Question: What if a friend of yours came to you and said that he does not believe in God anymore? My reply?
I would tell him that it's alright to disbelieve in God because maybe God himself does not even believe in the god His creation believes Him to be. Imprudently, I imagine God looking at the mirror and say, "That's not who I am?"
It used to be that we are created in His image. But now, since the world has morphed into a complicated behemoth, the God as we know in the Bible has taken on a new anthropomorphic spin. Apparently, and quite appallingly, God has undergone a makeover by his creation. Alas, the Maker's image has become the image maker.
At the risk of oversimplifying, here's what I mean. The evangelicals believe in a god who rewards big if they believe in Him big. The charismatics believe in a god who dispenses with miracles the same way a spigot dispenses with oil. The catholics believe that god has endowed their pope with the power to stand as an intermediary, interceding between humanity and divinity, bestowing and endorsing, parading and blessing, as an ecumenical head.
An ascetic believes in a god who is pleased with poverty and hermitage. A deist believes in a god who has taken a long long holiday (a la Chan Brothers). A pantheist believes in a god who is everywhere and everything. An agnostic doesn’t think much about god because there’s not much for him to think about in the first place. And an atheist believes that god is probably a figment of one's imagination.
I recall Nietzsche once allegorically pronounced, "God is dead." If so, from a hypothetical point of view, it is because we, theists and atheists alike, have "beaten him to death by endless redefinition." (so wrote David Hazony, author of the book, The Ten Commandments).
So, let me repeat the irony, instead of admitting we are created in His image, we have created Him in our image. I think up to today, many are still unsure about the answer to Jesus' question: "Who do you say I am?"
But I believe, even for an atheist, it is not a categorical denial of His existence but it is one of degree. Dawkins once admitted that the possibility of his existence is so highly unlikely that one may as well accept there's no god.
But then, even for an intellectual giant like him, it would be polemical cul-de-sac for him to admit that this world came about ex nihilo. And mind you, this is actually both sides' common ground. Because, while a theist attributes all to God, an atheist attributes all to science. So, in the end, it's the same difference with one deferring to a supernatural being and the other to a supernatural theory. Both came up short on empirical proof.
But science, so argue the atheist, may say this, "at least we don't take things at face value. We test it. We search for answers. We falsify it. We are prepared to accept that we may be wrong."
Well, aren't the atheist forgetting that neither does the theist take things at face value? Although a theist accepts the basic premise that this world was created by an intelligence beyond this world (science ascribes it to natural laws), he is trying his darnest best to juggle a number of theological balls in the air. These balls are a great challenge to his faith just as solving the mystery of the universe is to science.
For example, there's the question of suffering, of Calvary, of Christ Incarnate, of love and miracles, of human evil, and of life and death. These thorns in his side beg for answers and an honest theist is, like a scientist, still finding and searching for them. Quite frankly, this search may take him a lifetime, and any theist worth his salt would not cavalierly say, "oh, i just take all that at face value."
He is in fact willing to sit an atheist down and have a tête-à-tête with him. He is prepared to concede some grounds. He is also prepared to defend others. And his ignorance is not masqueraded in the cloak of arrogance or mythical wand-waving.
Now then, looking at it in this light, don't the atheist and the theist have more in common between them than the petty differences that threaten to separate them?
So, deep inside, I think our quest to find or deny God is to me a quest to want to believe that He exists. Maybe not in the way other religions have, in their evangelistic zeal, compelled us to believe. But somehow, in a way that only we can experience the supernatural in our own terms and time.
So, by extension, while an unbeliever may die denying the supernatural, he will not die a full-fledged atheist. This is just what I think. And I think it so because there is always a lingering doubt in his mind, even a smidgen, that he can't be all too sure after all.
Now, going back to the scenario above, I will avoid engaging the questioner in a heated debate if I detect his intransigence, because I am tired of defending God the way an atheist expects me to defend Him, that is, by mental persuasion.
I personally believe that a true conversion is a journey for the heart to make and not the mind. And the longest journey one can take in this life is one from the head to the heart. Moreover, you can't change a life with words alone. A life can only be changed by another life.
So, if I go to heaven one day and confront God on his apparent hidden-ness, I cannot speculate what He will tell me because of my limited human understanding. But at least, this is one thing I believe God will say:-
"Son, if you want to know me, really know me, you can find me in the life of my son. Because in the same way that my son did not live in vain, he did not die in vain either."
Maybe, just maybe, there's something about that life that the atheist has, in his preoccupation to deny him, overlooked. In other words, maybe his journey from the head to the heart ended even before it started. Cheers.