The Case for Atheists

“Robbie ,the Bible consists of two kinds of literature, history and myth. It is the job of the reader to distinguish between the two.” So said my grandpa as we sat at the dining room table. He was a bit taken aback that his grandson had taken to the reading of the Bible. The Bible, for him was a return to the superstitious aspects of Judaism that closed us off from the rest of the world. “We may no longer be the people of the Book,” he would tell me, “but we sure are people of the books!”

But I saw another side of my grandpa one day as I wandered thoughtlessly into a flea market stall of religious candles, statues, and incense. My grandpa’s cry woke me from my reverie- “Robbie, that isn’t for us” he said as he grabbed my hand and drew me from the den of idols. I could see on his face a look of frantic fear. Why was this committed and self-proclaimed atheist so troubled by a breach of the second commandment?

At odd moments I have seen the anti-religious falter as they approached the Holy. It makes me wonder whether perhaps I am agnostic- I am agnostic about the existence of atheists. I have heard the claims of atheism, I have seen evidence for atheism, but I am not convinced that atheists really exist.

When we commit to the idea that the universe exists on our term we not only shrink our universe. We reduce ourselves. Whatever we believe, our vantage point is quite low, hardly able to see over the wall of our own courtyard, and largely unable to see ourselves. To begin the conversation on God’s terms, unshrinks us, as we find ourselves spoken into being by the One more committed to defending our existence than His own.

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