Sunday, April 23, 2006

Learning from an atheist

"I don't believe in an afterlife, so I don't have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse."

- Isaac Asimov, Science-Fiction novelist

Sometimes I wonder if there's some truth to this guy's thinking; at least as it relates to the whole Heaven vs. Hell thing. I remember mentioning several times in my Sunday School class that the traditional views of heaven -- sitting around on clouds singing for all eternity -- seemed rather boring to me. I can only imagine how insipid this sounds to non-believers. I often wonder how many people like Asimov were turned away from God, faith, and the pursuit of Heaven by these pretty deficient views of God and His kingdom that we share with others.

For too long, we Christians have viewed our faith as a some sort of private vocation which, if practiced correctly, would get us to Heaven, some magical place that allows us to ignore the suffering and injustice going on in the world. Rather than trying to attract people to Christ through our daily living and how we treat one another, we try to use the lure of a magical fairy land to turn people on to God. "If you worship God, you get to live with Him in Heaven forever..." is what we tell people. So, to that end, I can understand why people like Mr. Asimov could be completely turned off by Heaven and, more importantly, our God in Heaven. I only wish that atheists would encountered a more robust view of God and the kingdom.

In his last autobiographical sketch, Asimov also said:

"If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul."

Wow! He really hit on the head. Not bad for a person who doesn't even believe in God. Granted, Mr. Asimov missed the idea of being saved by grace (ensuring our salvation even after we mess up). Nevertheless, he makes a great point. I think that Asimov was definitely on to something. I only hope that his insight led him to truly seek Christ...not in the way that so-called Christians tell us we need to.

I think that, if used properly, Mr. Asimov's thoughts can stimulate us to think more clearly about the God we serve and about His kingdom. Instead of using God's word to beat people's brains out, collect a whole bunch of money, and create a classist society, we could use God's word to heal people's heart and share the love of Christ.

Maybe we really can learn more about God from an atheist.


6 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

Diane said...

Nothing like throwing an atheist into a pack of "Christians" to turn them into a howling mob of selfrighteous do-gooders, intent on changing the atheists' mind, by the sheer force of their browbeating, if necessary. Nevermind that the atheist may have a much better grasp of where he stands on the pertinent issues of his beliefs than the Christian does of the scriptures.
You make some good points, Andre. :)

joanne said...


At first I wasn't going to respond to this post, largely because I didn't know how I felt about it.

But, after I read and reread this, I think I'm inclined to agree with you. Though I wouldn't call our view of God and His kingdom as "insipid", I understand where you're coming from (by the way, most of the time I don't disagree with what you're saying. You just don't do the best job in the world of communicating your point. Case in point, Jesus cussing.)

I really wish that Christians today wouldn't use Hell as some scare tactic to get unbelievers to believe as we do. To me that destroys our ministry FAR MORE than it edifies it. We weren't called into the ministry to be mercanaries or dictactors. Jesus sent us into the world to be healers, lovers, and ministers. We DO need to let our life styles speak for us.

Diane said...

Andre, come HOME!!!! I'm worried about you, friend. I'm hoping you're just busy with finals at school or on vacation or somesuch, but I am getting concerned. This is the longest I can recall you ever being absent here since I got acquainted with you. I hope nothing is seriously wrong. I miss you, buddy. Leave us a note here if you need prayer, and my email is:

Your friend, Diane

Andre said...

@ Diane: Very well put. I think that we as Christians get too warped in our view of God that we start thinking that we've somehow "cornered the market" with Him. There's nothing like the thoughts and ideas of an atheist to show us how FAR we are from truly understanding God and -- more importantly -- how we share God.

Thanks, as always, for blessing me.

@ joanne: Thanks for you comments. I agree that the word "insipid" wasn't the most appropriate term to use. But, I was simply trying to point out that we can't solely rely on sharing information about a 'magical' place like Heaven as the centerpiece of our evangelism. Instead, our works have to speak for us.

You nailed it by saying that we shouldn't use Heaven/Hell as our means to get people to come to Christ.

@ Diane (again): Thanks for the concern. I'm fine! Finals have been dropkicking me in the ear and I've been up to my neck in work lately. It seems only fitting that it's during finals time that my workload piles up. But, I PROMISE not to be a stranger!

You also nailed it: there are some issues I'm dealing with; with some of the closest people in the world to me. But, rather than committing myself to knee-jerk reactions, I'm going to God about it. If you wouldn't mind remember me in your prayers, I'd REALLY appreciate it.

By the way, I'll be stopping by your blogerific place pretty soon. Save me a seat.

kc said...


Great post as usual

cynthia said...

So, you're the person they're talking about when they "As a wise man once said..."

You really picked my brain on this on.