Why People Are Atheists and Why the Answers in Genesis Ministry Is So Important—Part 1

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Famed atheist PZ Myers has had a series of recent posts on his blogs written by people explaining why they became atheists. I’d like to share with you several excerpts from those posts this week to highlight the importance of being equipped to give answers starting with God’s Word in Genesis. Today’s excerpts focus on the issue of death and suffering.

Chris J posted:

I have had the unfortunate opportunity to watch my grandmother mentally and physically decline over the past few years. I will always remember her as the strong and independent woman who helped me grow into the man I am today. The reality is that she is no longer that person, she suffers from dementia as well as various physical ailments. All that is left is the shell. She remembers no one, cannot feed or toilet herself, blankly stares at the wall all day and requires the assistance of 2 nurses just to get out of bed.

Watching this occur over the course of several years caused me to start questioning my faith. Why would my loving and caring God allow this to happen? What purpose could this possibly serve? Of course, asking church folks got me the same generic answer that it was all part of God’s plan. But I could not accept that, I felt that if this was his plan then his plan sucks. I started to feel uneasy at church, watching people praise the man who was responsible for my grandmothers demise made me angry.

The Christians that Chris asked did not give the right answer! While nothing happens outside the purposes and plans of God, the reason people suffer and die is because of man’s actions, not God’s. Adam, our representative head, disobeyed God—and as a result sin death and suffering entered this world (Genesis 3). Even as a Christian, when my mother died, I got angry with God. But when I understood years later the answer to why there is death and suffering from Genesis, it gave me a peace about her death that I did not previously have. Who knows the impact it would have made on Chris’s beliefs if only someone he asked was equipped to give the biblical answer.

Michael Baizley posted:

My parents were loyal southern Baptists and still are. One morning in my youth, prior to the age of ten, I was looking out our sliding doors, taking in the amazing sights of a Sunday morning. The birds could be heard loudly chirping, deer could be heard walking the hills, the sun was just about to break free from the hills and show itself to everyone. My admiration of nature’s overwhelming beauty was thoroughly broken when my father leaned a hand against the glass and mentioned some jazz about the beauty of god’s creation. Of course, something about the beauty of god’s creation seemed off. In my time, I had found dead birds, miscellaneous animal carcasses in the woods, and seen with my own eyes bugs fighting it out as a matter of life and death.

God’s creation, while beautiful, also struck me at times as particularly brutal and outright dangerous, depending on what you are. As a human, you don’t have many problems – bears and snakes – but as an animal or insect, you had a great many problems day by day. The contrast of such striking beauty with suck striking brutality was not, and is not, lost on me. Quite the opposite: there was more brutality than beauty, and the beauty was often a superficial façade which seemed to protect us from the reality of the other creatures in god’s creation.

As I read Michael’s post, it brought to mind a quote from Charles Darwin: “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.”[1] Beginning with the history in Genesis, however, we know why creation is not perfect and “very good” anymore. Everything that man had dominion over was affected as a result of man’s disobedience (Romans 8:22). The “red in tooth and claw” of nature is the result of sin.

As I often share with my daughter when we encounter something like this in nature, that is the bad news. The good news is Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross so we could be redeemed from sin and live eternally with Him in the new heavens and earth, which will be perfect and “very good.” Genesis is essential to this understanding, as Ken Ham shared in his book How Could a Loving God... ? “It is only those who believe the history God has given to us (beginning in Genesis 1:1) who can consistently explain how there can be a loving God and death and suffering at the same time.”[2]

Christmas is coming soon, and what a great gift to give yourself or someone else—resources that will help equip you to give answers based on the authority and truthfulness of God’s Word from the very first verse. I especially recommend our New Answers Books (for adults, teens, and kids) and How Do We Know the Bible is True? Be sure to check out our online store for more resources and Christmas specials.

[1] Francis Darwin, ed., The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. II (New York: Appleton, 1897), p. 105.

[2] Ken Ham, How Could a Loving God…?, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2007), p. 165.

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