I was always taught that the reason non-Christians don’t believe in God is because they do not want to believe in him. They want to continue in their sinful ways. They have consciously made a decision to reject God, when deep down, they know he is real.
My experience of de-conversion has really challenged me on this view. I now think it is pretty bullshitty. It is my experience that beliefs are formed through what an individual has been taught and exposed to, and the relevant evidence they have seen, not their wants or desires. At least that’s how my beliefs changed. Matt Dillahunty from The Atheist Experience puts it like this:
To me, belief is acceptance that a claim is true, and acceptance is a result of being convinced. Now you can be convinced for good reasons or bad reasons, but I am not convinced that you can be convinced simply by an exercise of will.
Faith is a different story. By definition, faith is believing something when the reasons for believing it are not substantial. This is something I do not understand. How is believing something against the evidence a good thing? It seems basically synonymous with stupidity. Christopher Hitchens seems to make a lot of sense on this topic:
This idea of belief being a product of free will is an especially important consideration when it comes to the idea of Hell. If I haven’t become an atheist through a choice of my own free will (as I believe is the case) it means I am going to Hell not because I chose to reject God, but simply because I was convinced by the wrong argument, despite my vigorous attempts to find truth. How can a good God punish me for what I believe (or don’t believe) when it really isn’t my choice at all?
Honestly, being an atheist has actually been a massive inconvenience to me. It has made me an outsider at school, at work, in my family. It means I’ll never be able to have my dream job at International Justice Mission. It means I can no longer be a student leader or youth leader. I would not choose this for myself. I never wanted it. I just wanted truth.
In many ways, I want to believe in Christianity. The comfort of having a cosmic all-powerful daddy, the promise of eternal life, peace with my parents; it would all be so nice. But I can’t force myself to believe something I don’t believe, and if you love a God who would send me to a place of eternal torment because of this, I think maybe you need to reconsider. Something has to be wrong here.