Over at Father Tim's Blog, Where the Rubber Hits the Road, Father Tim opened a hornet's nest with this posting about (sometimes and some) grumpy atheists. Many, not unlike a lot of Christians that I know, are so determined to be right that they are way beyond any dictates of pleasant discourse, and so you need to filter out a lot of fertilizer to get to the meat, if there is any. But in the midst of this battle of competing monologues, are a few souls who are actually earnestly seeking truth for themselves. It takes courage to say that one does not know the answer to a particular point.
Atheists are people who CLAIM not to believe in the existence of God. Theists, on the other hand CLAIM that God believes in ALL of us. Christians take this further, and claim, with historical support, that God believes in us so much, and loves us so much that even though many CLAIM not to believe in Him that would not stop Him from making himself known to them, and offer himself up to save them from themselves.
Although God sent His Son Jesus to earth to show us what He wants from us, and to prove His love for us, many of us do not believe in Him still. Proving the existence of God to one who does not want to believe is like taking a blind man to the zoo, and trying to prove to him that elephants exist, when he refuses to get up off the bench he parked himself on. He can hear the elephant trumpeting, but considers it to be the wind. If you were to take his hand and lead him over to an elephant, and guide him to touch it, he might still refuse to believe it is an elephant. Such is the power of disbelief, in the heart and mind of someone blinded by more than just his eye sight.
But, atheists claim not to be blind. In fact, they claim to be the most rational of people on the earth, the least blind, as it were. They are totally rational, or so they say. But, their rationality relies on their senses, and not their hearts.
The other night I was in Amarillo TX, on my way here to Tucson AZ, and I happened to see an episode of Mother Angelica on EWTN. On that particular show, Mother Angelica was speaking with a Catholic woman whose husband had been an atheist, and who was in the process of divorcing her when he suddenly died. The woman was concerned about his eternal soul, and had prayed for him relentlessly during the marriage, divorce process, and since his death. Mother Angelica encouraged and commended the woman in her prayers for her husband, and reminded her that God alone knows what happened to his soul. God alone knows if that man in fact died an atheist, or met Jesus at his death and went to Him, in no small part due and in answer to the prayers of those who loved him.
Another thought came to my mind, as I have followed the trail of comments, many laced with vitriol and anger, usually on the part of those claiming to be atheists.
A couple of the writers commented on their own lives, and on loving their families and their friends and others in the course of their lives. I was reminded that we Christians believe that God is Love, and that all love is of God. So, if an atheist chooses to love others, whoever they may be, is he/she not in fact exercising a gift from God, in our belief system? If so, has that person not made it possible that he/she will be open to encountering Our Saviour at his/her moment of death if not before?
As Jesus told us in parable, the man called at the last hour receives the same reward as the one called at the first hour. So, Lord, could the last hour include the last half hour? So, Lord could that last half hour include the last fifteen minutes? Again, Lord, not to be picky, but could that last quarter hour, include the last 5 minutes? And, not to be a pest Lord, but could that last 5 minutes include the very last minute of that hour? And once again Lord, could that last minute include the last second? Pardon me Lord, but could that last second include that very last nano second?
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, what are we to do for our atheist brothers and sisters? First, we are not to judge them, for in so doing we bring condemnation on them. It is not up to us to judge the condition of their souls. No, brothers and sisters, we are to pray for them, to pray that God will reveal himself to them in His fullness, and that they will join us in eternal life in Him. And we are to pray for ourselves that we will be witnesses of the truth, and that we will live the truth and share it well with all who come our way.