A Puritan’s Guide to Quieting Our ‘Inner Atheist’


Even the most spiritual people can struggle with doubts about God. But how do they overcome them?

I recently had a conversation with a college sophomore who’s been struggling with his faith. He is a Christian who wants to believe, he said, but there are many days when he wakes up doubting that there’s enough proof to justify belief in God’s existence.

I sympathized with the young man’s struggle because I’ve experienced it myself. Like me, he seems to be an intellectually-driven person who longs for logical reasons to believe—not inexplicit feelings or even experiential evidence.

So I asked him, “On days when you wake up feeling like an atheist, what particular doubts do you find most troubling?”

He said he was particularly bothered by the discrepancies in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection—they seemed too great to be harmonized or explained away. And if they could not be trusted, he thought, what reason did he have to believe in God at all?

I was taken aback by his answer because he seemed to have come to a much more extreme conclusion than his doubt warranted. Discrepancies in the gospel accounts are certainly troubling—but even if there were some conflicting accounts that could not be harmonized, would atheism be the only logical recourse?

And yet that’s often how these kinds of doubts work. Whenever some premise upon which we’ve relied is cut out from under us, we begin to worry that we can’t depend on that foundation—which can ultimately lead us to the conclusion that there is no good reason to believe.

At first, we think we can combat our intellectual doubts by ignoring them (which rarely works) or by focusing intensely on the specific questions we think are at the root of our doubt. But when we …

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