Death of an Atheist - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)
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December 1, 2021

Death of an Atheist

“I would rather live as though there is a God and find out there is nothing, than to live as if there is no God and then find out there is.”

I heard my mother say this multiple times while growing up. Although it seems an almost pointless saying when you wholeheartedly believe in God, it is the reason she gives for the question “what if you're wrong about what you believe?” She continues her reasoning by saying that if she lives as though God is real and then finds out she was wrong, she has lost nothing by living for God. On the other hand, if she lives as though there is no God and later finds out God is real, then she has lost everything. However, the importance of that never hit me until a couple of years ago.

On January 11, 2019, an avoidable car accident happened. A man attempted to pass another vehicle in a no passing zone and demolished the vehicle coming in the opposite direction. The man illegally passing survived. The man in the other car, an acquaintance of mine, was dead on impact.

I've personally known many people who have died, some killed in horrible ways, but there is always a sense of hope within the people left behind. However, most of those people were Christians who were from Christian families and had many Christian friends. I had never been around so many non-Christians in mourning and so hopelessly devastated by the loss of a loved one.

Yet while everyone else grieved the loss of a family member and friend, I grieved the loss of a soul. I'd never felt so guilty about a death; nor had I ever wondered if I could have said or done something differently to change his mind about Christianity instead of just hoping that the difference in the way I lived my life would have an impact.

I'm always reminded of one instance when I think about him. We were sitting in the same room, and he talked about all the terrible things professing Christians have done over the course of history, from controlling to killing people. I was unsure what to say to him.

I speculate he may have been asking why I would believe something people who do such terrible things believe? What I wish I would have said to him that day is: the church is made up of humans, so yes, many professing Christians do and say horrible things, because they are fallible humans. That doesn't make the past right, and it doesn't make what many Christians say and do today right.

However, I am a Christian today because I do not determine my faith, or lack of faith, on the actions and words of other people. If I allowed my faith to be determined by fallible people, then is my faith truly in God, or is it in people?

I assure you that if my faith was based on people then I would not be a Christian. I would constantly think of and be bitter about all the terrible things I've witnessed from professing Christians while growing up. From someone attempting to make someone else look bad in attempt to take their position in the church, to pastors causing division and pain among the members of the church, to myself feeling ignored and silenced because many times the church does what it is not supposed to do and looks down on younger people.

I understand why people are so disgusted by Christianity. I would be too in their position; and in some ways I am. The point I wish I would have made to him is that I do understand where he was coming from, but I won’t allow the fallibility of human people keep me from the infallible God. If I let it keep me from God and live as if He is not here, then I will have lost everything when I find out that He is.

But I froze that day, as I am apt to do, and from then on could only hope and pray that he would see the difference between the way that he and the people around him lived, and the way that I lived. His emphasis on actions made it appear to me that he didn’t want to hear what I had to say. But it brought me to a question for which I still haven't fully found an answer.

How do you reach a world that so vehemently denies the reality of God?

So many people who live in denial of Christianity do so based on the argument of the terrible actions of Christians throughout history. C.S. Lewis said, “There have been men before … who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself… as if the good Lord had nothing to do but to exist. There have been some who were so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.”

Therefore, I believe the first place to start is to love God, and the second place is to love each other. In John 13:34 Jesus tells the apostles, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In other words, the way to reach people for Christ is to love one another, and that means loving everyone not just other Christians. I know my heart broke January 11, 2019, so if loving people is how I can keep from ever again wondering if I could have said or done more to reach someone for Christ, then loving other people is what I intend to do.

To learn how to integrate a faith in Jesus Christ into a life built on the truth of the Bible, consider Geneva College. Find out more at or contact Admissions at | 800-847-8255.

-Brianna Halstead '23

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