People have a reason not to believe in God.
Sometimes the reason is hurt. They expected God to do something and they were disappointed. They prayed for healing, but there was death. They expected God to resolve a relationship, but the relationship broke. The hurt of unmet expectations turned them away.
Sometimes the reason people don’t believe is they want to do something they think God won’t approve of. The easiest way to deal with God’s disapproval is to stop believing. A kid grows up in church, participates in the student ministry, then goes off to college or joins the military. A new lifestyle presents itself. It looks fun and carefree. The kid decides the church people were wrong. There is no god, so that means the new lifestyle can be embraced.
Sometimes the reason people don’t believe in God has to do with unexplained suffering. Steve Jobs as a child asked a pastor to explain why God would allow a child to starve in Africa. The pastor couldn’t answer the question and Steve Jobs began to doubt. The suffering may be more personal. You lose a parent, or a child and you wonder how God could allow such tragedy.
Sometimes the reason people don’t believe in God is because intellectually they can’t reconcile God with existence as they understand it. Evolution, on its face, seems to make more sense than God speaking the world into being in six days. Stories in the Bible fly in the face of logic and reason, or so it seems. God seems to be an ancient myth unsophisticated people embraced to explain the un-explainable.
Sometimes the reason people don’t believe in God is because they are angry. Neglected or abused as children, they conclude there can’t be a god. Angry at their dysfunctional families or parents, they rebel against any authority, including God.
Sometimes the reasons people don’t’ believe in God is because they once did believe. They were choked by the rules and regulations of religion, the certainty of dogma that left no room for doubt. The hypocrisy of those who said they believed but lived different introduced a cynical acid on their faith. Often another god – logic – presented itself. More predictable and orderly, it became a more attractive path of faith.
Sometimes the reason people don’t believe in God is because they haven’t really thought about it. Something else occupies their mind: success, money, pleasure, family. Often people will label themselves as “agnostic” but they functionally live as if there is no god.
Confession: some these reasons tempt me. Sometimes it would be nice to believe there is no god. No rules to follow, no intellectual rigor to fight for, no more stupid battles over things in church that don’t matter. If you believe life is a product of random evolution there is not god, then you get to make your own rules.
But I can’t make that leap. Each of the reasons not to believe has a response that also makes sense. It really comes down to your fundamental presuppositions. My fundamental presupposition is there is too much order in the universe to be random. An observation: there has been too much grace poured into my life to be accidental. One more of my fundamental touchstones: I’ve seen too many lives changed by Jesus to believe He is just a myth.
As much as there may be reasons not to believe, there are also reasons to believe. To be intellectually honest means you must consider those as well.