A Facebook friend of mine posted the following: “Conservative Christians oppose abortion even in cases of rape because Jesus was a rape baby.” Please understand: She is a self-proclaimed atheist. To have countered (as I immediately wanted to), “What part of ‘Be it done unto me according to thy will’ do you not understand?” would have done no good. Understand also: She is a good person. She’s a terrific mother, a kind and funny friend. But she has a blind spot when it comes to God, as many atheists do. It rubs me the wrong way. It’s meant to.

Some people have a problem with religion. I get that; it’s easier to doubt than to believe. Belief requires a leap of faith into territory that can be illogical and frightening. It is far simpler to hunker down in rationalism and not make the leap. What I don’t understand is the amount of venom directed at religion. Mind you, I understand legitimate criticism — when the Catholic Church misbehaves I am usually among the first to take them to task. That’s not the kind of venom I’m talking about. I refer to a more undefined, all-encompassing anger — buckshot, not bullets — aimed at any and all religious or spiritual beliefs.

A favorite author of mine (Lewis? Merton?) once wrote (and I paraphrase), “I didn’t believe that God existed. And I was very angry at Him for not existing.” The paradox ought to punch any right-thinking person in the face: You can’t be angry at something that you say doesn’t exist. You shouldn’t have any feelings about it. You certainly shouldn’t be throwing rocks at those who believe. Why should you care what they think?

Thomas Merton (I’m certain this time) had a theory about atheists: They don’t believe not because they hate God, but because what they read about Him fails to encompass a good enough, complete enough notion of Him. What they want from God isn’t contained in humankind’s feeble attempts to reduce Him to words, commandments, and stories. They want God to be bigger than that. And guess what? He is. It is humans that fail, not God. Just because we cannot apprehend Him in all His goodness and relate that information without fault, without shadowing it with our own human traits of selfishness, greed, political interest and xenophobia doesn’t make God any less than what He is. Place the blame where it is due: On humans, not on God.

I won’t try to convert my friend. I too am impossibly flawed; I can’t effectively counter her arguments against a just and loving Deity. I just know what I know. God is as good as you can imagine — better, in fact. He is “that than which nothing greater can be thought.” There are proofs galore to His existence, but what matters most is this: God loves us. He will wait for us, believers and nonbelievers alike. Anger might slow Him down, but it will never stop Him.

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