Behind the rational mask of atheism

What do people do when they get angry? What do you do when you are up in arms against a person or something? I sometimes blow a gasket whenever something happens that I do not like. That is the time you want to eat someone alive or kick yourself so hard that the echo can be felt in Timbuktu. What would you feel if someone misrepresented your position on a certain matter that is at the core of your heart? For example, let us say you are a diehard of Kenya National Rugby Sevens Team, and during one of their annual Sevens circuits, you realize your team has been beaten by Fiji due to poor officiating. What would you do? I would feel irritated if someone distorted my beliefs and opinions on certain topics. You would be mad if one was to employ slander on you. However, it takes a lot more than paltry phantom to create in me heebie-jeebies.

Apparently, anger and frustrations can make sane people act silly. There are guys who elect to enter eternity without waiting to be invited. Then there are those who help others make final transition ahead of schedule. All these happen courtesy of anger. Anger has a way of outflanking even the most flamboyant of them all. Only those who opt for a palatial house in a fool’s paradise can live their whole lives without any shred of anger.

In the Bible, we find one gentleman by the name David. David was at one point angry with God for the ‘injustice’ he meted on Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:12). As a matter of fact, David got angry and frustrated with God a number of times as recorded in Psalm. He chose not to be inauthentic in his dealings with God. God who understands emotions better than humans knew how to deal with David. In the same vein, David responded to God’s workings and in this way remained steadfast. That is why we still find David in the New Testament – for good reasons of course. Noteworthy David is mentioned in the Hall of Faith – Hebrew 11. When anger roars like a lion, it can carry us back and forth like a lily-bell albeit ungracefully. It is at this point we end up making make or break decisions.

I have watched and read, to a great extent, what atheists have to say about God. In most instances, one can notice anger and frustration in their tone. These frustrations and anger are directed at a being of whose existence they vehemently deny. The idea of a God is at best nauseating and at worst abhorring. Isn’t surprising that the one who does not believe in the existence of supernatural being is the angriest at the Supreme Being?

Most of us assume that the belief in God or lack thereof is grounded in deep intellectual reasoning. However, psychological scientists have helped us debunk this assumption. In 2016, the American Psychological Association published a research on this same topic. Two studies were conducted on relational and emotional factors that may influence those holding onto the atheistic or agnostic views. Research participants were to rate on a scale of 0-10, the extent they were influenced by ‘experiences of disappointment, anger, hurt, alienation, mistrust, or other negative feelings focused on God; seeing God as cruel, uncaring or punishing.”  In the first two studies, the results showed that 54% of those who self-reported that they were atheists or agnostics indicated some relational and emotional reasons for nonbelief. In the second study, 72% of the American adults who showed some level of atheism or agnosticism stated similar reasons as above. According to Andy Tix of Psychology Today, the extent to which the participants revealed relational and emotional reasons for nonbelief was associated with various indicators of negative emotionalities, such as trait anger, psychological entitlement, and fearful/preoccupied attachment styles.

An earlier research of 2011 that was published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that 44% of atheist self-reported that at least some of their doubts or at least some of their decisions not to believe in God was due to emotional reasons.

In a nutshell, these findings and others in the past do not prove or disapprove the existence of God but rather shows that a belief in God or lack of it thereof is not strictly as a result of intellectual reasoning. Psychological, biological, social and emotional factors play a crucial part. This shows that some of the atheists reached their decisions not because of intellectual reasoning, as most of them would want us to believe, but due to several reasons some of which are emotional. Thus that atheist friend of yours could just be angry at God.

Could atheism be a case of self-imposed intellectual dysfunction? Could it be a lack of epistemic virtue? Could it be Vincible ignorance and obstinacy of will as Catholic theologians put it? Is it a matter of the head, heart or both?

Romans 1:20 (NIV) gives us a comprehensible perspective that is obvious to a theist and overdue to an atheist.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

We too, theists, are perplexed with pain and suffering. However, we have an anchor and hope in God that transcends time and space. Pain and suffering can obviously lead one to extreme decisions and that is why we should be very careful when handling these matters, lest we drive people further from God. It seems pain and suffering are leading people far away from God than libraries full of anti-theist books. The anger towards God is real.

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