During this recent series, “The Best Reasons Not to Believe,” I’ve spent a lot of time reading blogs and writings of people who don’t believe. I’ve tried not to condemn or judge, recognizing God gives people the privilege of unbelief. I’ve been surprised at the number of people who no longer believe who started out as believers. They grew up in church. Some went to seminary and served in ministry. Somewhere on their journey, they decided they did not believe and walked away from God. Most did not embark on a life of debauchery. They continued to live normal, American, moral lives.
From what I can tell from their stories, their faith did not suddenly disappear. It eroded over time. What caused their faith to erode?
- They were hurt by church or church people. They saw people who claimed to be followers of Jesus act in very non-Jesus like ways. They saw hypocrisy. After a long period of hoping for things to get better, they walked away from church and faith.
- They were disappointed by God. They were out to change the world and prayed for miracles and the miracles never came.
- A nagging doubt grew. The doubt was often fueled by some tragedy, either personal or global, they could not explain or excuse. So they turned away from God.
- For some, they couldn’t swallow everything the Bible taught or related. Science and faith battled and science won. Or they were troubled by the stories of war and bloodshed. How could God order things? They had a picture of who God should be and the God of the Bible didn’t measure up.
- They put their trust in rational thought. They believed that everything in life must be explained in a rational, non-mystic way. Because religion in general and Christianity specifically call for faith, it does not fit their way of seeing the world.
Two things struck me as I read: First, universally people would describe their life journey of unbelief like this: “I decided I would make my own decisions about life and God and the afterlife instead of relying on someone else.” Respectfully I would respond we all do this. Everyone must decide for themselves whether or not they believe. But I also believe we must ask a follow up question: “Can you adequately see the entirety of your life, your soul?” The only rational response is “no.” Who will tell you about your blind spots? Who will tell you about the dangers you don’t see? The non-believer would say to me, “You are in danger of spending your entire life worshipping a God who doesn’t exist.” They are right. I would say to the non-believer, “You are in danger of living life apart from the God who does exist.” In these stark terms, this is highest stake issue a human can face. It requires thought, careful consideration, and full consideration of the consequences.
The second thing that struck me was how many non-believers still admire Jesus. Charles Templeton, a believer who became an agnostic, said in his old age he missed Jesus. There is something that is magnetic about Jesus, his character, his teaching.
So what’s the best reason to believe? Jesus.
If church hurt you, if you have doubts, if you struggle with evolution versus creation, if you agonize over tragedies in the world, if stories in the Bible make you uncomfortable – focus on Jesus. He is so amazing, so magnificent. Fall in love with him.
Ever noticed how love can make something make sense that didn’t make sense before? Fall in love with Jesus and you will find the reasons not to believe go away; the reason to believe falls in place.