Many, perhaps most, Christians seem to think that atheists are grumpy, selfish people who are angry with God and who have gone off in a huff to spend their lives as they wish in some sort of mimicking of parent-child relationship gone wrong. This perception stems from the fact that Christians have a very difficult time understanding the point of view that atheists have towards God: that he simply doesn't exist. The parent analogy is a good one because everyone has or had a mother and father at some point. Even if your parents have passed on, they did exist. If you chose not to relate to them, it doesn't change the fact that they existed. So the common habit of applying the father figure role to God leaves Christians unable to appreciate the perspective of someone who doesn't believe in God or gods. My relationship with my own father is not great. Cue the amatuer Christian psychologists who will undoubtedly think they've stumbled upon the reason for my rejection of God. But that is just the point. I have not rejected God. I have rejected the very idea that God exists. I don't go around with a grudge towards God, and hope that I can punish him for my indoctrinated childhood by pretending he isn't there. I actually don't believe he is there. That is the fundamental difference.
This crucial point about understanding atheism is very, very difficult for Christians to grasp. Their whole life they have been told that God is with them in every thought, action, word, every moment. To grasp this notion that someone else does not believe God exists, is more than difficult.
Sometimes I think in sarcastic terms about what some Christians must think my position on religion is. I assume it goes something like this:
I know that God is there. I know that he is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, so I know that he sees everything I do and think. I used to be a Christian and I know the Bible well, so I know that there is a heaven above us and a hell below. I know that Satan exists and he is constantly trying to tempt me to sin. Ultimately, Satan would love for me to reject God completely and follow his ways. I know that Jesus existed, was born of a virgin, grew to adulthood and was crucified. I know that he rose from the dead, and that his sacrifice was made so that I might not have to pay the ultimate price for my sins if I decided to accept his gift of life. I know that this life is relatively short, and that an eternity of bliss awaits me if I accept Jesus as my saviour. I don't even have to live a perfect life, I just have to accept him in my heart and try to live the way that I think he would want me to live.
I know all of this, and yet...I reject it all. I prefer to just do what I want for the next forty or fifty years of life that I have left. I'm OK with giving up an eternity in heaven just so that I can tell Jesus to get stuffed and so that I can do what I want in life without consulting him in prayer. Even though my day to day life wouldn't change that much if I accepted Jesus in my heart, I still don't think it is worth it. I could probably keep the same career, the same family, continue to live in the same neighbourhood, continue to do the recreation I enjoy. I might have to go to church, though that, of course, is not necessary for salvation. All I have to do is believe in my heart that Jesus is my saviour and accept him. I'm a smart man, I have a lengthy education. I plan my finances carefully. But I'm too short-sighted to think that this commitment is worth it. I'd rather trade in all eternity just to have my own way for a few decades.
Is that what Christians think? Is that really what they think my position is?
No. I don't believe that God exists. I think the whole thing is man-made. Religion in its entirety is a human fabrication that developed out of fear of death combined with the benefits of primitive groups of people working together more effectively by believing they were different than everyone else. That they had some common belief. That, and their complete inabilty to explain the natural world around them.
We can do better. We can explain much of the natural world around us. Though there is much knowledge left to be gained about nature, we at least know that superstition is false. We at least know that sitting down, closing your eyes and thinking and speaking a certain way to a deity in the sky has absolutely no effect on the outcome of anything.
I'll say it again in case anyone doesn't quite get it yet. In case someone reading this still thinks I am running away from God and choosing my own path:
I don't believe that God exists.