There are many questions that stop children and young people wanting to know more about God. Rather than trying to answer questions they’re not asking, we thought we’d go straight to the source and hear from the experts themselves.
“Do we need God?”
“Need him? I don’t even think God exists! I can’t see him”
“There just isn’t enough real evidence he’s around”
“God is dead… and we have killed him.” Those were the words famously proclaimed by atheist philosopher Frederick Nietzsche in the late 1800s.
I know many atheists today who would cheer him on. Surely God is redundant in an age of science and reason. Isn’t he an old-fashioned superstition? Shouldn’t we just trust what we can see in front of us? But Nietzsche didn’t make his statement about God’s death in a triumphant way. As psychologist Jordan B Peterson points out: “Nietzsche knew perfectly well that the consequence was going to be bloody catastrophe. He predicted the rise of Communism, and the deaths of tens of millions of people in the aftermath of the death of God.”
He was right. The 20th Century was the bloodiest century yet, with two world wars and the rise of oppressive regimes leading to millions of deaths. Atheist communist leaders dismissed the idea that all people are valuable because they are made in the image of God. Instead, people were seen as a tool, a weapon, a useful resource for something ‘bigger’.
When cultures abandon God, things quickly go wrong. Many atheists will respond: “But we’re getting on just fine in the increasingly secular UK.” Jordan B Peterson has another answer: “We’re living on the corpse of our ancestors.” His point is that the Christian ethic of the past continues to sustain us, but for how much longer? It’s easy to forget the lessons of history. How long will it be before we need to relearn the dangers of believing that we don’t need God?
I can’t see God, so he’s not there
Do you believe in air? You can’t see, taste or touch that, but you depend on it every moment. The idea that things don’t really exist if they can’t be detected physically is very common. It’s reinforced by atheist scientists like Richard Dawkins and Brian Cox.
Science is a brilliant tool to help us understand how nature works. But it won’t tell you much about the most important things in life: love, beauty, purpose, good, evil and justice. These are all things people experience, but they can’t be measured or detected scientifically.
So where do these ideas come from? Are they just illusions imposed on us by biological evolution? That doesn’t seem to make sense. There are some things we really know are wrong. “Rape is wrong” is as true as the fact that I have five fingers.
What if our sense of right and wrong are clues pointing us towards something beyond a purely physical world?
What about love?
Jennifer Fulwiler grew up in a loving family that painted religion as false. Raised on a diet of science, reason and evidence-based thinking, she identified as an atheist from a young age. However, shortly after the birth of her first child, she experienced a dramatic shift in her thinking. Jennifer describes it this way: “I looked down and thought: ‘What is this baby?’ And I thought: ‘Well, from a pure atheist, materialist perspective he is a randomly evolved collection of chemical reactions.’ And I realised if that’s true then all the love that I feel for him is nothing more than chemical reactions in my brain. And I looked down at him and I thought: ‘That’s not true. It’s not the truth.’”
This moment was a turning point for the young mother; one that would eventually lead her to Christian faith.
As an atheist, Nietzsche claimed that God is dead. But here’s the interesting thing: Christians claim that God did die. Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, experienced death himself so that we could be saved from it, and for a greater purpose. Sometimes the journey to understanding that truth means taking a long hard look at whether atheism can really make sense of the world we live in. Like Jennifer, we all experience an underlying realm of moral law, love and purpose. If that’s true, it makes sense to believe that it comes from somewhere beyond ourselves. It points toward a moral lawgiver, an ultimate source of love, a grand designer. That sounds a lot like God.