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How to Handle It When a Christian Says, "You're Mad at God"...and You're an Atheist

Updated on November 20, 2014

What Christians Say

It seems that, these days, Christians are determined to tell us atheists that we are mad at God. The line you may hear from such a conversation could go something like this:

“You don’t believe because you’re mad at God for something tragic that happened in your life and/or in someone else’s. But don’t worry. Just trust in Him and He will lead you safely to utopia. That’s what He did in my life; He can do it in yours, too. Why do you have so much hate in your heart?”

A Typical Theist's Attitude
A Typical Theist's Attitude

No matter how much you insist that you don’t believe in God, many Christians will locate the place you feel most insecure or hurting and say that this hurt is the cause for your anger at God. This can be difficult to go through, especially if it’s a Christian close to you and they know how to twist the knife. They may see you squirm and become uncomfortable, but they are probably going to be undeterred -- the rationale is that, by breaking your emotional strength and stability, they are forcing you to rely on God. And, honestly, this technique often works if one cracks under the pressure; Christianity evangelism is often at its most effective when all sense of your self esteem is broken.

Solution 1: Using Christian Logic Against Itself

How do you stand up against this attack, especially when it is dressed up in sanctimonious Christianeze that can, for the formerly devoutly religious, set off upsetting triggers? For starters, we can try to see this objection from the Christian's point of view. It's easy for us to say, "I'm not mad at God if I don't believe in Him," but, considering the Christian's point of view, they'll likely see that as a smokescreen (although it does make perfect sense, of course).

In taking apart the Christian’s motivation for this “You’re mad at God” speech, the first step is to notice that the reasoning is based on the very logic it criticizes. It accuses you of not believing in God because of something tragic that happened in your life (often ridiculed by Christians as a ridiculous reason to not believe in God)...and then it says that you should trust in God, even though (or especially because) times are hard, because God will make something happen in your life that outweighs the tragedy . So in both cases -- belief and nonbelief -- one’s attitude towards the concept of God is based on whether or not the tragedy in their life is or will be outweighed by its happiness (and most of this happiness will occur, of course, in a future utopia).

Thus, our lack of belief in God, in the Christian’s mind, is based on our thinking that whatever future this God is able to bring won’t make up for the tragedy we’ve experienced.

The relevant question then, becomes: What future is God likely to bring, based on the available evidence?

And here, the Christian may allow for a certain measure of doubt. Although some Christians may just be out to demean you, often the “you’re just mad at God” argument is used most stridently, it seems, by Christians who seem strongly impacted by their own tragedies, and who are thus wondering to themselves, “How can God be good in a world that’s so terrible?”

It may help to realize that this wondering is analogous to the hope any of us have when tragedy happens in our lives. Most of us atheists hope things will get better, even against seemingly insurmountable odds. We hope that our team wins the championship next year, we hope that we’ll smile wider, we hope that we’ll succeed. We hope, and that hope gets us out of bed in the morning, it motivates us to work long hours, often at jobs we hate, and to work at causes that most think are lost, and to withstand the strain of relationships in hope that they will get better. We all hope; this is nothing new or unique to the Christian.

It’s just that, for the Christian, the hope is wrapped up in God. All the hope you feel is often, especially for the most devout, encapsulated for them in that word “God.” And, to many of them, you’re a threat to that. You’re someone who says that the hope is false, that there is no brighter tomorrow, that the toil will end in dust. If you’re insistent here, the words from the Christian defending God may be trying to tell you that hope is still alive so they can tell it to themselves. To feel the desperation some Christians may feel, imagine -- what would your life be like if all the hope you had for tomorrow was called “God” and someone came, threatening to take all its possibilities away from you? How would you feel, especially if your life up to that point looked like a tragedy?

So, God is a reason for hope. And if this is where the Christian is coming from, you can assure the Christian that you still have reason to hope, and you can talk about some of your hopes and the concrete reasons you have them. This can show the Christian that yes, there is hope outside of God. If it’s in your power, you can try to give the Christian a sense of hope, too.

