Rev. Dr. Clay Smith: Reasons not to believe


When people say they do not believe in God, they have a reason. They may not have thought very much about the reason, but a subconscious reason is still a reason.

Sometimes, the reason is hurt. They expected God to do something, and they were disappointed. They prayed for healing, but there was death. They expected God to resolve a relationship, but the relationship broke. The hurt of unmet expectations turned them away.

Sometimes, the reason people don't believe is they want to do something they think God won't approve of. The easiest way to deal with God's disapproval is to stop believing. A kid grows up in church, participates in the student ministry, then goes off to college or joins the military. A new lifestyle presents itself. It looks fun and carefree. The kid decides the church people were wrong. There is no god, so that means the new lifestyle can be embraced. You get to do what you want to do if there is no god.

Sometimes, the reason people don't believe in God has to do with unexplained suffering. When Steve Jobs was a child, he asked a pastor to explain why God would allow a child to starve in Africa. The pastor couldn't answer the question, and Steve Jobs began to doubt. If God is good, why is there so much suffering in the world? The suffering can be more personal. You lose a parent or a child, and you wonder how God could allow such tragedy. Why does God allow something to happen that causes so much pain for you?

Sometimes, the reason people don't believe in God is because, intellectually, they can't reconcile God with existence as they understand it. Evolution, on its face, seems to make more sense than God speaking the world into being in six days. Stories in the Bible fly in the face of logic and reason, or so it seems. God seems to be an ancient myth unsophisticated people embraced to explain the unexplainable.

Sometimes, the reason people don't believe in God is because they are angry. Neglected or abused as children, they conclude there can't be a god. Angry at their dysfunctional families or parents, they rebel against any authority, including God. Anger gets tied to other reasons people don't believe in God. If you feel God hurt you, you get angry and decide God must not exist.

Sometimes, the reason people don't believe in God is because they once did believe. They were choked by the rules and regulations of religion, the certainty of dogma that left no room for doubt. The hypocrisy of those who said they believed but lived differently introduced a cynical acid to their faith. Often, another god - logic - presented itself. More predictable and orderly, it became a more attractive path of faith.

Sometimes, the reason people don't believe in God is because they haven't really thought about it. Something else occupies their mind: success, money, pleasure, family. Often, people will label themselves as "agnostic," but they functionally live as if there is no god.

Confession: Some of these reasons make sense to me. Sometimes, it would be nice to believe there is no god. No rules to follow, no intellectual rigor to fight for and no more stupid battles over things in church that don't matter. If you believe life is a product of random evolution and, thus, there is no god, then you get to make your own rules.

But I can't make that leap. Each of the reasons not to believe also requires faith. It takes faith to believe that a sophisticated human body evolved without someone guiding the process. To not believe in God because of your hurt means you place your faith in your pain. To not believe in God because you are angry with God might make sense emotionally but not logically. How can you be mad at someone you don't believe exists? To not believe in God because you want to live the way you want to live really means you have faith in yourself and your own ability to make moral judgments.

So why do I believe? There is too much order in the universe to be random. There has been too much grace poured into my life to be accidental. I've felt the grace, forgiveness and peace of God in my own soul. I've seen too many lives changed by Jesus to believe He is just a myth.

As much as there may be reasons not to believe, there are also reasons to believe. To be honest with yourself means you must consider those as well. Consider this: There is a God who loves you so much he will not force you to believe. He gives you the privilege of denying his existence.

Before you say you don't believe, you might want to consider some reasons to believe. Those reasons might change your life.

The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter. Email him at