I know that one can control their being an atheist more than they could control being gay. We don’t have any control over our sexual orientation. But the control that we have over what we believe is more complex than “none at all”. In my opinion, I can control what I read and what information and arguments I choose to expose myself to. I can deliberate on what makes the most sense, or if I see some sense in both sides of an argument, I will usually choose to dig deeper on the topic until I find a more concrete answer. What I can’t control is what conclusion I come to.
Take, for example, the kalam argument. Christian apologists love this classic argument from a first mover: “Everything that has a beginning has a cause. The universe had a beginning, so it has a cause. That cause is God. God never had a beginning, so he doesn’t need a cause.” I suppose it’s my choice to take that progression of presupposed facts as they are and agree that an uncaused God must be the prime mover of the big bang. But I can’t help but not be satisfied in this deft wordplay that keeps this assumedly eternal god exempt from scrutiny. I automatically ask, “How do you know that God doesn’t have a beginning or need a cause? How do you know that he’s the end to the infinite regress of events any more than the big bang is?”
The most common response that I’ve seen to this is, “Well, he’s an eternal being. Infinite, uncaused existence and unlimited power are intrinsic parts of his nature.” Well, apologist, skepticism is an intrinsic part of my nature, and I can’t force myself to find your answer satisfactory. And until I get a better answer, or demonstrable evidence that a god, specifically the Christian god, more specifically the god of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, is actually eternal, uncaused, and omnipotent, I can’t not be an atheist. And I have so many other questions that religion has never answered for me, and not only this one, but all of them, would have to be completely answered before I could ever convert. I can’t just google “How to believe in God” and follow the WikiHow instructions. So I hope that my mom isn’t holding her breath for me to change.
The problem I’m having is that my mom is, in fact, waiting for me to convert back to Christianity. Aside from trying to convince me that answered prayers and miracles and signs from God prove that he is real, we haven’t really gotten in any logical debates. She hasn’t otherwise tried to sway me with what she sees as evidence. That is because she is really convinced that if I return to God, it will be because I choose to. She has said to me:
“You are looking at this the wrong way with your reading books and taking classes on whether there is evidence for God. You’re not going to find answers by doing that. What you need is read the bible and devotionals, and pray to God asking him to reveal himself to you.”
“You never gave God a chance.”
“You don’t believe because you are stubborn and you think you are smarter than the creator of the universe.”
“You decided to become an atheist for an excuse to be antisocial and hate everyone at your school.”
My mom (as well as my sister and her pastor-husband) has made it clear to me that communion at our church is only for confessing, believing Lutherans. I’m not really that upset that I no longer have the holy privilege of eating the literal flesh and drinking the literal blood of Our Lord the Jewish Zombie Jesus Christ, but not participating is definitely a frowned-upon heathenly act. But what really bothers me is that each time my fiance or I attend church with her, she asks if we’ll be attending communion. I say, “Well, no, I’m not supposed to, because only believing Christians are allowed to take the sacrament.” To this, the reply is always, “Well, I don’t know what’s in your heart.”
Yes… you do. I’m an atheist. I told you that. I promise that if I convert back, I will tell you.
What my mom doesn’t understand is that she shouldn’t hold her breath on my converting back. If there’s anything that this post has shown, it is that she hasn’t accepted my atheism yet, which is to be expected. But she can’t expect me to wake up one day and decide that I’m going to be a Christian. Or that this is only a phase that will last for a year or two. Or that I can pray to a god that I don’t believe in or try to read the bible “with a heart that is open and ready to accept God.” I physically can’t force myself to believe through my heart before it passes the inspection of logic and reason in my head.