if we choose. But we are nothing more than fair-weather friends if we accept God and then renounce him as soon as something bad happens. And how bad does something have to be in order to cross the line? There are people in some parts of the world who have never known a happy or comfortable day in their lives, yet they are often people of the strongest faith. One of the many things anti-theists mock theists for is that people of faith are often the poor, the “losers”; yet these “losers” have not turned from God in spite of suffering much more than most anti-theists in their comfortable western suburbs. We can add the perspectives of survivors of the Nazi death camps:
“Why did he deserve this death? I don’t understand. The explanation is that there are things we just cannot understand. But the Lord has his reasons,” he said, before paraphrasing a famous rabbi who lost 11 of his children in the Holocaust. “I am proud that I belong to the people who were murdered and happy that I do not belong to the people who murdered.”
I cannot explain to my good, loyal, adored dogs why they must sometimes go to the vet. But while human beings are capable of understanding much more than dogs, we are arrogant if we think that means we’re capable of understanding all that God does. In the end, it boils down to trust: do we really trust God to make sense of everything some day, or do we snarl and rage at him for not asking for our approval for everything or submitting himself to our inquisitions? As I’ve said before, some people who claim not to believe in God really just want his job.
In my little book Reconciled I made an attempt to explain the larger picture of why Jesus had to die. There is much more going on with life on earth than we know, and it revolves around free will. God does not want pets after all, but adopted children who were never forced to accept the offer, though their “fees” were paid in full. What he wants is love, and love cannot be genuine if it is not free. Yet that very freedom is what allows everything that is the opposite of love, and this is why there is so much suffering in the world. In addition, we have an active accuser, Satan, who desires more than anything else to rule over us all. The jurisdiction of the world was given to him, but he could not abide either the freedom of mankind of or the sovereignty of God. His rule has thus been evil and destructive.
That being the case, it should be obvious that even if we shirk our own responsibility for evil as sentient beings and insist upon blaming someone else, that someone should be “the god of this age”: Satan. God never said that if we follow him that we will not suffer under the current ruler’s reign of terror, but only that we will be freed someday and live in eternal bliss, and receive justice at last. He has a “minimal intervention policy” at this time, such that any instance of goodness or rescue should merit our gratitude, since a world run by the devil would never allow even the smallest relief. And, as pointed out by others such as Norman Geistler, we must not make the mistake of presuming that justice denied in this life is denied forever. Ironically, many anti-theists believe in karma, where some invisible “bean counter” in the sky pays people back by reincarnating them according to how they lived before— though they cannot remember their past life (some claim this but it has no proof, especially compared to the “extraordinary proof” demanded of God). How is that any kind of justice? How is that an improvement over other forms of theism?
This hatred of what one believes not to exist is just another religion, just another dogma. And like the religions they hate, they have their hypocrites too; they cannot tolerate people who believe differently from them, preferring instead to mock and revile and condescend. They place all blame on God yet lay none of it on Satan or themselves, yet they credit themselves or their Karma god for everything good. They arrogantly deem themselves more intelligent, free, enlightened, and evolved than any and all who don’t share their views. They show how little they care about justice by believing that uncaught criminals will remain uncaught, and uncompensated victims will remain uncompensated. The implication of this philosophy, intended or not, is that of “survival of the fittest”, which means no objective morality. They can cite their good deeds all they want, but the fact remains that their beliefs lead to this conclusion. And whatever defenses they make for this, they must allow for others… but the majority of them don’t.
Anybody familiar with my writings knows how much effort I have put into “cleaning my own house first”. There is much valid criticism to level against people of various faiths, especially my own. Yet I defy any anti-theist to prove their right to point accusatory fingers at theists, or at God. They can do so hypocritically, they can do so in denial, but they cannot do so honestly or rationally. They are every bit as dogmatic and intolerant as any other group of people, yet lack the gratitude others have for good things that happen in the devil’s world.
No, I can’t answer every question, but neither can you, anti-theist. Until you can explain the supernatural experiences of millions of people (and I demand PROOF, not mere conjecture!*), until you can account for the vast majority of even educated and rational people who believe in a god, until you can answer questions like “Which came first, the laws of physics or the matter they act upon?”, you must take your turn on the witness stand and endure the inquisitions you’ve dished out against God and his followers for generations. And if you deny theists the right to answer with “I don’t know yet, but someday I will”, then that right is denied to you as well. You have faith in science, you have faith in yourselves, and you trust that in time your views will be proven right. So if you don’t want to be a hypocrite, grant the same to theists.
I understand the need to vent; I understand going through times of doubt or rebellion. But a truly rational or “free” thinker will know how unhealthy and irrational it is to live in that place for too long. Defining yourself by what you reject or hate is not convincing us theists that you are as rational and free and tolerant as you claim. It’s one thing to simply not believe there is a God, but quite another to rage against an imaginary foe. If it’s people you’re mad at, fine; take it out on them; but make sure you aren’t a hypocrite in the process.
* One cannot disprove a theory merely by proposing an alternative theory; one cannot prove that God did not create life by proposing a possible scenario for it happening without God. Calculations and postulations are not scientific proofs of anything.