Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

The Atheist’s Cry to God

Out in the wheat fields, alone, we can safely talk to, or shout at, God. Off the Grid, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Recently, someone sent me this quote by Marc Barnes of Bad Catholic:

“Somehow, a hostile hatred of God is closer to love than a bored and boring apathy, for it strives — at the very least — to meet His gaze and live.”


Rare, or non-existent, is the person who has made it through life so far without shouting/swearing/ranting/raving at God for whatever is going on — or not going on — and an honest person will admit that he is not Job.

If You’re Dumb Like Me . . .

But if you are stupid enough, like I am, to mention in religious social circles that you have raged at God — which generally implies that some of your language choices have been questionable — you will frequently meet with severe disapprobation.

This fear of disapprobation nearly prevented a friend of mine from sharing with me about the time she spends, alone, in the wheat fields surrounding her house, shouting. I could feel her eyes on my face, seeking out the disgust that she knew would be there.


“I shout in the car,” I replied. “I try to do it in such a way that fellow motorists and pedestrians don’t notice, so my favorite venue is the highway.”

Because my morality score with the bored and apathetic Christians, the ones who satisfy themselves exclusively with Sunday morning attendance and weekly small group meetings, is so low, I do not worry about justifying what they would consider a severe lack of faith. (Incidentally, not all Christians are bored and apathetic, and those who are not, battle this perception.) My concern is for people like my friend as well as for the hidden seekers: wounded people who lash out at God for His perceived lack of concern, His silence, His indifference to human suffering, which includes their own.


People Seeking the REAL God

Some of these people call themselves atheists, unable to believe in the cold, distant, disapproving God that so many people are satisfied to say that they serve. Their anger masks the disappointment they’ve encountered in not finding the God that they — and all of us, really — are looking for:

There is everything right in wanting the right thing, not the substitute: a real relationship with someone who loves us. Madonna and Toddler, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.


We need a God who cares about us the way a true, decent father cares about his children — one who loves us unconditionally, who picks us up and cradles us when we fall, who patiently guides us to be better, kinder, compassionate people — the kind who mirror the parent we run to for protection and love.

That’s the only God worth looking for, serving, loving, and submitting ourselves to — and while this is the way God really is, the way He is presented in the marketplace today isn’t particularly appealing. That we cannot bare our raw emotions in front of Him without being scourged by onlookers is evidence enough that our conventional, established, weekly interpretation of God isn’t the real thing.


The Opposite of Love Is Hate, Not Apathy

Anyone who has been jilted in a close personal relationship knows that the standard human reaction by the jilted person isn’t apathy — it’s hate — because someone whom you cared about very very much hurt you. If you hadn’t loved them so much, desired a relationship with them so fervently, then you wouldn’t react with so much emotion and angst.

So it is with many — but not all (isn’t there always a caveat?) — people who say that they hate God. It’s not that they don’t have a heart for Him, but that, at some point, they gave that heart to Him, and they felt that it was returned, torn apart, and tossed into a box. They were looking for love, and they found indifference.


If this is you, I encourage you to keep looking, and don’t be sidetracked by the many shallow interpretations and explanations for who and what God is: He is either all goodness, or He is not. My conviction that He is the former is what keeps me following Him, calling to Him, shouting in the car.

It’s Better to Shout in the Car

Revelation 3:15-16 speaks to complacent, apathetic believers:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

People may call you, as they call me, weak for expressing anger so fervently and openly, but even if we express our passion “wrongly,” we do so because we feel — deeply — and we demand and desire a God who fulfills our rawest spiritual and emotional needs. In your anger and bitterness, you are closer to finding Him than many people who boast that they know Him very well.



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  • Carolyn Henderson

    Katie: your comment stops me in my tracks and makes me draw a quick breath. Thank you. Thank you very much.

    Over the last eight years, my family and I have been living through a very challenging situation, and it has changed us dramatically. I am not the same stuffed up, pompous person I was before (which is not to say that she doesn’t pop up at the oddest, most inopportune times), but God has been working, heavily, on our humility. It is a continued prayer I have with Him: wisdom, humility, and a third item deep, deep in my soul that He may or may not grant.

