"The notion that everyone would like Christianity to be true, and all atheists are brave men who have accepted the defeat of all their deepest desires, is simply impudent nonsense."~C.S. Lewis, Encounter with LightI met a man once that changed the way I looked at things. He said he was an atheist. That may have been his chosen moniker, but he exercised this belief in such a zealous way, this one label was not enough to cover his explosive relationship to God and all things supernatural. To simply say he was an atheist would be like saying Che Guevarra had an active interest in Latin American politics.
When I was in my twenties, I thought I knew a lot about being a Christian. I had read the bible all the way through, I had read things like systematic theologies, Old and New Testament survey books, bible commentaries, and anything I could lay my hands on. I even led bible studies and taught Sunday School classes. I thought I had it all figured out. I was working in a senior center as a volunteer while I continued with one my many Joe-jobs to make a living in the meantime. All my time spent studying the bible, reading doctrinal books, and spending so much time in church made me think I knew everything about how the world around me operated. I was just waiting for an opportunity to share all of my incredible knowledge about how the world and all things spiritual could be explained so easily.
The Atheist was a remarkable man. Many of the rest of the residents were kind of out of it, but not this guy. He was sharp, sharp as a razor blade just out of the little cardboard package. He never allowed any of the staff to treat him with that sort of patronizing treatment you find so common in people dealing with the elderly. He expected, "Yes, Sir" and "No Sir" ,and he would not be put in arts and crafts classes. Instead he would give lectures and roundtables on things like nuclear war.
He was in his late 80's. He had almost transparent skin, with a shiny bald head shrouded by fine cotton-like hair, and a beard of the same white, but what was amazing about him was his eyes. They were bright blue with the darkest pupils. He carried himself like a gentleman, but there was also something about him that said he would not suffer fools gladly.
There were little apartments connected to the senior center by wings, like spokes in a wheel. He was in the assisted living, but he needed very little help. One day he invited me into his room and we spoke for a while. Even though I was bursting at the seams with spiritual wisdom, I knew a man like this was not going to change easily, certainly not because of anything I would say, I also knew he had been arguing against Christianity for years, he wasn't just some teenager in an anarchy shirt and greasy hair trying to be an atheist this week because it sounded rebellious and chicks might think he was dangerous. This guy was an Old-School-Bad-Ass-Infidel.
He gave me some books on apologetics, he said he didn't need them anymore. I'm not sure how we got on the subject, but he proceeded to tell me why he became an atheist.
"It happened when I was younger, about your age. I had been a salesman for a long time. I was having a rough time and could not make any sales. Every thing I did went wrong. My wife was sick, the baby was sick. No matter how hard I tried, nothing went right for me.I was speechless. I had never heard such a thing. Beyond the obvious blasphemy, it was so shocking that he just didn't give a shit...about anything spiritual! Even more than that, he was happy! Things went got better after he rejected God!
One day as I was sitting at the kitchen table thinking about my lot in life and how little God had done for me. When I stood up and cursed him.
'God! God! Do you hear me?! You are a fake and a fraud! Your Son was just a bastard and the Virgin Mary was a just a little whore!'
After that, everything got better. I started making sales, life became easier and I never looked back...'
I-I believe in God because I see him everywhere I go, in everything I see, in the world around me. Creation speaks to me that he is and he loves me. I believe in God because I know him in my heart as my friend.He looked at me sort of pitifully, but with some measure of respect. He didn't berate me, but it became clear that our little visit was over. I thanked him for the books and shook his hand and left.
"Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbably: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable"~C.S. Lewis, Mere ChristianityI'm still not sure of what really happened there. I still think about it now. On one hand, his espoused atheism was just as fervent as my faith. He really wasn't a purely intellectual atheist, he had experienced a conversion to atheism, just as sincere and just as real as my own conversion to Christ. He didn't want God to exist, he didn't want God to have anything to do with him. I won't be so bold as to judge all atheists this way, I'm just saying that I have met one who wanted God to not exist. His desire to not believe in God was as strong as my desire to believe.
"The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."~Blaise PascalThe other thing that occurred to me after this conversation was this: People who state strong beliefs aren't always all that they appear to be. Before our conversation, the Atheist stalked my world like a wolf who would overtake me and make me come face to face with the doubt all Christians experience from time to time; the doubt that all my beliefs could be wrong. He was so cock-sure, so intelligent, so passionate, but like so many people in this world, nothing is as it appears...
Purgatory: A place of suffering and torment with an unknown duration. In Roman Catholic Theology-the place where the dead are purified from their sins.
By Rage Against The Machine