THE END OF UNBELIEF
A NEW APPROACH
TO THE QUESTION OF GOD
by Shane Hayes
Its Unique Approaches and Why They Work
This is sharply different from other pro-faith books in several ways. To appreciate them Christians must be convinced of this: In choosing a book for hardcore unbelievers, the test of its value is not what pleases us, who love to hear the Gospel proclaimed, but what is most likely to reach hardened skeptics and draw them toward God. With that in mind I took these four surprising and effective approaches:
Since most atheists have an aversion to organized religion I don’t press them to share my Christian faith. Instead I propose for them a belief form that is independent of any established sect. I call it Pure Theism, I define it, and I tell why I once practiced it myself.
When at age twenty-eight I began to emerge from eight years of atheism I could not come directly into Christianity, though I was influenced by Christians at a vital church in Manhattan. I had to pass through two years of Pure Theism – one step out of atheism: the belief in a personal and loving God, not otherwise defined. Not the God of Abraham or Moses, not the triune God we Christians believe in, not Christ the incarnate Son of God, whom we confess. Just God, the cosmic intellect who created the universe and loves his human creatures, wants to connect with us, and will make that happen if we let him.
Nearly all pro-faith authors argue for Protestant or Catholic Christianity, as if they are the only alternative to atheism. Many atheists are so hostile to those familiar creeds, which they’ve tried and rejected, that their minds are shut tight to arguments for them. They won’t even listen. Pure Theism, as I describe it, is a new idea to most unbelievers; it sparks their interest and lessens their resistance.
It was a phase I had to pass through on my way from atheism to Christianity. Bringing hardcore unbelievers that one step out of atheism is transformative, yet daunting – a great spiritual leap. Once there, and after experiencing Pure Theism for a while, a further move to organized religion (Christianity, I hope) is much easier, both because it’s a smaller step and because they are in touch with God, whose grace is at work.
Pure Theism is not a new theology. It is a sliver of Judeo-Christian theology that one never sees standing alone. Some will accept that crystalline part who would otherwise reject the whole. And the part may, like a seed, take root and become the whole. It did in me.
Part of my book is pure argument and part is story. In the latter I give a Christian witness, though I don’t directly argue for Christianity. Why this oblique approach? Because it’s more subtle, more canny, more effective. The New Atheism is hostile territory. The Master said: “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
I present myself as an agnostic, a term unbelievers like and identify with. But I show that agnosticism – though widely misunderstood -- is a philosophical position that does not exclude religious faith. I explain how one can be both agnostic and Christian, or agnostic and Pure Theist, with no logical inconsistency. Many atheists won’t touch a book by a priest or minister. “I know what they’re going to say before they say it; they’re not allowed to say anything new,” is their unfair but dismissive thought. A pro-faith book by an agnostic is new, unexpected, intriguing.
As a philosophical agnostic I don’t tell atheists that I’m right and they’re wrong. Nearly all pro-faith authors tell them that, and it raises their hackles. As an agnostic I argue that none of us can know whether there is a God or not, so all we can do is form an opinion; that is, a belief – in God or in No God. I show that the practical benefits of believing in God will for many, as for me, greatly outweigh the benefits of believing in No God (atheism). Since neither of us knows who’s right or wrong, the effect of a belief on our mind and character – on our happiness, optimism about life and death, and power to cope with adversity -- should help determine what we hold as true. Pragmatic considerations favor Pure Theism over atheism.
Though I don’t argue for Christianity, the account I give of my own conversion in Part Three, the account of my mother’s death in Part Four, and the ultra-compressed Life of Christ (900-words) with which I end the book (“How an Agnostic Sees Christ and His Mission”) are an unobtrusive Christian witness. In this muted form it will not offend the atheist reader, is more effective than a frontal attack would be -- and it proves to Christians I am one of them.
Now I suggest you click on The Believing Agnostic page to see what my new book contains and how it's structured and to read some excerpts. It is a singular blend of argument and story. Part One is pure argument. Part Two is pure narrative. Part Three is an interweaving of argument and story. I describe my own periods of darkness and moments of illumination. Then I dramatize and debate the problem of evil in a courtroom scene with God as defendant (“A Trial for the Ages”).
The very brief Part Four narrates a believer’s last days and hours of life -- a story of faith grappling with the problem of evil in the form of disintegrating health, chronic pain, and death. Part Five How an Agnostic Sees Christ and His Mission/ A Profile: His Life in 900 Words shows how one who is philosophically agnostic yet passionately Christian sees the life and mission of Christ.