Although I am a minister, I maintain a healthy skepticism about God. Like all intelligent and educated people, I am not given to flights of fancy and I prefer to believe in what I can see with my own eyes and hold in my hands. Whenever I let religion touch my life, I keep in mind the possibility that perhaps there is no god and that faith is just belief in imagining. Many religious people would find fault with that thinking, to those it would seem that my faith is lacking or not whole. Yet, I find that healthy skepticism makes my faith stronger and it deflects all attempts to challenge it. My faith cannot be tried, insulted, wounded, or broken because I choose to challenge it first and strongest. Consider the following verse:
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.(NIV) Psalm 34:8
When we’re touched by faith, we can readily feel that it is a blessing. Consider if you had no religion or a god figure, is the next passage any less true?
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear … ” 1 John 4:18
Love is as intangible as any god, yet many who have no belief in religion believe in the existence of love, and that love has the power to strengthen you. Love of family, children, a spouse, or one’s own self can see you through a trial. Are pure love and God essentially any different?
I welcome Atheists to my ministry, which some Atheists find insulting and react to with anger. Some insist that such an invitation is insulting, because they shouldn’t have to be “silly” or “woolly-headed” and believe in imaginary things. I, too, doubt the existence of God and ask myself, “what if faith and religion are merely positive thinking and imaginary archetypes?” Science has proven that positive thinking enhances performance; however, we shy away from admitting to the effectiveness of prayer or holy faith as it has also been tested and documented. If religion is nothing more than imagining, then it would seem no less effective for what it is. Either way, evidence supports the use of structured beliefs to enhance one’s daily life. It seems the benefits are real even if our beliefs are not. Could that be true? Consider the next two verses, is it possible that there is very little difference in taking pride in your own accomplishments and believing in one’s own strength, and giving thanks to God.
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16
What does this passage from Corinthians mean if you remove the word God? And the next:
“And Jesus said unto them, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.” Romans 1:17
We’ve all been told that there is nothing we can’t accomplish if we set our minds to it. The faith to move mountains, we can take in ourselves or in our loved ones. We’ve all been given an imagination, whether by a divine creator or merely the mathematical evolution of cells. It is high time we see that the atheist and the faithful are both strengthened by their adamant belief in what they imagine reality to be; in essence we are alike.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Whatever we endure makes us stronger whether atheist or faithful, and we can surprise ourselves when we survive a trial beyond the ability we thought we had. The previous passage from the gospel of James speaks not of religious magic, but of the innate ability we have as people to persevere. Consider the next passage. How could one read the truth of it if we were to remove the references to God?
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.” Psalm 28:7-9
Could one not ask the Self the same thing? Without religion can we appeal individually to our inner Self, to be the best person possible with the highest moral ideals? Atheists say yes, and that to imagine an invisible deity beyond that highest Self is a waste of time and leads to foolish beliefs; that to feel union we only need to see that we are all living beings of the same universe. In that sentiment is a giving of love from the heart for all beings of the universe, even in the mind and heart of an atheist. Essentially we’re no different if we all believe that there is a love one can give to all beings of the universe.