I know that most people don’t want to read what an unknown pastor has to say about the penultimate day in human history, so I’ll keep this brief.
This morning, as our Senior Pastor was preaching, he mentioned a trip that he took to a Habitat for Humanity site where they had re-created examples of homes from different areas of the world where Habitat builds. Tommy went on to detail the decrepit conditions that many people live with: the substandard materials used for construction, the lack of needed space, the indignity of having to use the toilet in the same space where meals are prepared – the list went on and on. The pastor then went on to describe how the Habitat houses, while far from palatial, were so much better – the space, the materials, the expertise in construction – that people were overjoyed to receive one for their family.
Tommy’s point was that we have it much better here in the U.S. than most people in the world (indeed, the fact that we could even have Easter worship services puts us light years ahead of the Chinese) and we should be grateful for that, but not get lulled into think this life is all there is. Tommy highlighted that for many believers the hope of the Resurrection for all believers is what makes this life bearable and gives joy to their present sufferings.
My mind went in a different direction, but one that’s certainly relevant on this Easter Sunday:
There are in this world a certain class of people, privileged and monied by the standards of most of the world, who are making a pretty penny off telling people that there is no God. That the world is just the result of pitiless, indifferent chance and that people get what they get and shouldn’t look to some imaginary “god” to make life meaningful. I thought about these men and women (though to be honest, mostly the men, since I can’t think of any women who sling this screed in the papers like Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, et al.) and their virulent dislike for the Christian God and the Christian believers in general. I thought about how they would address the person living in a mud hut with no hope for a better life, no chance to live as these rich atheists live, and wondered how much their anti-god screed really has to offer someone who longs for a life of even hope.
I thought about it, and my heart broke, because with atheism there is no hope. There is only life. There is only what is, and if what is sucks beyond all comprehension, well, sorry friend – the mechanistic roll of the dice screwed you. Hope you like thatch roofs and all, because there’s no one coming to save you.
Sure, there are altruistic atheists, but let’s face it: the name of the game – if there is no god, if there is no moral authority to push people towards a higher good – is survival, and why should I give to someone else when me and my genetic successors will eventually be in need.
I don’t want to sound all anti-atheist because I know several and I like them a lot. But this morning it struck me that the real meaning of the Resurrection is that “life goes on” – or, perhaps a bit more poetically, “life goes beyond.” This world isn’t all there is; there’s more to life than just what happens to us in the few decades we drift across this planet, and for those to whom a few decades may well seem like infinity, that is indeed good news. For the person with a broken heart, or the person with no reasonable expectation of a better life, or the person under the thumb of tyranny, the hope that comes through the Resurrection of Christ is hope that can sustain the human spirit for at least one more day, however many of those we may face.
I guess it just struck me that the people in the best position to tell other people they don’t need some god to help them are the people least likely to need any help at all. It’s easy to preach atheism from a first-class hotel or airline seat or crowded lecture hall in front of adoring fans.
But try preaching it to someone who’s very life is worthless without that god, to someone who suffers unimaginably day in and day out, with only the hope that some day it will all make sense to keep them sane.
There’s a reason why there are no atheist missionaries: what would they have to offer?