Have you ever tried to stop believing in God? I’ve been working on that lately and it’s really hard. I don’t know how non-believers do it. If that’s you, God bless you, you’re a better person than I am.
You might think, Wait a minute. If you don’t believe in God, you can’t work for a Christian ministry telling people about the reality of God’s unconditional love. I thought that too until I talked to Steve Brown about my little project. I told him that if I decide none of this God stuff is true, I can’t work for Key Life anymore. He said, “If none of this stuff is true, it doesn’t matter what you do. If you like it here, keep working.” I love that man. I really appreciate the freedom to stop believing…but I just can’t.
The best I’ve been able to do so far is to get angry at God or try to ignore him, but that’s a long way from unbelief. My anger and the attempted cold-shoulder just confirm my faith. You don’t get angry at or ignore things you don’t believe exist.
You might ask, “Why don’t you want to believe in God anymore?”
Well…don’t ask. It’s embarrassing. I have my reasons.
Okay, I’ll tell you.
He hurt my feelings…
I know, most people say they don’t believe in God because of the problem of evil, or because someone they love died while a bunch of idiots are still living, or because religion creates mean (and weird) people, or because of science, or because they just can’t stomach the idea of spending their lives trying to please the invisible man in the sky who never seems to be happy about much of anything, or because “Where was God when _______ happened.” I get all that, but those aren’t my problems. I’ve worked through those issues. It took a lot of beer, but I did it.
When Steve told me that if I don’t believe in God it doesn’t matter what I do, he nailed exactly where I’m at. I don’t want to believe in God because life would be simpler and more enjoyable if it wasn’t packed with meaning. Everything matters when you believe in God, especially people (since we’re the image of God and all). When things matter, you care, and caring just hurts too much at this point in my life.
I don’t want to care anymore, so God has to go…but he won’t.
Do you know what it’s like to care about someone—I mean really love and sacrifice for that person—only to have them betray you over and over again? Do you know what it’s like to care so much that you put your heart and soul into your “calling” only to be crushed by disappointment when your efforts just aren’t good enough? It’s horrible. I don’t want to care anymore, so God has to go…but he won’t.
That’s the real issue, his presence. It’s not just an idea to me. Throughout my life—more times than I can count—I’ve felt his love. I can’t be alone without sensing him there welcoming me into the silence and stillness. You and I could talk philosophy and theology all night long, and we’d probably end the conversation with, “Who knows for sure?” Still, when I go home and lie down in bed, there’s that presence, begging me to believe that he knows what it’s like to have the people he loves hurt him.
Maybe I was brainwashed as a kid. My head is filled with scripture verses. So, for example, the other day I tried to just believe in reality, just accept whatever “is” at face value. As soon as I thought that, the verse where God says, “I AM” popped into my head. That was quickly followed by the text that reads, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Wherever I go, there he is.
Maybe the presence is simply well-worn neural pathways, a way of thinking I reinforced so often that I can’t shake it.
Maybe I’m crazy.
But it doesn’t matter if any of those “maybes” are true, because I can feel God right here watching me type this. He’s not ticked that I don’t want to believe in him. He’s just sitting there, permeating all of reality with love and happily running the universe. It drives me nuts.
It sure would be a relief if I’m imagining him. There would be no right and wrong, no eternal consequences, and I could be totally selfish. Alan Watts said people are “merely tubes which put things in at one end and let them out at the other, which both keeps them doing it and in the long run wears them out.” If I really believed that, I’d be able to stop caring about God’s image bearers. I wouldn’t have to think about the impact my life is making, because any legacy I can muster will just end in the heat death of the universe anyway. I could relax without the burden of failing as a husband and a father and a Christian when everything matters so damn much. I could simply take care of myself and enjoy as much of the experience of life as I can until it stops.
But no dice.
God’s here giving life meaning, and that makes me care so much it hurts.
Erik Guzman is the author of the The Seed: A True Myth. Read it at your own risk.