In recent years many people of faith have asked me just how it is that I am able to maintain genuine friendships particularly with people who classify themselves as Atheist or Agnostic. While I will directly address that question later, I thought it might be helpful to show you a recent interaction with an Atheist friend. It went like this…
Dear _______ ,
Thanks for your insightful questions. I would like to respond to them here if I may. I’ve reprinted your questions in bold italicized print & my responses after each.
If god made people to be together, why all the different religions?
I’m not sure that God ever intended there to be any religions. Let me clarify. Religion by definition is an organized expression of something that is first and foremost meant to be a personal connection. That said, I am of the opinion that man’s creation of religious systems is the highest demonstration of selfishness… we want ourselves to be right and everyone else to be damned. I believe that God sent Jesus not to condemn people but to free them.
If god knows everything about everything, why is the bible; the word of god, subject to interpretation? why is it not written clearly so everyone can understand it without question?
Certainly anything is subject to interpretation. All of us come to movies or a piece of art or music with certain built-in biases. We can say we don’t. We can try not to. But at the end of the day we bring our understanding (or lack thereof) to the Scriptures as well. To the second part of your question… I believe there is clear multi-faceted meaning found in the plain reading of the Scripture. For example, many people read the parables of Jesus looking for “the meaning” in them. What if they were never meant to communicate just one singular idea? What if there are many truths in the same story? There is also the whole thing of belief v. understanding. Many people who are friends of mine with objections to faith say that there are things they need to understand first and then (perhaps) they will believe. But the Bible says of itself (and faith in general) that it actually works the other way around… you believe first and then you understand. Like many things metaphysical, this is counterintuitive… but that does not negate its reality.
If god loves protecting people, why are so many born with life threatening defects or disease? You are not allowed to respond by saying “god works in mysterious ways” or “don’t question god”.
First of all I do not understand the ways of God… that’s kind of the point… that’s why He’s God & I’m not. That said, I question Him all the time… He’s up to it. I really don’t think He minds. I don’t question out of irreverence. I question to truly know where He is in some of the same difficult situations you mention. I don’t think God is the cause of all the bad things in the world. I think He is aware of them though & works through them at times for our ultimate betterment. I can say personally that God has strengthened me and my understanding of empathizing with others during some of my most difficult life moments.
Aaron, I really appreciate you asking hard questions. Ask God too. As I mentioned previously, He is up for your questions. And if you are truly looking for answers that make sense… you will find them. Blessings.
Stay in process,