Solution 2: Asking Them To Use Evidence To Prove God Will Make Things Better

One response is to examine the supposed character of God. You can accept, for the sake of argument only (while making it clear you don’t believe in Him), the premise that God exists. Is there evidence that God, if He even existed, really will give us a better future? What does history tell us? Is God reliable?

In a sense we can admit that yes, we are upset that a nonexistent entity -- or anything, really, like perhaps a check from Bill Gates -- didn’t make things better for us in our past. We would have liked for the negative things that happened to us in our past to not have happened, in many cases. But they did -- and not only to us, but to many who prayed fervently, as well. A God who seems to have no overall positive impact in our lives here -- why would we believe He would have a positive impact on our future lives? If people have good and bad fortune here on earth as if God didn’t exist and wasn’t choosing one over the other based on any consistent criteria, who is to say that this will change after we die?

If your reason for belief in God is the awesome things he’ll supposedly do in the future, what is your evidence that he’ll do those awesome things?

Because surely, if I believed he would do those great things, I would believe in Him, right? And I would love Him. So the Christian can go ahead and try to convince you that he’ll give you a better life in the long term -- based on concrete evidence.

You see -- this is where the conversation begins. If there is no rational basis for a hope in God -- why should you trust that a God will change your circumstances in the future? Because even if you WERE angry at God and thus left him, that anger is based on the premise that there is no evidence that any God is going to make things better for you -- otherwise, you would believe in Him. And because the Christian believes in a God who can make things better for you -- obviously you don’t believe in that God, which means, concerning that God, you’re an atheist and who needs to be evidentially convinced that this God exists.

And in that attempt to be convincing, we’re talking about more than anecdotes about how the cancer was in remission without explanation, or the parking spot you got, or the raise. We’re also introducing to the conversation child poverty and the fact that some children die of a lack of water or antibiotics. They’ll have to convince you in the midst of earthquakes, etc., that God exists.

Tim Minchin's Response

It’s not enough to say that it’s man’s sin, that makes things happen. First, earthquakes and floods happen through natural means; there seems no evidence that a naked couple eating a fruit in a garden six thousand years ago caused an earthquake. And even if the Christian thinks that’s what you really believe in your heart -- if you really believed it, why would you reject the Christian’s supposed Utopia? And even if you did believe it underneath it all -- not that you do, but even if you did -- would that mean that it were true? Of course not. Such claims seem to clearly require evidence.

Thanks for reading!

So, that’s my take. The “you’re angry at God” attack is often more about the Christian, it seems, than the atheist. Sometimes it’s used to be nasty -- and sometimes, it’s because the Christian is trying to protect their own sense of hope. You can combat this reasoning by bringing the conversation back to a discussion on evidence and underlining more realistic sounding, evidence-based hopes you have as opposed to idealistically motivated, unevidenced hopes.

Do most Christians you know think your atheism comes from your supposed anger at God?

See results

Thanks for reading!

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    • profile image

      Ash 2 years ago

      Just to save time, I'll end here by saying that I have merely tried to answer your initial question, at least to a degree reasonable in a comments section. I have explained how the atheistic stance is justified by (a) a lack of empirical support for any gods and (b) a plethora of empirical evidence for an entirely natural, uncaused universe. I never expected you to be persuaded by my arguments, but I thought you asked some worthwhile questions that deserved an answer.

      While the scientific evidence certainly supports the non-theistic position, I did not bother to enter into purely philosophical arguments with the exception of pointing out the Problem of Evil, which successfully refutes a god claimed to be perfectly loving, powerful, and all-knowing. If you want to understand how that argument defeats the god claim you offer, simply follow the link...it does a far better job than I can do here. Moreover, your initial question asked for "proof" against god which I took to mean empirical evidence, which is why I kept my comments at that level. There are, of course, numerous other philosophical arguments against god besides the Problem of Evil (as devastating as that argument is). But those debates get tiresome since they follow predictable paths. I generally only agree to such debates when I think persuadable fence-sitters will read it, and I'm not sure that's the case here.

      Anyway, thanks for remaining civil. Take care.

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      @Ash

      "There is absolutely nothing inherent in the universe that requires or even suggests a deity that you describe. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the Problem of Evil demonstrates:"

      Actually, the antipode is true:

      (1) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

      (2) Evil exists.

