3/24/16 Amadeus about 30
I began a sidewalk outreach conversation with a man named Amadeus by asking for his opinion on life after death. He was quick to tell me he is an atheist so he believes that once we die, well, lights out. It might seem like at that point in an outreach conversation there is nothing else that can be said, but there is much more to a person than such a simple answer. Has he always believed this? Did he have any sort of religious upbringing? Was there a significant event that brought him to this conclusion?
These questions and many more helped me to get a picture of why Amadeus claims atheism. Such a worldview is founded on some basic presupposition, and if I could get to the heart of his beliefs, maybe some progress might be made. Besides being atheist, Amadeus is gay, and said his strict Catholic parents simply couldn't accept this. He felt abandoned by his devout but distracted father. This and a molestation incident of his sister by an uncle and defended by his parents also served to give him reason to be atheist.
But is this the foundation of his disbelief in God? We talked about many things, including the bad behavior of so-called Christians and relatively good behavior of non-believers, difficulties with the inspired nature of the Bible and miracles, and his belief in the general goodness of people and blaming society, religion or government for the evil that occurs. All the while we talked it seemed like Amadeus was very thoughtful and introspective, possibly figuring things out about himself that he hadn't really considered before.
It wasn't until I brought things all the way back to Genesis that I felt like I was seeing the foundation upon which all his belief and lack of belief rested. I asked him to consider if Genesis was true and God really is the ultimate Creator of all, would he be willing to worship and obey Him? Amadeus thought about this a while, and I felt like he was really giving me an honest answer. "No, I would not" he said. He rejects God's basic right to be God, and his own purpose as a part of creation to exist for God's purposes.
I believe it can be important for someone like Amadeus to put aside all the excuses, all the blame on other people and circumstances, and at least simply admit that the root cause of his estrangement from God is his own self-centered pride. He heard himself say as much, and by exposing this very basic foundational belief, I have to believe progress was made.