A common response among Christians who encounter atheists or skeptics is to ask, “I wonder who hurt them that they would reject God?” This thought reveals a basic assumption that only trauma could possibly be the cause of unbelief. And certainly, some people who have experienced trauma have forsaken belief in God because they felt abandoned by God, or could not reconcile their suffering with an all-powerful, all-loving God.
The root cause of atheism and skepticism, however, is rebellion, not hurt. Romans 1:18 reminds us that the unbeliever knows God’s holiness and his own guilt, and in response chooses to suppress the truth of God he knows. Trauma may play a part in rejection of God, but it also drives many people to God, not away.
Many people, having encountered signifiant trauma, have sought explanations for what they have experienced. They try to make sense of the evil or pain they have experienced, and find in Jesus Christ one who was innocent, yet voluntarily suffered the greatest evil and suffered the righteous wrath of God against sin on our behalf. They find in Christ one who can comfort them in their suffering, and who gives them hope of restoration of all that has been broken.
Those who turn to God in suffering often intuitively know that if God does not exist there can be no meaning in their suffering, there will be no justice brought to evildoers, and sorting out their lives in light of the suffering is entirely up to them. What a hopeless state!
When encountering skeptics and atheists, therefore, ask questions to discover how she is suppressing truth, not why. The why has been explained for us in Scripture as rebellion–not wanting God to be real, Christianity to be true, their sin to render them guilty, Christ to be the only way, and future judgment just around the corner. The how happens in a thousand ways and is the key to challenging them with the truths of the gospel.