    I understand your recoiling at the people trying to “illuminate” you — these people kept me away from God for many many years. And then I met my Norwegian Artist, who aside from being amazingly handsome and good is also humble, and he was able to answer many of my questions with, “I don’t know. But what I do know leads me to these conclusions.” Many people, of many faiths, do not realize that it’s perfectly okay to say, “I don’t know.”

    No one had ever talked to me about God that way before. You are right — no human has the answer, and those that try to provide one for every question find themselves bumbling around eventually. It’s when they refuse to admit that they’re bumbling that they cause more problems.

    I hope you come back, Katie, because I like your honesty and perspicacity. (I also like your moniker, “homemaker.” I have been, and sort of still am, a homemaker all my life. It is a vastly undervalued occupation that makes great differences in many people’s lives.)

    It’s okay that you don’t know what you believe — it’s not only okay, it’s very good, because it shows that you have the humility you need to find what you’re actually looking for. God has a hard time speaking to us when we keep talking back to Him. He’s okay with questions, doubts, frustration, eye rolling, impatience — honesty. No relationship can flourish when one side of it refuses to let the other know what they are truly thinking. There is a freedom and refreshment in being able to approach God with our true thoughts and know that He won’t punish us for thinking them. Unfortunately, within “conventional” Christianity, this honesty is frequently denigrated as showing a “lack of faith” or a “hardness of heart.”

    I wish you peace, serenity of mind, and a lifelong eagerness in your quest for truth. You’re finding it. — Carolyn

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Katie Homemaker

    I don’t know exactly what I believe any more. I think the thing that bothers me the most is the lack of humility that people present when they feel they need to “illuminate” the rest of us with the truth. I don’t think any of us, not a single one, know what the heck this life is all about. Carolyn, I think I ended up here because you DO show humility, and I thank you for your article. I plan on reading more of your articles very soon.

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  • Carolyn Henderson

    Brian — please see my answer to Dave.

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Dave — good, thoughtful points. There are atheists, and there are atheists, in the same way that Christians run the gamut from everything from deep, thoughtful, meditative believers who keep hammering away at doing the right thing despite being knocked down, to shallow politician types who show up for church services to show the masses how much like them they are.

    That’s the problem — a word that encompasses a broad range of demographic, but that’s life, as well. I have known atheists who follow their religion of non-god as a logical, “scientific” thing, but I have talked with far more who chose that route because their search for God hurt. It is to those people to whom I speak, and if there were another term by which to address them, I would.

    I agree with you, as well, that the problem continues to persist because many atheists feel that it is their mission to point out to religious people the fallacy of what they believe, and indeed, to “interpret” holy texts for them. I have met far too many Christians who say, “So and so, the renowned atheists, explains the Scripture this way.”

    While it would be nice if both sides didn’t bother one another at all, it doesn’t work that way, when in the free marketplace speech is hindered by one or the other. I don’t see a need for prayer in schools — because I don’t want a government entity deciding what is appropriate to pray. Neither, however, do I want God locked out, and teachers prevented from mentioning God, or His existence, in normal speech. Both sides — religious or atheist — can be accused of imposing their agenda and beliefs upon the other, but I would say that now, in the U.S., the latter doctrine definitely holds the better cards.

  • Dave

    I understand the need for believers to characterize atheists as believers who just don’t like their god. First, for the true believer it just doesn’t compute how anyone could think their god was as imaginary as Santa Claus. Second, for the rest who’ve ever doubted their faith, atheists are a constant reminder of that doubt and perhaps keep it alive.

    I think we atheists are partially to blame for keeping this trope alive. The more we waste time pointing out how gods and other characters from religious texts are less than nice, the more we may give the impression that we actually believe they exist, but just find them mean.

    So to atheists I say stop talking about plot holes in religious texts, the characters of gods, and the logical errors of any religious argument save for one topic, the topic of the existence of their god(s).

    To believers I can only ask that you accept us at our word, just as we accept you at your word when you say you believe in your god. We would never characterize you as really atheists, so it would be nice if you all returned the favor. :)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Brian Westley

    Will godbotherers ever respect atheists enough to at least not try and dishonestly paint them as lying believers?

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