The Atheist Problem... "In the Beginning"


I’ll say this right off: atheists have a lot of good points. I mean that. I can honestly see why people — young people in particular — are tempted to go down that road. In some ways it would make life so much easier to believe that we just transpired out of thin air. Poof! And here we are. Why? Doesn’t really matter.

No one would be atheist if the position didn’t make at least some sense. To a point, all of this religious stuff can seem a little far-fetched. I mean, we can’t see God or anything supernatural, right? So let’s be honest with ourselves. Isn’t it more likely that it’s all just a made-up vision by non-thinking dolts who bypass the tough questions by telling fantastical stories to appease themselves?

If only…

It was my 8-year-old who prompted me to write about this today. He’s my thinker, and on the way to school the other morning he was contemplating life, and how illogical it would be for us to die without there being something more on the other side. He can’t conceive what some believe:  that — though we have always known life, known ourselves to be existing creatures — when our time comes to an end…the motion of our aliveness will stop. Forever.

To the limited mind, this is quite plausible. But to those who are able to let go of truth being defined only by what can be observed in a science lab, a whole new world of reality comes into view. Again, to a point, atheism can make sense. But go beyond that point and you’re lost. Just as well, go before that point, and again, you’re left shrugging your shoulders.

Now let me ask this: What sense does it make to start in the middle of things? I find the best way to be truly logical about anything is to start at the beginning, as C.S. Lewis does in Mere Christianity. If you’re looking for a sound, well-reasoned account for the existence of God, read Lewis (a recovered atheist). He brings us all the way back to the starting point. There’s conviction for you, there’s clarity, there’s deep-thinking. But starting in the middle? I’ll be blunt: it’s a cop-out. I know it, you know it, and my 8-year-old knows it.

When confronted with this most important question about the beginning of things, the well-informed atheist might say something along these lines: “Well, yeah, we really don’t know how all this came to be. Someday we might, but for now, we’ll just skip on over that question. It’s not that important.”

The well-informed (and, arguably, well-intending) atheist also will be quick to point at the believer as one who uses God as an excuse for whatever doesn’t make sense. God of the Gaps, I believe they call it. And yet whenever I’ve asked atheists about when and how this world began, I’ve been admonished to my room for a time-out. Or perhaps it’s closer to being met with the child who puts her hands over her ears when she doesn’t want to hear something true and shrieks, “Lalalalala!!!” really loudly.

My main intent here is not merely to point out the errors of the atheist’s way of thinking. As I said earlier, I can see how atheism can be attractive to some. It’s got to be so much easier to believe in oneself rather than a Being whose mind is above and beyond our comprehension; to place hands on ears whenever the subject of God comes up rather than confront the uncomfortable reality that there is a purpose to this life — and only a short amount of time to make good on the reason we’re here.

What I want most to do is to affirm the Christian readers who have found their way to this post, to remind you that you are far from illogical in what you believe. And if ever you should doubt yourself (as we humans are inclined to do), just go back to the beginning and ask yourself the kinds of questions my young son did. “If things are and always have been in motion, are always moving forward, what was it that set them in motion, and why?”
There’s the point at which you once again find God — the supreme craftsman who designed you with intention, will love you through the best and worst of times on this earth, and gladly welcome you into the next.

The Christian has been accused time and again of not asking the tough questions. I’d say it’s the atheist who has been in error in giving up too soon, of fleeing just as things become the most critical.

At the very least, let’s be fair about where the conversation needs to begin. Jumping in the middle won’t do. It’s only in starting at the beginning, as God does in Scripture, that we can begin to weave our way through life’s most compelling questions with integrity. 

Q4U: What has helped you rediscover the face of God?

Copyright 2011 Roxane Salonen


About Author

Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, N.D., is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer who also enjoys Catholic radio hosting and speaking. Roxane co-authored former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino’s memoir, Redeemed by Grace. Her work is featured on "Peace Garden Passage" at her website,


  1. You’re welcome, Sarah. Thanks for letting me know. I awoke this morning to a comment from an atheist on a blog where I post my Friday columns in duplication. As you might imagine, she took issue with it, but I respect that she took time to share her thoughts. I know it is a process, and that one event in life leads to another, and before you know it, you’re either on the path of belief, or non-belief. I am so very happy that I found my way onto the path of light, and that you are on it with me. We can always pray for our atheist brothers and sisters that someday, they will stumble upon the God of Love, too. He’s worth searching out, wouldn’t you say? 🙂

  2. Jennifer Schexnaydre on

    Just looking at nature rediscovers the face of God for me. I went camping with the scouts this past weekend. Lots of tents in the middle of a big field. In the middle of chaos with little boys running around a big campfire, I look up and see the most amazing sky full of stars. It was beautiful. And the next morning very early, just as the sun was rising, seeing the sun just peek it’s face out from behind the trees was truly awesome. Definitely the face of God!

  3. It is awesome how things come into perspective through nature. I love looking at the sky when cloud formations and colors are especially vibrant. I see it as a painting God made to remind of me His presence. 🙂 Beautiful thoughts; thanks Jennifer!

  4. Thank you for your article. I am a devout Catholic mom of three boys and 20, 16 and 13. The 16 y.o. just told me he doesn’t believe in Jesus and it all doesn’t make sense to him so he doesn’t see the point in going to church anymore even though he was just confirmed last fall. This was all unexpected and a shock to me. My experience in my spiritual journey has given me many graces and blessings, and I know it’s because my heart is open to God and He allows these things. My heart is so sad because I am afraid he has closed his heart to God’s grace. I cannot command him to believe and most of all do not want to alienate him from me or the Church forever. I was able to talk calmly with him to ask why, for which he couldn’t really tell me or didn’t want to tell me. He did agree to go to church with the family until he’s done with high school so as to not negatively influence his younger brother. I should mention that my oldest son also doesn’t care to attend church anymore. He also hasn’t told me why. He was the one that was an altar server for 10 years and encouraged me to lead the altar server ministry with his help. He would serve Masses often times, twice on the weekends. Now, he won’t go at all. I am a devasted, heart broken mom and feel like I have failed. My desire and prayer has always been to lead more souls to Jesus. This past spring, I became confirmation sponsor to a lovely 15 year old girl and godmother to a 5 year old who wanted to come to church with me which is the highlight of my year but I cry at the thought that somehow my own boys have been led away and I just can’t understand it. I am just looking for a bit of support as I deal with this.

  5. Roxane B. Salonen on

    Christine, this is one for the email inbox. I’m heading over there now! God is with us; take heart.

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