Research from the University of Kent has revealed that most atheists...
It’s time for a more grown-up conversation about belief in God says Andy Bannister
I wonder if you’ve ever seen someone write - perhaps in a comment box on Facebook - something like "I don't believe in the tooth fairy, I don't believe in Father Christmas, I don't believe in God."
I regularly encounter this, particularly around Christmas. It comes from smug atheists - not every atheist - just a few, who think that belief in God is childish and immature just like belief in Santa Claus.
So is belief in God like belief in Santa Claus?
Well the simple answer is no. I could take you to almost any university library anywhere in the world and we could wander through the philosophy section and find hundreds of books written by respectable, academic and serious philosophers discussing and debating the existence of God. You wouldn't find the equivalent section for Father Christmas.
Secondly, it’s interesting to note how my atheist friends don’t write books with titles like The Santa Delusion. Even Richard Dawkins and his friends know belief in God is not like belief in Santa Claus.
I often like to conduct this experiment when speaking to Christian audiences. I say to my audience "raise your hand if you became a Christian after the age of 15." In most audiences about half the hands in the room go up. Many Christians have found their faith in adult life and many atheists become Christians in adult life. But ask the question "how many of you became believers in Santa Claus after the age of 15?" and unless the local village lunatic is in the room, no hands go up.
People come to belief in God as adults. But the question that really matters is: "Is it true?" That's the only question that's worth wrestling with. But to wrestle with that you need to think like an adult and not like a child. And not use childish arguments like comparing God to Santa!
It’s much easier to ridicule the whole thing and pretend it’s not true
Another important question is "what difference does it make?" When I hear a grown adult trying to dismiss belief in God by comparing it to Santa Claus, that tells me they’re trying to avoid the question. They’re trying to push the God question out of the door because they’ve probably worked out that if God does exist, some things need to change.
If Christianity is true and the claims of Jesus are true that means he is Lord and I am not. And that can be quite a step to come to terms with.
It’s much easier to ridicule the whole thing and pretend it’s not true. But at that point I’m not behaving like an adult, I’m behaving like a child!
If you can't think seriously about the God question without being immature then maybe you should leave the grown-ups to have that conversation and you can sit next door put your fingers in your ears and sing something cheerful, charming and encouraging. Maybe something like 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'?
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