What is your purpose in life, Mr. Atheist? Since you define yourself by your denial of the existence of God, you must believe that you exist—let us guess—to “feel good about yourself without God.” But Mr. Atheist, suppose you don’t feel good about yourself? Suppose you do things that violate your nature as a human being—or, if you prefer, disrupt the clusters of your random molecules—and you feel terrible. Mr. Atheist, where do you turn? Therapy?
We’re Christians. Psychological treatment has its place, of course. But we don’t believe in salvation by psychological therapy alone. When we violate our nature as human beings—as by lying or stealing or killing—we call it “sin.” We know we cannot forgive ourselves; we don’t even try. We seek forgiveness from God, often in the confessional. Where, O Mr. Atheist, do you seek forgiveness? For that matter why do you feel you need forgiveness? (Because deep down, Mr. Atheist, we all know that you do.) The need for forgiveness is about as common as the need for food.
Mr. Atheist, forgive us for pressing the point; we’re not the sharpest knives in the drawer, as you know. Are you ever struck with a sense of awe? Perhaps it is true you have seen the sunrise or the sunset without the slightest feeling of the magnificence of some Thing called “God.” But doesn’t a sense of awe suggest a Benevolence that infinitely exceeds our own? Or are the wonders of creation merely examples of random physics, the multiplication, and collisions of molecules?
Have you ever looked upon the face of a child in wonder? Or are the features of a baby merely clusters of molecules as well, somehow arranged by unknown forces of nature? Or do you see the face of innocence? And if you see innocence, what does it mean to be guilty? What comes to mind when you look at your face in the mirror?
Mr. Atheist, pardon our persistence. We are ignorant and dull Christians. Like you, we seek innocence. And like you, we’ve seen Innocence Crucified in the faces of all those who suffer in this troubled world of ours. But this is where we are different from you. As ignorant believers, we do not trust ourselves in ignorance. We turn to the Other Who reveals Himself to us in the Gospels. — from“Dialogue with an Atheist”