Can someone be happy when giving up on God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
As I continue looking at the news of Tyler, one aspect of it that didn’t surprise me was when he talked about being in a good mood even after abandoning God, not in the sense of going atheist, but in the sense of abandoning Christianity. This sounds like a shock to many people. I get that. After all, if God is the greatest source of joy in your life, then surely losing that would be misery wouldn’t it?
But notice the conditional statement.
If God is the greatest source of joy in your life.
What if He isn’t?
What if He’s a misery, actually?
What if you think God is someone who doesn’t care about you, doesn’t want to help you, and refuses to be there in your suffering? If your idea of God is of a God who is cruel and uncaring, what if you lost that idea? What if that idea was gone from your mind? It could be relieving. You no longer have to work to please this tyrant then.
I contend that when people turn their back on God or refuse to believe in Him, they often have an extremely negative view of Him. N.T. Wright has talked about new students entering a university when he was on duty as a chaplain there and when asked about their religion that they didn’t believe in God. He would say “Tell me about this God you don’t believe in. I probably don’t believe in that God either.” Sometimes, they would smile thinking that they had heard many of the clergy there were secretly atheists.
So if you tell me that there is a god who stands absent in your suffering and doesn’t care about your pain at all, then I will say, “Yes. I don’t believe in that god either.” My concern at this point is the idea that when you answer the question of God differently, how your worldview changes is a result of what place you gave Him in your worldview. Consider a parallel.
I live in New Orleans. This is a city that has a problem of crime. I could watch the local news tonight and hear hypothetically about a resident of the city who was murdered and think “Well that sucks”, but I won’t stay awake at night thinking about them. Now if it turned out that someone I know well here on the campus was murdered and I would never see them again, that would hit me very differently.
We are all like that. If we weren’t, there are people dying every day everywhere and somehow many of us can have joy and sleep peacefully at night. What hits us hard is based on how close someone was to us. We can hear about thousands dying in a disaster somewhere and it is saddening, but when we hear about the death of one person close to us that we know, that is far harder for us to take.
If you remove God from your worldview and it doesn’t change, then that is an indicator of what place He played in your worldview. If God was mainly there for emotional support, well you can get that in several other places. If God is just there to fill in the gaps in scientific thinking, then that means the study of science leads to that kind of atheism.
Yet what if God is the foundation for everything? I find it fascinating so many atheists question if God exists, but they don’t stop to think about what it means to exist. It sounds like a simple question, but it isn’t. This is a gift that Classical Theism brings to the table.
To get back to the joy of the absence, it makes sense that if someone you perceive as a negative influence in your life is gone, there can be joy. That shouldn’t be surprising. The concern is that if we look at the emotions as the guide, they are always temporary. They will fade. What then? Also, what if the emotions guide the worldview? What if we say “I feel this, so now I must fit my idea of God to correspond with this emotion.”?
When I get in the point of wondering if God cares for me, I have to go back to what I know. Does God exist? Yes. There are too many good arguments I know of. Did Jesus rise from the dead? Yes. I know no other way to explain the data and the person of Jesus is hard to explain outside of Christianity. Then I have to interpret everything in light of that.
I also know if you go the way of skepticism, you eventually have to lower Jesus. It’s the question of if someone is willing to do that or not. Time will tell.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)