Fifty years ago Becky pondered a preacher’s boasts about the ‘mercy’ of God. The following week Becky sat under a gnarled and unwedgeable oak and thought about ‘mercy’ some more. After bit of cogitation, she stood up an atheist.
Her reasons? To say that God has ‘mercy’ on humanity can only mean that God’s laws are either defectively harsh to begin with and require mercy to moderate them, or that God is defectively lenient in not applying his original punishments for infractions to his just laws. Either way, ‘mercy’ indicates defect.
Forty years ago James sat in church and heard the grave offerings of Pastor Smiley, who said the whole point of Jesus coming to earth was to suffer, and that Jesus suffered more than any human being. James couldn’t let that thought go, and he rehearsed it in his mind for days. Jesus came to suffer. But James gave up God after mediating on this theme for a week, and he became an atheist.
His reasons? If the point was to suffer, Jesus should have lived a long life and endured many afflictions. He should have been ill often. He should have buried a wife, buried his children, mourned. He should have lived through personal decrepitude and the loss of his teeth and taste. But, no. Jesus only suffered for an afternoon in the prime of his life, knowing he would come back to life fully mended in 72 hours. (Many people would agree to die on a Friday if they knew beforehand they’d come back to life on the weekend.) Jesus suffered just little bit. A near infinity of people have suffered more than Jesus.
Thirty years ago Melissa heard the rabbi ask, ‘Who made your conscience?’ The rabbi was establishing the moral argument for God’s existence. We all have a moral guide called conscience, and that’s the voice of God. Melissa took this to heart. And she took it to a Harvard classroom where a young biology professor paced through an every-day kind of lecture. Mellisa came out of class an atheist.
Her reasons? Though the professor didn’t address the matter directly, Melissa thought the rabbi’s question ‘Who made your conscience?’ made as much sense as the question ‘Who made your nose?’ Just as the nose question didn’t require a supernatural agent, the conscience question did not require divine agency either. She later learned that some animals have a conscience, and scientists know this because some animals show guilt (via bodily postures and facial expressions) when they’re caught doing something they know is wrong. Monkeys do it. Dogs do it too.
Twenty years ago Benny was told that in ages past there was a ‘war’ in heaven between the good angels and the rebel angels. Benny thought about this ‘war’ for a few days and lost his belief in God. He became an atheist.
His reasons? A ‘war’ between combatants who cannot bruise, bleed, or die?
Two weeks ago Azra heard an imam speak of the ‘all compassionate’ God. Azra took that idea to the mountains where she saw wild animals. She thought about the compassionate God for seven days and descended the mountain an atheist.
Her reasons? Did the God of ‘compassion’ create the talon, the fang, the claw?
The list goes on. Small things make atheists. Small things pondered to their logical conclusions.
Feature image ‘Sunrise light on old oak tree’ by Hifin Owen via Flickr