I began writing this article as a standard apologetic, but then I realized I wanted it to be personal and actually reach into the heart of everyone (including the atheist) who reads it. What came out was a series of questions.
Why do people become angry with God for the pain and tragedy in their lives?
How is it that people who believe God is essentially good blame him for their misfortunes (it isn’t as though there is a rule, written or otherwise, that says God is on the hook to provide each of us with stability and happiness in our lives)? How can other people who believe in a detached, remote Supreme Being still find fault with him when by their own admissions they believe he is distant and unconcerned about their suffering? Even more mysteriously, why is it that people who do not even acknowledge that there is a God usually exhibit some degree of anger when they deny his existence, as though leaving unspoken the declaration, “There is no God, and if there is, I’m good and angry at him”?
Most atheists I have spoken with, upon explaining their lack of belief in a Creator, speak with rancor about the putrid mess the world has become. The general consensus is that someone ought to be on the hook for the suffering of innocents, the pervasive ugliness in the world, the savagery so often displayed by earth’s most intelligent inhabitants. People are accountable for their own actions, but there are still hard questions about the origins of evil and the overarching force of wickedness that has been allowed to run its course. The government can shoulder only so much of the blame, and there is no sense blaming “Mother Nature.” When people express their displeasure at the ongoing state of affairs, it is usually not a simple pain-based anger response; much more often it is moral outrage that could only proceed from the strong sense that someone has been asleep at the switch.
So how is it that so many who supposedly do not believe in God, or do not believe he cares about our suffering, or do not believe he can eliminate evil, still view the disaster of this world with an anger that seems to be directed toward someone who could and should do something about it?
I suspect that everyone starts out believing there is a God and that he has charge over everything. How many children have you met who said they didn’t believe in God? I’m sure they’re out there, but they are probably parroting their atheist parents. Many of us drift into adulthood trying to ignore the broken child inside of us, the little person who weeps over hurts and warms to trusted friends and cries tears of anger and frustration when he feels his heavenly Father has let him down. If the child is ignored long enough, faith is left to dessicate in the moral vacuum of unfulfilled longing that has turned into apathy.
There are no atheists, only people who have smothered the child inside them with bitterness and intellectualism, the voice within who would otherwise continue believing through everything the world throws at it. It is this child who must be given a voice in the matter of what to make of Jesus and the Gospel story. Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3) Perhaps it was another way of telling us to start listening again to the child that is already within us.