The hikers stood in a clump, mounds of gear piled at their feet, listening to the Ranger’s safety briefing.
“The bears are coming out of hibernation now, so you need to be particularly careful on the trail,” she said. “We’ve had several sightings already. Who knows the precautions to take when you’re in bear country?”
Several people volunteered answers. Make noise. Don’t run. Back up slowly and leave. Never get between mama bear and her cubs. The usual advice.
“Okay, people, it sounds like you’re prepared. Welcome to the park and have a lovely hike.”
Al picked up his gear and said to Bill, “What a bunch of hogwash.”
“What’s hogwash?” Bill said.
“All that about ‘bear safety.’ I don’t believe in bears,” Al said. “I can’t stand the whole idea of bears. Huge hairy things, fangs, long claws. Attacking hikers and throwing people’s trash around. Even eating all the salmon and huckleberries. I hate them.”
“I thought you said you don’t believe in them,” Bill said.
“Right, that’s what I said.”
“So…which is it? Do you not believe in them, or do you hate them?” Bill asked, wondering, not for the first time, whether something had gone awry in his friend’s grey matter.
“I don’t believe in them. Are you deaf? How can you believe in something so nasty?” Al shook his head and fastened his waist strap.
“Well, I believe in them because they’re real,” Bill said. He plunked his pack back down on the grass. He was no longer sure he wanted to hike up into bear country with Al. “And setting aside your questionable assessment of them as ‘nasty,’ not liking the idea of bears is not a real good reason to disbelieve in their existence, buddy. In fact, I think that’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard you say.”
If God is real, and you are living in His universe, you will have to deal with Him eventually. You may be able to avoid bears, but by the very nature of things, you cannot evade the Creator of the universe forever. You are certainly free to disbelieve in Him if you insist. But do your very best to make sure that any such decision is based on logic, and a careful consideration of the evidence. You want to align yourself with reality, not wishful thinking.
Perhaps you realize that rather than not believing in Him, you’re actually furious with God. You think it's monstrous that He allows suffering, and lets children die, and that millions of people starve, and that your worthless neighbor wins the lottery even though you need the money more, and that people you love die of cancer.
You have recourse.
Get to know Him. You could start by reading all the stuff He wrote down for us. In the Bible you can find out about His character, and what He's done, and why He doesn't behave exactly as you'd like Him to. Don’t just take some guy’s word for what the Bible says, or how unreliable it is. Read it and study it for yourself. If you read books by atheists, read some by Christians, too. God wants a relationship with you and has done more than you can imagine to make it possible. Take a chance and pray for God’s help in discovering the truth. What have you got to lose? Search for the reality of the matter, and try to understand it, just as you might investigate bears and why they behave in ways inexplicable to the ignorant. Understanding generates wisdom.
Get to know some of His true children. Perhaps you’re disgusted at what people have done in His name. I’m right there with you on that one. There are lots of hypocrites out there, so take care. But true followers of Jesus are all around. Any of them would be glad to help you in your search, answer some questions, and help you understand some of the edges of God’s ways. Weird as it sounds, they love you, and they really hope you get it all figured out.
Seeking after truth is wise. Deciding not to believe in God because you don't like what you think you know about Him is foolish. Like not believing in bears.