By: Michelle Zorzella
CAN ATHEISM GIVE US SALVATION?
It’s not uncommon to hear people share stories about how their lives have changed dramatically after deciding to give themselves up to God. One testimony I find particularly fascinating is the conversion story of Joshua Blahyi, also known as General Butt Naked. This former Liberian war lord who was known for eating human flesh and going into battle naked turned to Christianity after Jesus allegedly appeared to him in a vision and asked him to repent for his wicked ways. Today, he has given up a life of hard crime and violence to preach at local churches where he shares the story of his radical transformation.
But what about atheism? Surely it has impacted the lives of troubled individuals as well. Many people are comforted in knowing that God isn’t watching over them and condemning them for not following the practices of religion or dissenting from the teachings of holy men. Acknowledging that there is no afterlife has persuaded people who suffer from depression to give up on suicide. There is no denying that atheism has had positive effects on the lives of individuals in need of psychological healing, as is true also with belief in God. Neither one is exclusive in their ability to provide people with the experience of comfort and renewal. Unfortunately, we don’t see many publications dedicated to showing the world how Atheism has impacted people in positive ways.
Upon running an internet search for the terms “Atheism saved my life,” I discovered an array of confessions from nonbelievers essentially stating had it not been for Atheism, they would certainly not be alive today. One of the most apparent reasons for this transformation is their realization of the finality of death. If we do not go on to experience life after we die, we cannot simply check out of this life to go and be with our departed ancestors instead. And if we are not permitted the opportunity to enter the “world to come,” we would be foolish to waste something so rare and as precious as life.
I have no intention on taking away from the remarkable benefits non-belief can have, although certain questions come to mind in contemplating all this: has atheism also influenced the kind of changes we see in General Butt Naked? Has rejection of belief in God convinced individuals who prefer to harm others of the necessity of moral decency? As far as I am aware it hasn’t, and until it can it does not seem reasonable for anyone to suggest the world would be a better place without belief in God seeing the profound changes it can have in the lives of many. It is not as if either worldview can say that never in the name of their belief or lack thereof has anyone ever committed vile acts against humanity, and it doesn’t seem fair to debate which of these acts are less disgraceful.
This may be one reason belief in God continues to remain relevant in today’s society.