      (3) Therefore, objective moral values and duties do exist.

      (4) Therefore, God exists.

      (5) Therefore, God is the locus of all objective moral values and duties.

      That is to say, as Dostoevsky once mused, "If there is no God, everything is permitted."

      "since we see some things come into existence from nothing and other things happen without cause"

      Science without a doubt does not have experience of stuffs popping into being ex nihilo sine causa. Bohmian mechanics, for instance, is completely deterministic and furthermore emphasizes that every indeterminacy is actually conceptual.

      “Being never arises from nonbeing”, “something will not originate from nothing” are putative metaphysical principles, just like cause and effect, unhindered in their application. Hence, we certainly have excellent grounds , both abstractly as well as scientifically, for reasoning that whatsoever begins to exist has a cause.

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      @Ash

      "Physicists have already concluded that it is entirely possible, and indeed likely, that the universe is uncaused"

      The Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem, for instance, proves that any universe, that has, on average, a rate of expansion greater than one ** must ** have a ** finite beginning **. As such, Vilenkin had this to say regarding the beginning of the universe, "It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. *** There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning ***. (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176) (Emphasis mine.)

      As Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist Stephen Hawking put it, “the final nail in the coffin of the Steady State theory came with the discovery of the microwave background radiation, in 1965.”

      Emphatically, then, the fervent belief that the universe is infinitely old, beginningless, or eternal has no basis in any respected mainstream scientific theories of the universe.

      "If you are interested, it turns out that something can indeed come from nothing. It is called quantum fluctuation:"

      Abbott: I want to talk to you about the quantum vacuum.

      Costello: You want to talk to me about what?

      Abbott: Nothing.

      Costello: So you don’t want to talk?

      Abbott: I do want to talk.

      Costello: Oh, OK. So what do you want to talk about?

      Abbott: Nothing

      Costello: But you just said you wanted to talk to me.

      Abbott: I do.

      Costello: So what do you want to talk to me about?

      Abbott: The quantum vacuum

      Costello: OK. Tell me about the quantum vacuum.

      Abbott: It’s nothing

      Costello: If it’s nothing than why do you want to talk about it?

      Abbott: Because it’s important.

      Costello: What is?

      Abbott: Nothing

      Costello: Nothing is important?

      Abbott: Yes, it’s very important.

      Costello: Then it must be something.

      Abbott: Of course it’s something.

      Costello: But you said it was nothing.

      Abbott: I certainly did.

      Costello: So the quantum vacuum is nothing, and it’s something, and it’s very important.

      Abbott: Exactly!

      The quantum vacuum is not nothing. It's a roiling sea of energies. It's hardly nothing: http://bit.ly/1mxKvXO

    • profile image

      Ash 2 years ago

      "This creates the necessity for a first uncaused-cause." You were right on until this paragraph. Physicists have already concluded that it is entirely possible, and indeed likely, that the universe is uncaused and thus is not in need of a creator. By itself, this is not "proof" of any particular god's non-existence, but it does eliminate it as evidence for one (especially for one as specific as you describe). Which leaves us with my original statement, that the only evidence for a god is personal testimony, which is not very convincing to the average atheist.

      PS. If you are interested, it turns out that something can indeed come from nothing. It is called quantum fluctuation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_fluctuation

      PPS. It also turns out that some things happen without cause. The popular example is radioactive decay, which "just happens"...there is no causal determinate.

      PPPS. The logical conclusion is that, since we see some things come into existence from nothing and other things happen without cause, it is physically possible that the universe itself is both uncaused and a product of nothing.

      PPPPS. There is absolutely nothing inherent in the universe that requires or even suggests a deity that you describe. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the Problem of Evil demonstrates: http://www.iep.utm.edu/evil-log/

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      @Ash

      The premise that all matter and energy began to exist 13.70 billion years ago is not a religious declaration nor a theological one. You can find this statement in any contemporary textbook on astrophysics or cosmology. And it is supported by the vast majority of cosmologists today.

