I assume at this point that you’ve read Response to an Aetheist I. If you haven’t you might want to go back and read that before you continue here.
So with that, let’s look at the remaining arguments and views from Ricky Gervais, Why I’m an Aetheist.
Ricky mentions the many thousands of gods that have been defined over the centuries and asks what it actually means to proclaim just one god:
If they say “Just God. I only believe in the one God,” I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.
I guess he’s right. The bible also talks about the many gods people worship numerous times. The question for me is not about how to define gods or one god, it’s about what’s real. You can call a granite statue a god, you can call it a race horse if you want, it’s still just a piece of rock shaped by artistry. God often warned his people through prophets, who told them to turn away from man-made idols and toward the LIVING God. This is also where the difference between religion (as we understand the term today) and relationship comes in. I can site all the laws and principles I can find from the bible, that still doesn’t mean anything. It’s not alive. The bible on its own can change lives about as much as a granite statue can. I can pray to a principle and set of laws till I turn purple, it still goes no further than the ceiling. The reason I can say with confidence, “I believe in the one and true God”, without worrying about the other 2869 gods is that I know that they don’t exist. I can’t have a relationship with a piece of wood or gold. I can’t receive anything from a statue or discover the character of a ritual. I can only do that with a person and that person is God with a capital “G”. God is his name, not his title or job description. It’s who he is. No one and nothing else has that name.
Ricky goes on to tell the story of his “conversion” from Chritianity to Aethism. He followed his mom’s example, going to church and praising Jesus as his hero. That all crashed when his brother questioned the basis for his “faith” and he realised that he had none, and neither did his mom. I really appreciate this story because it’s honest. I know of quite a few Christians who follow what their parents do, never questioning it, never asking their own questions. They call themselves Christians but have no idea why. However, I don’t know why this is an argument for God’s non-existence. If I walk into a restaurant does that make me a culinary expert? No, it just means I’m in the room. Going to church and being a Christian is not about being in a room and putting a label on your forehead. It’s about having revelations of who God is and growing in a relationship with him, much like other intimate relationships. God says many times in the bible that marriage is a picture of our relationship with him. Let me tell a quick story to illustrate what this looks like in people’s lives.
A few years ago a childhood friend suddenly showed up at my local church and home group. He was very open about his questions and said from the beginning that he didn’t know what he believed in. He’s gone through a lot in his young life. He’d moved from a Christian upbringing, to despising the church to looking for answers to questions that the world couldn’t answer. One night, after a church service, we spoke about what faith is, how it works and he asked a lot of questions about the bible. I answered him as best I could, but eventually I closed with, “nothing I tell you, will make you a Christian. It’s about the Holy Spirit revealing God to you and I can’t even explain that”. He accepted that. A few weeks later he messaged me and told me how God was revealing himself to him. He couldn’t explain it. It wasn’t something he’d been looking for. He wouldn’t have known what to look for. He just said, “What you told me is really true… I haven’t cried in 20 odd years, and now I’m crying tears of joy for the first time in my life”. Watching him grow in his faith over the last few years and the way he goes through ups and downs is an amazing testimony to who God is. He is not a human idea. He is who he says he is and he is real.
So back to Ricky’s story, I honestly don’t think what he had as a young boy was faith, it was an idea. There’s a difference. Christians also sometimes have ideas and principles, without having Jesus.
That brings me to Ricky’s next point, where he says:
The real beauty of this world. I learned of evolution – a theory so simple that only England’s greatest genius could have come up with it. Evolution of plants, animals and us –- with imagination, free will, love, humor. I no longer needed a reason for my existence, just a reason to live. And imagination, free will, love, humor, fun, music, sports, beer and pizza are all good enough reasons for living. But living an honest life – for that you need the truth. That’s the other thing I learned that day, that the truth, however shocking or uncomfortable, in the end leads to liberation and dignity.
It ties back to an argument I mentioned in part I, which I answered with the difference between truth and knowledge. I have a few questions about evolution and all that. If we’re just a bunch of over-complicated primates, how can anything be beautiful or good? Surely murder would be ok, if we’re on the same level as animals that kill each other. What role does creativity play if all that drives us is our accidentally nature-given instinct? What is dignity? Do apes have dignity? Do they have virtues? How is it liberating or more enjoyable to appreciate something as a coincidental chain of events? I’ve read that Charles Darwin lost his love for music after he lost his faith. Coincidence? I see everything, music, art, design, friendships, romance… as a gift from a Creator who knew what he was doing an specifically gave us these things because he loves us. Now that is liberating. Maybe I don’t completely understand Ricky’s point here, because it makes no sense to me.
Another point I don’t understand is that faith is just a fad people want to go along with:
Let’s be honest, if one person believed in God he would be considered pretty strange. But because it’s a very popular view it’s accepted. And why is it such a popular view? That’s obvious. It’s an attractive proposition. Believe in me and live forever.
Uhm, right. So how did a church, consisting of twelve uneducated guys turn into a movement, for which people were willing to be burnt alive? Contrary to popular belief, the gospel wasn’t spread by violence. Yes, some people tried that method but it never worked. It became a movement that continues to grow because it is based on truth. A truth that people have endured a lot of persecution for. Today it is much easier to be an atheist than a believer. You can get fired and face other trials if you even offer prayer to a co-worker. In 2009 the Brazilian football team was warned for being “overly religious” for wearing “Jesus” t-shirts after their Confed Cup victory. Being a dedicated Jesus follower costs you. Worldwide, revivals have happened when people of faith have been oppressed. In China for example, western missionaries were tortured, killed and eventually deported. If Christianity is a popular fad, why did the underground church explode just after these missionaries left? It wasn’t one cultural group convincing another group of their beliefs and hyping everyone into a big frenzy. Really do some research, it’s amazing what can happen when God works. A fad can be powerful, but it doesn’t last. Jesus said his church would go through hard times, as it has, but it would endure. I believe that.
The last point I want to touch on is this:
My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell”.
I agree completely and 100%. I feel like apologizing on behalf of the church to anyone who’s been hurt in this way. There’s no excuse for it and it’s not biblical or godly. As I mentioned before, following Jesus is not about bashing everyone over the head with a bible. It’s not about being better than others. And it’s not about being “good enough”. And that’s what I want to close with. None of us are good enough. All of us, believers and non-believers, young and old, we all continue to struggle with issues and that will continue until we die. That’s not to say that God doesn’t heal or change us. He does sometimes, but this world will never be perfect and neither will we. Religion expects us to make it to god’s level by being good enough. God on the other hand came down to our level in the form of Jesus. Instead of us achieving his love, he comes and invites us as we are. That’s what Christianity is all about. Receiving instead of achieving. And that my friends is the best news ever.
As Paul said to Festus about King Agrippa, “I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner”. I really appreciate Ricky’s honesty. We should ask questions, really look for answers, and dig deeper. And I believe when people do that, they’ll find the same answer as many others have and continue to do: Jesus.