Shane Hayes
5/11/15 at 04:55 PM 4 Comments

The Only Way Out of Atheism: PURE THEISM

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"When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Lk 8:18

Secularism is advancing like an army, and unbelief is spreading like a plague. The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) reported that the percent of the U. S. population with no religious affiliation increased from 8% to 15% in the eighteen year period ending in 2008. The number of adults in that category increased from 14 million to 34 million. A Pew Research Center Study just released put the number at 56 million, now nearly 23% of the population.

Most of the unaffiliated in those surveys do not identify themselves as agnostic or atheist, though many are who reject the labels. But those who self-identify as agnostic or atheist increased at the rate of 19,000 a month between 2001 and 2008, according to the ARIS Survey.

An apathetic believer or half-believer is one who says: "Yes, I know I should go to church, but I find it dull and I just don't have time. I go Christmas and Easter." The churches are pretty good at reaching that kind of person. The skeptic has a radically different mindset. They're not just indifferent to what we're offering, they're hostile to it. They've thought about Christianity and they've rejected it. They don't just passively resist our influence, they attack us. Standard conversion literature won't penetrate the defenses of militant agnostics and atheists. A new kind of persuasion is needed. My book provides that. As a former atheist I have a special concern for hardcore unbelievers, and I've developed new techniques of outreach.

The following is a chapter excerpted from my book "The End of Unbelief: A New Approach to the Question of God," released last fall by Leafwood Publishers

Chapter 11

The only way out of atheism:

PURE THEISM

However heartfelt the aversion to religion is in many atheists, contrary sentiments sometimes surface. The occasional doubt (a fear that God may exist) is not the only chink in their armor. Still more embarrassing, many feel a recurring wish that he did exist, because, well… he wasn’t all bad. Atheism delivers us from restraints, inhibitions, and irritations. It does not deliver us from the frailties and vulnerabilities of the human condition. We are weak and mortal in a brutal universe. Whether there is a God or not, we need one. Without him we’ll perish – and most of us don’t want to.

The Downside of Atheism: Renouncing Hope

Moreover we have a subliminal hunger that is felt if seldom recognized – a craving for something ineffably beautiful and good that we can seize and hold and never lose. We want to be happier than anything or anyone has ever made us. The Dream, in all its splendor, never comes true. Or at least never stays true. We must soon learn to love the dream without the splendor. Honeymoon becomes marriage. We must lower expectations and be content with the irksome and mundane, with small love moments, not the enveloping rapture we once tasted, or divorce will follow.

Art, romance, success, wealth, erotic adventure, fame for a few – all can be thrilling, but the thrill fades, the glories fade, we fade, and all will be taken from us, or we from it. The only possible satisfaction of our need for unfading love, bliss, and glory is God. So, for every atheist who occasionally doubts the infallibility of his denials, and feels the tug of the transcendent, I propose… Pure Theism.

One Step Out of Atheism

Look anew at the question of God’s existence completely apart from the Bible, Judeo-Christian theology, and the theology of any organized religion. The doctrines and scriptures of Jews, Christians, and Muslims need have no bearing on the elemental question of whether a personal and loving God exists. If he does, we can conceive of him apart from all established theologies and scriptures. We can commune and build a relationship with him directly -- without intervention of a rabbi, priest, minister, or imam.

Though I have embraced an organized religion, I was a pure theist for years. For me it was the only way out of atheism. I began with the most simplified and essential concept of a supernatural being: One who created the universe, loves what he made, and follows with benevolent concern the fate of every human life. Not the God of Abraham, not the Trinitarian God we Christians believe in, not Jesus, the incarnate Son of God. That would have been too much for me – and I had said no to it again and again. Just God, a Supreme Being who cares about his human creatures and wants a relationship with them. The distance between No God and Just God, Pure Theism, is immeasurable. I was there for two years after atheism, before Christianity became possible for me.

Grasp the Essence

Pure Theism is a life-altering option that should be considered by anyone who cannot accept the images and stories of God – or onerous rules of conduct – that are embedded in established religions. I could not have emerged from atheism directly into any formal religion, so I don’t advocate that. Nor do I insist on Christianity as the destination for everyone who comes out of atheism. Organized religion is an option but not a requirement for a new believer.

Pure Theism can be the start of a journey, as it was for me – or a harbor where you cast anchor and build a home. Whether you move on or stay, you will not be cosmically alone, as you were before. When the divine penetrates the human, present and future are transformed. You see the world, yourself, and your destiny with a changed eye. You are freed from atheism’s demand that you suppress hope in its most luminous forms. Death, though still grim, is transitional. Life, though still hard, has a transcendent source of wisdom and strength – and a shining sequel.

Shane Hayes. “The Only Way Out of Atheism: Pure Theism” from The End of Unbelief. Copyright © 2014 by Shane Hayes. Used by permission of Leafwood Publishers, an imprint of Abilene Christian University Press.

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