"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" 1 Peter 3:15
I don't really understand why Christians get so angry at atheists. Sometimes I read CNN's belief blog and the comments going back and forth between believers and non-believers are so distressing that I start crying. I'm never really bothered by what atheists say...I'm more disturbed by the subtle hatefulness that believers spout back. I don't even see the point in arguing with people about believing in God. Faith is a mysterious thing that happens in the heart that is not achieved through argument or insult.
A few months ago while I was on the road with the band, we started debating whether or not this bright circle in the sky was the sun or the moon. It was behind a hazy cloud so I guess there was some confusion. I knew it was the sun while a majority of the band was convinced it was the moon. (Now obviously it was the sun because during the day, the moon is not visible behind clouds.) I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was right, but the rest of the guys were convinced otherwise. In fact, I was getting so flustered at the ridiculousness of them thinking it was the moon that I started hurling insults at them, telling them that they were stupid. That led to them hurling insults right back at me. Even though it was disguised in jest, the underlying hate was pervasive. In the end, the sun came out from behind the cloud, but the damage was already done.
Much later I wondered why it was so important for me to prove that I was right. Them being convinced that it was the moon did not change the fact that it was the sun. The same sun that keeps me warm, keeps them warm as well. It still lights up everything for me just as it lights up everything for them. The only reason I wanted to prove that I was right was to shame them and make them look stupid. When I realized that was my motivation, I was so disgusted with myself. Even though my insults were partly in jest, they reflected a deep rooted pride and arrogance.
Now as Christians, we know we are right about God while atheists are convinced there is no God. However, their unbelief doesn't change a thing about God himself. While I'm sure God desires our acknowledgement of his existence, he doesn't need it. And most of all, it does not change the fact that he loves all of us... including the people who don't believe in him.
I don't know why as believers we feel so threatened sometimes. Do we feel the need to defend God because God needs it, or are we trying to build up our own pride? Perhaps we are afraid that we might be swayed to unbelief and thus we vehemently defend our faith at all costs. Whatever the reason may be, we will never convince an unbelieving world that God exists by screaming at them and insulting their intelligence. Even when Elijah called down fire from heaven to prove God's existence, it led no one to repentance. It just made them angry and they even tried to kill him. It wasn't until a few hundred years later, when a man named Jesus came and used the power of God to demonstrate kindness, that the unbelieving started turning to him. He healed people, raised people from the dead, miraculously fed thousands, cast out demons, forgave sins and ultimately gave his life for us. It was his compassion and mercy upon a broken world that led so many to faith.
It is God's kindness that leads us to repentance. And it is through kindness that we might possibly lead others to the same place as well. We can't just preach the gospel; we must also become it. So if you want to convince someone that the glowing light in the sky is the sun, don't insult them or argue with them... take them outside so they can feel its warmth.