Finding God: A Guide for Atheists

I think if I were to meet an atheist I would ask him or her if she or he had looked in the closet for God. The purpose of this odd and possibly insulting question would be to express my skepticism as to whether or not atheists really seek God in all possible places.

The first step in finding God is to understand that God is not knowledge but experience. The arguments between Christians and atheists have focused on the possibility of knowing for sure whether God does or does not exist. This shift, in effect, moves finding God into the realm of philosophy. A wise Roman Christian in the time of Constantine, Lactantius, told his fellow Christians to avoid arguments with philosophers and let them argue among themselves, which they were always eager to do.

Experience, though it is the way to find God, is not an easy path to follow. For one reason, it is not transferrable. I enjoyed my dinner last night but I cannot give you that experience, although you might accept that I did enjoy the meal. Other people’s experiences of God not only cannot be provided to you but can, in most instances, be discounted for one reason or another. In the same way you have probably been exposed to Christian preaching and teaching and found a way to reject the information about God given to you.

There are logical arguments for believing in God. Blaise Pascal put one of these arguments in the form of a bet. He said that the Christian believer bets on God and when he or she dies goes on either to eternal glory or nonexistence. The atheist places his or her wager on nonexistence but may face annihilation by a righteous God. Much of the force of Pascal’s proposal has been removed by so many Christians abolishing hell and thinking everybody will go to glory. Still the possibility of nonexistence probably doesn’t sit too well with you or most people. Most of us very much like our existence and wish it to continue.

If knowledge, logic or others experiences are not the way to God, what about the possibility of a religion other than Christianity? The twentieth-century novelist W. Somerset Maugham wrote novels dealing with the human condition, one was even titled Of Human Bondage. He found in his own life that he was unable to accept Christianity so he explored the other major religions. He came to think Buddhism the best but he could not practice it. This is not the place to compare religions but it does lead to discussing finding God in Christianity.

First, we need to note the distinction between the Old and New Testaments in the Christian Bible. In the Old Testament, God comes to the Jewish people and gives them his instructions for living. The Old Testament is used by many people as an excuse not to seek God. And it is true that it is difficult. It has to be. It shows that everything people think might make them right with God, except for faith, is insufficient.

In the New Testament, God sends his son, Jesus Christ, to the Jews and everybody else so that anyone who seeks God can find him through the person and teachings of Jesus. At this point, I think I need to tell you that many Christians believe that the desire to seek God is itself an act of God and thus, if you are to have this desire, you must be given the grace of God before you have it.

Asking for something from somebody requires putting ourselves in a position of need. This is not easy for most people and may be even harder for atheists, as rejecting the existence of God requires an ego large enough to put aside the religious understanding common to almost everybody.

The author of The Tales of Narnia series, C.S. Lewis, wrote elsewhere that if we took a hard, honest look at ourselves we would see a small dirty thing and so it was better to look at Jesus Christ. How much you are brought to see yourself as God sees you before he enables you to seek him is a matter between you and God. What seems certain is that if you are truly to seek God you must change your thinking probably by beginning to shrink your ego and then opening yourself to the revelation concerning God contained in the New Testament. Jesus said that those who believed in him were able to see God and to see in this sense is to have found God.

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41 thoughts on “Finding God: A Guide for Atheists

  1. This is a nice proposal, and far more acceptable to an Atheist than the usual demand that we change our ways. However, what about the situation where the Atheist has tried to find God and still not found him?

    Speaking for myself, God had 18 years of weekly Masses and daily instruction, yet he still could not make himself real to me? Are you saying that it is still m fault because I have not looked for God hard enough? Or checked the back of my closet?

    God had me as a blank late, a young impressionable mind, yet he still could not show me the light of his way. Even as a young child his ways seemed vindictive and judgemental. So as per many Atheists we decided to become DIYers and live life according to principles which we thought were worthy of following and aspiring too.

    It seems to me that the God religious people speak of wants eternal chances and eternal faith, however a good God must show he is worthy of this before a simple man dedicates his life to following him, and as yet, no God has shown himself to be any better than some of the mortally derived philosophies of man.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I will do my best to deal with the issues you raise. First, I must apologize for the title “Finding God.” We can only be found by God and then directed in any number of ways to discovering and accepting that Jesus Christ is the true Son of God. Your comment to my post may well be one of the steps that leads you to a relationship with God. I certainly hope that is the case.
    I want to be careful in my comment about your previous religious experience. However, it is reasonable to think it is possible that God was no more there for you to experience there than in your closet. However there are other churches to attend where they might help you to the experience of God you are looking for.
    We are told we can know what God is like by looking at the life of Jesus. I hate to recommend to anyone to read anything, but if you were to go through the gospel of Luke (my favorite), or any other gospel, and note every time Jesus was kind to someone, or to a group of people, you would see a loving God at work. The only people Jesus criticized were those who were keeping people from knowing who He actually was.
    Please keep looking for God and do not try DIY religion. You most likely will never be able to live up to your own standards. This can eventually move you to despair. It would be better if it opens you to God’s grace and mercy, and so brings you into an eternal joyful relationship with Jesus.

  3. Thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog… “Climbing Out of the Well”.
    I really liked this post. I have had many (sort of) ‘arguments’ with atheist bloggers. They have seemed to seek me out for some reason. Maybe it is because I grew up in an Atheist family (my father was 100% Swedish – one of the leading countries for Atheism). Are you from Britain? I ask because many of my blogging buddies are. I’ve heard that this is also a country that is strongly Atheistic. Anyway. I read this post from top to bottom. It is a real interest of mine. I like the idea that many Atheists are afraid to look for God – because they might find Him in their search. I don’t know why but it seems like many Atheists totally refuse to even contemplate the idea that God exists. I had a very deep conversion experience that transformed me from Atheist to Christian. Here is my story if you want to take time to read it. I say ‘take the time’ because it is a very long story – unfortunately. But I couldn’t think of a single thing I could leave out that wouldn’t detract from the magic of it.
    http://climbthewell.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/testimony-part-1/

    • It took me a while to get to your comment. I am honored that you liked my post. I read your Testimony and am deeply moved. My own conversion experience was different and extended over a longer time. But it contained much the same elements as yours. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. Thank you for your post “Finding God: A Guide for Atheists.”
    I’ve been thinking about your comment: “Much of the force of Pascal’s proposal has been removed by so many Christians abolishing hell and thinking everybody will go to glory.”

    I need to meditate on (not for long!) the absence of good and everything that includes in the word “hell.” And then I will meditate on everything about goodness as written about in Revelation 22. Pure fresh joy in the River of Life. Jump in!

    Thank you, again, for your post. It gives me a lot to think about.

    • I have not written any other post on my blog like this one but I have replied to comments on other posts that express my ideas. If you look at some of my other posts you can see what my thinking is in regard to finding God.

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