A friend asked me a few weeks ago why some people don’t believe in God. And why people leave the Church. “If they know, if they understand what the Church is, how can they leave?” Well, I don’t know that they do know, that they do understand and that is exactly why they can leave. But let’s look a little deeper and explore the benefits of denying the existence of God.
The first thing that comes to mind is that by denying God’s existence, we can also deny any claims He might make on us. No God, no Son of God, no Church. Christ claimed not only that God was His Father (I and the Father are One), but that He (Christ) is the Way, the Truth and the Life. So an obvious benefit of rejecting God is the simultaneous rejection of everything—and everyone—associated with Him. No pesky commandments, no annoying covenants or obligations, no bothersome blessings or curses. Man becomes the measure of all things, and not man as a community of persons united by family bonds of love, but man as a mere animal, no different from other animals, no worse and certainly no better.
But the rejection of the existence of God does not lead, some might say, necessarily to thinking of man as a mere animal. No? The Biblical account of creation tells us that God created the world and the animals to live in it, then created humans. The very words used show that the world and the animals were made while humans were formed in the image and likeness of God. God “breathed the breath of life into man and he became a living soul.” (See Genesis 2:4 and 2:7*.)
Of course, if you reject the very notion of the existence of God, you can ignore this creation story, you can ignore the whole Bible, thousands of years of Tradition and Scripture with its rituals and psalms and poetry and lessons. You can set out to create your own brave new world with yourself as its king. Only thing is, you’re likely to run right square into a few million other self-styled kings too, all intent on creating their own brave new worlds, and this is where trouble really starts.
You see, if we are only animals, evolving as a result of random processes (I’ll ignore for the moment that even the word “process” carries within it the notion of “order” or “direction”), then the first thing we realize is that there is no purpose for our existence. There is no purpose for any existence at all, for that matter, if things and people were not created for a purpose. If we just happened to happen as the result of blind chance, then we could just as easily, perhaps more easily, have not happened at all. And our survival depends, not upon working together to help one another, but upon looking out for number one, survival of the fittest and all that.
And this seems to be the real “benefit” of rejecting God and everything that goes along with Him: You can be your own god. You can decide what is truth and what is lie, what is good or evil, if there is any such thing; or that some people should live while others should die, and that is the “benefit” I find the most chilling. People become, not persons, but things. Things that either offer me some advantage or that merely get in my way. Things to be accepted or tolerated but not persons to be cherished. Things to be used if they are useful. And disposed of if they are not.
I wonder how Dr. Seuss** would feel now that his famous saying, albeit paraphrased, is taking on a sinister tone:
A person’s a person if he’s useful. Otherwise, he’s not really a person at all.
**I feel it only fair to point out that according to what I’ve been able to learn, Dr. Seuss, or rather, Theodor Geisel, was not pro-life and he didn’t like people using his line to promote the pro-life cause. It’s a shame. I used to like his books very much back when I was younger and had no idea that there was anyone in the world who would be anything other than pro-life. I didn’t know back then that there needed to be a pro-life view as opposed to some other view. How could you not be for life, I would have wondered. Truth be told, I still wonder. And I still don’t know the answer.