      The Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem, for instance, proves that any universe, that has, on average, a rate of expansion greater than one ** must ** have a ** finite beginning **. I'm not making this up. Read the paper in full or watch Vilenkin himself invalidate and impugn beginningless universe models like Eternal Inflation, Cyclic Evolution and Static Seed/Emergent Universe on youtube.

      As such, Vilenkin had this to say regarding the beginning of the universe, "It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. *** There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning ***. (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176) (Emphasis mine.)

      As Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist Stephen Hawking put it, “the final nail in the coffin of the Steady State theory came with the discovery of the microwave background radiation, in 1965.”

      Emphatically, then, the fervent belief that the universe is infinitely old, beginningless, or eternal has no basis in any respected mainstream scientific theories of the universe.

      This creates the necessity for a first uncaused-cause. After all, something cannot come from nothing as I've already shared here: http://bit.ly/SSsy8x. I've also explained that this first uncaused efficient cause must also, by necessity, be transcendent, beginningless, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, unchanging, omnipotent, personal and good. As it turns out, such is the very definition of All-Loving God.

    • profile image

      Ash 2 years ago

      "Creation is thus proof of an Almighty Creator." Well, let's start with what we know. The universe exists, I think we can all agree. From that alone, we cannot a priori assume that it was created in the sense that something caused it to come into being. When we go to our most reliable sources of information (i.e. scientific investigation), we find that time is bound up in matter itself, such that one does not exist without the other. In other words, no universe, no time. The implications of this are clear: there was no "before" the universe because time began with the universe. Without time, there can be no cause. Hence, it appears that nothing caused the universe...it simply came to be.

      However, let's entertain the idea that the universe is actually part of a larger reality that can allow for external causation. Keep in mind, this is pure speculation: there is no evidence one way or another for this. But if we want to assume it, we must acknowledge that nearly anything could be true. For instance, the universe as we know it might be a kind of computer simulation or the belch of an evil demon. There is no way to know since we don't have access to information outside of our cosmos.

      The takeaway here is that no creator is necessary to explain the universe. And even if it turns out there is a creator, there is no way to know the nature of that creator---and it seems astronomically unlikely that it has anything to do with any story humans have made up.

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      @Ash

      Thanks for stepping up! :)

      Now, you claim that "the only evidence that exists for a typically-understood god is personal testimony and faith, which are both notoriously unreliable." But this ignores the ginormous elephant in the room, creation itself! To put it another way, If exceptional intellect is required to merely duplicate designs and systems present in nature ( Biomimetics ) then much more the original being replicated. Creation is thus proof of an Almighty Creator.

    • profile image

      Ash 2 years ago

      Joseph, I generally don't like to answer for other posters, but it looks like your questions aren't going to be answered. So I thought I'd give it a shot.

      All three of your questions seem to boil down to "Where is your proof that a creator god does not or cannot exist?" I'm going to reword this question to be a bit less biased thusly: "Based on the available evidence, how likely is it that a creator god exists or not?" This gets into all kinds of questions of epistemology, meaning we have to ask how we know things and what kinds of information counts as reliable evidence. Cutting to the chase, however, many atheists require a much higher threshold of evidence for belief than is currently available. As things currently stand, the only evidence that exists for a typically-understood god is personal testimony and faith, which are both notoriously unreliable. However, even if one were inclined to accept such weak evidence, we hit another problem: many people offer such testimony for wildly contradictory deities. Hence, no single god claim has an evidentiary advantage over any of the others. As such, to date, no claims of god(s) have accrued anywhere near the level of evidence needed to even begin entertaining the possibility of existence.

      At the same time, we have good reason to believe that no gods exists. To name but a few:

      * For every single phenomena that has ever been reliably explained, the answer has been non-supernatural. There has never been any phenomena that is best explained by the supernatural. Thus, one can reasonably assume that every phenomenon, including the existence of the universe, is natural and without need of a supernatural creator or power.

      * Humans are very good at inventing stories and false explanations for phenomena. It is vastly more likely that every god ever claimed has been invented rather than all but one. And for any given god that is well documented, it is possible to trace a narrative pathway through history. This has already been done with all the Abrahamic deities with excruciating detail.

