Over at the Pembroke Daily Observer there’s an article by one Reverend Eric Strachan in which he ponders how it’s possible that an atheist doesn’t believe in God. He starts his column by naming a number of prominent atheists such as billionaire Warren Buffet, Mick Jagger, Mark Zuckerburg, Bruce Lee, Gloria Steinem, and “Jim Gibson, the mayor of Head, Clara and Maria who sits on the Renfrew County council” who is apparently the person that started Strachan’s pondering in the first place.
It seems Strachan hasn’t bothered to find any atheists to answer his burning question, but he doesn’t let that stop him from telling us what he thinks are the reasons we don’t believe:
I’ve discovered throughout the years that there are many reasons why many men and women today align themselves with people like Mark Zuckerburg and Ron Reagan Jr. I think there are many people who are atheists today because they’ve experienced human tragedy, painful traumatic events in their lives, wars, rapes, a dysfunctional childhood, abuse, the tragic loss of a loved one and they’ve simply not been able to come to a satisfactory answer to the perennial perplexing question, “If there is a loving, all-powerful God, then why would He allow this to happen to me?”
Outside of their own personal traumas, many embrace atheism today because they read of the Jewish Holocaust, see and witness human tragedies on a widespread scale, famines, genocides, ethnic cleansings and they ask themselves despairingly, “If there is a God, why would He allow such atrocities?” Together with that, there are many who fly under the banner of atheism today because at some memorable junction in their lives they have been desperately hurt, wounded and scarred by someone who professed to be a believer. Tragically the messenger has discredited the message by his/her inappropriate behaviour and the wounded one has committed the classic error that all of us are inclined to do, of throwing out the baby with the bathwater!
If I had a dime for every time someone told me I’m only an atheist because something bad happened to me I’d be able to retire. Obviously I can’t speak for all atheists and it’s entirely possible that there are some out there for whom one or more of the reasons cited above is indeed why they are atheists, but for a lot of us the reason is simple: There’s no substantial evidence that any kind of God exists.
I’ve had my fair share of trauma and loss in my life. Moments of great despair when I felt hopeless and shattered, but none of that had any bearing on my beliefs in God. Back when I was a believer I attributed all sorts of things to God, but as I grew and learned I realized I had no real reasons for doing so. Near as I can tell God has never spoken to me even at the height of my belief and certainly not as I started to develop doubts.
In his article, Strachan talks of newborn twins as proof of God using the following argument:
I don’t know about you, but a few weeks ago I stood in the Maternity Ward of our local hospital and looked at a pair of newborn twins, and then the other day I held them. It was an awesome moment for me, I was in absolute awe, strangely and mutely silenced as I touched tiny fingers, beheld tiny eyes, felt skin as soft as velvet and pondered to think that what I now held in my arms, these beautiful babies, had their mysterious beginnings in a microscopic cell. Who, I ask you, but a Supreme Omnipotent Creator could engineer such a marvel? You simply cannot look into the face of a newborn and declare “There is no God!”
Sure I can. I’ve held plenty of babies in my time, not the least of which was my own daughter, and as amazing as they can be I don’t see in them any proof of God. In part because I understand how biological reproduction works and that there is no engineering involved in the process. Perhaps the Reverend would do better to study a few biology books from time to time.
I can recall someone once asking me how I could look at trees and not believe in God. I still don’t understand why they thought trees were a convincing proof. If it’s not trees then it’s rainbows or sunsets or the night sky or some other aspect of reality that they clearly don’t have a strong understanding of and thus have to resort to ‘Goddidit’ to explain the awe they feel about whatever random thing they’re awed by. The fact that you don’t understand something doesn’t mean the only answer to how it could exist is God.
If you really want to know why any particular atheist is an atheist, try asking them. Most will probably be happy to tell you and most won’t say it’s because something bad happened to them.