Nontheists and prayer.

by K.W. Leslie, 19 November

Whenever you talk prayer with a nontheist or antichrist, they’re gonna scoff at you because they’re entirely sure you’re praying to no one.

You only imagine you’re praying to someone, they insist. You only think God answered your prayers, but it’s just coincidence; or you’re selectively reinterpreting “signs” from nature and claiming they’re God-things. You’re only pretending that’s God’s voice in your head talking back to you; it’s really your own. You want so bad for God to be real, for prayer to be valid, for Christianity to be true, you’ve psyched yourself into everything. But it’s pure self-delusion.

Yeah, sometimes I talk with some people, so I’ve heard their condescending explanations before. They’d probably work on me… if there was no such thing as confirmation. Test the bloody spirits! 1Jn 4.1

See, when I think God’s told me something, I don’t just run with it. I’m patient. I double-check. ’Cause we’re supposed to double-check. Not double-checking is how Christians wind up doing some dumb stuff, insisting God’s behind it, and wondering why on earth none of the things they think God told them actually come to anything. Duh; it wasn’t actually God! Remember all that stuff our hypothetical nontheists said about about prayer? Totally true in these presumptuous Christians’ cases: They psyched themselves into thinking God spoke to them, but they never confirmed it’s really him. Turns out it’s really not.

It’s why there are a lot of Christians stumbling around, claiming God told ’em this or that, and no he didn’t. It’s also why the nontheists and antichrists mock them: It totally confirms them, and their godless beliefs.

So we Christians gotta wise up. God does talk to us, and regularly answers prayer, but if you wanna know it’s truly him, you gotta prove it.

And once you can prove it, you can answer these nontheists: “I know it’s God ’cause I spoke with a fellow Christian, and God told him the very same thing he told me, and there’s no way we could coincidentally guess the same thing.” Or “I know it’s God ’cause I asked him for something ridiculously specific, and he came through; there’s no way I coincidentally got what I wished for.”

Oh, I’m not saying it’ll convince them they’re wrong. It won’t. Their minds are closed. But it’ll make ’em fumble a bit, ’cause they never ever expected you to point to objective, concrete evidence. They weren’t taught to expect such things when they learned atheist apologetics. (Yes, there’s totally such a thing as atheist apologetics. Why do you think they all use the same uninspired arguments? For the very same reason we wind up using all the same uninspired arguments.) Nontheists presume, since most Christians don’t do objective evidence, none of us do. Show ’em otherwise.

Nontheists and cessationists.

In my experience nontheists were either raised nontheist by nontheist parents, or they became nontheist ’cause they were raised in a different religion… and it sucked. They were raised Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Hindu, but their parents and family were really lousy practitioners of the religion; hypocrites, legalists, irreligious, or simply terrible human beings in general. So of course their kids became nontheist; they saw no evidence of God at work in their upbringing, so what proof have they of his existence? More likely he’s as imaginary as the Tooth Fairy.

Now if their childhood religions had any kind of supernatural element in ’em—some sort of God-thing which’d make it appear God truly interacts with them—these kids would be far more likely to stick with the religion. They saw stuff. But all these religions tend to be cessationist: Back when they were founded miracles happened, but not anymore. Vishnu became avatars back in ancient times, but doesn’t anymore. Allah’s angels spoke to Muhammad, but they’ve spoken to no one since.

And sadly, there are plenty of Christians among these cessationists. God used to speak to his children; used to talk to prophets and apostles; used to cure the sick and raise the dead; stopped doing all that back in bible times.

To a nontheist, this explanation is ridiculous. The gods used to act, but now don’t? Why not? What’s wrong with them? Did they retire? Lose their powers? Get so frustrated with humanity they quit on us? And if they did quit on us, why on earth are we still making an effort? But it’s far more likely these miracle-stories never did happen; that they’re pure mythology, invented by clever storytellers who didn’t know how things began, so they kept people entertained by making up a neat origin story. You know, like Santa Claus is Coming to Town or Captain America: The First Avenger.

So yeah; if you grew up believing prayer is unidirectional, that you do all the talking but God says nothing and only answers with “signs,” stands to reason you’re gonna come to the realization this all looks bogus. And become nontheist.

It’s why if you have kids, and you want to raise ’em Christian, the very last thing you wanna teach them is God doesn’t interact with humanity anymore. It’s how you make either lobotomized Christians, who don’t wanna confront their doubts and therefore don’t grow in their relationships with Jesus any… or a new batch of nontheists.

And the very first thing you wanna teach them is how to hear God. And how to confirm it’s really God. It’s to ground ’em in God-experiences so that when their faith gets shaken, as everyone’s does, it’s an earthquake-proof faith. So that when nontheists laugh, “Prayer isn’t real,” the kids absolutely know better.