      * There are psychological mechanisms that easily explain many rudimentary supernatural experiences. For instance, we have a mechanism that is biased toward giving false positive signals for a presence, which can help explain why people sometimes have a false impression of something or someone being nearby. Another is a part of the brain that provides a feeling of leaving the body...we can actually stimulate this part of the brain in the lab and people will say they feel like they are floating outside their body. However, these are all cognitive illusions. Many religious experiences can be explained by such illusions.

      There are, of course, many other such reasons for rejecting the god hypothesis. I hope this has given you some insight into why many atheists are atheists.

    • profile image

      Ash 2 years ago

      When someone tells me "You're just mad at God...", I'll pause for a moment and say, "Ok, it's true. I don't believe in God because I'm mad at him. I admit it. But you know who I'm really, REALLY mad at? Santa Claus! I didn't get the present I wanted when I was 9 and I was so hurt and traumatized that I swore I'd stop believing in him, just to make him pay."

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      @ Andrew

      I'm curious, based on what evidence do you conclude that our Creator is merely a fictional being?

      @Link

      Looking for evidence? Here you go: http://bit.ly/1197U6R

      @Paladin

      Delusion you say? Based on what do you dare claim all of us theists are suffering from "a persistent false psychotic belief regarding persons outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary?" Where is your proof that our Creator does not nor cannot exist?

    • jlpark profile image

      Jacqui 2 years ago from New Zealand

      I've found that I have the added 'issue' when it comes to being an atheist - I'm not only mad at God, but my atheism is my attempt to make my sexual orientation (or according to those telling me this - lifestyle) okay which is 'obviously' isn't - being a sin and all (to them..)

      Firstly, my lack of belief and my orientation are two separate things. And secondly, stop thinking about my sex life, and concentrate on yr own issues! Thirdly, I can't be mad at something that doesn't exist!

      So Link, I understand the whole 'even when I say it's hypothetical' - I don't been need to mention the 'gay' thing here - it gets mentioned for me!

    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 2 years ago from Michigan, USA

      To be fair, I believe another reason some believers and apologists insist that non-believers merely "hate God" is because it's their way of making a seemingly implausible idea plausible. It doesn't make sense to THEM, so it must have a non-sensible origin.

      They are so immersed in the religious delusion, and so accustomed to routinely rationalizing anything that doesn't fit within the meme of faith, that the only way they can make atheism comprehensible is to fashion some irrational reason for it.

    • profile image

      Jonathan 2 years ago

      This is spot on.

      It really is nothing more than reflecting your own hurts on someone else and it works because as different as we like to think all of our hurts are, they really are not. We are ALL human. Family issues, health issue(s), lower-class income with middle-class bills. Probably some bad credit trailing you and some piss-poor decisions that burned some good bridges that you try not regret.

      Real easy to hit a nerve with the "average-guy" line when you have probably been talking with the person for a bit anyway to get a feel for them.

      It is exactly what I did. I was really good at reading people though. It really helps.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      I don't understand why an atheist has to justify his viewpoint. That's his or her belief and we should respect that. I do not subscribe to either the Christian belief system or the atheist viewpoint, so I guess I don't understand why it is such a big issue.

    • Link10103 profile image

      Link10103 2 years ago

      Well it's usually when I bring up matters of evidence that they say I am just angry at God and know he exists but reject him anyway. Can't even speak hypothetically without someone assuming that, even if I say before hand that everything is hypothetical...

    • profile image

      Andrew 2 years ago

      The writers of the bible knew something, and wrote about it. Within the framework of their time many cultures worshipped a god... falsely. Their fictional character of "God" had a purpose then and now... because it was based upon what they knew.

      Find what they knew... and then you see that the bible testifies to that truth... using a variety of history and fiction for effect.

      What they knew was real to them... even if the characters in their stories were not. It is real still today.

      As for what the church system has been spinning, well, many have been wise to walk away from that which is false.

    • jlpark profile image

      Jacqui 2 years ago from New Zealand

      Interesting take on the "mad at God" issue, Barrier.

      You've really given this some thought, and it does make sense - both why it is done, and why they think that we as atheists are mad at God.