I’m not sure how much I believe a belief in Atheism truly exists. No human being has a universal answer for the disproval of God. Atheism, to me, appears to be regional. Americans tend not to hate God universally, but are opposed to the God they see through Christianity. Likewise, people oppose the predominant religion in their own region. This is why some people like Christopher Hitchens call themselves Anti-theists, they’re opposed to all religions because of the damage they have done. I believe, as Brennan Manning has said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Or, a story is told of renowned atheistic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who told a Christian that he couldn’t believe in God, because that Christian was just as anxious and depressed as he was. What is really shown of relationships, and of how they relate to God, is their ability to destroy the conception of what this God may be like. Blaise Pascal once wrote, “God made man in his own image, and man returned the compliment.” Our relationships with our parents, our pastors, and our friends can totally destroy the image of a God that we may want a relationship with. What this travesty shows, at least in the Christian religion, is that faith is received. We receive our faith from things like prayer, contemplation, social work, and the Biblical studies. Because we receive faith not only from God, but from others, atheists are making moral decisions by rejecting the God, perceived through people like Terry Jones and Westboro Baptist. If they have not received God from other experiences, they are making a conscious moral choice.
It has also been my experience that in this receiving of faith, we are called to have friends who are truly life-giving. If this faith is received, then we had better be seeking the best people possible to receive from. This has been some of the most powerful transformation I have received. When I was ready to give up on the Christian religion when I was 18 (sort of like author Anne Rice has), one of my good friends spent some time with me, listened to my angry rants, planted some new thoughts and questions in my head, and gave me some books to help lead me into a new framework of faith. The power of friendship has the ability to preserve and strengthen our own spiritual foundation. The power of friendship ought to reveal to you the beauty and dignity in which you were made. These friends not only sit with you in your valleys of the shadows of death, but they also celebrate with you in your resurrection. In a time when I was ready to be done with Christians and my Christian friends, it was the gift of a few friends that helped me hold on. For people of faith, I believe this one of the most powerful reasons why one should have friends.