"Finding an Unseen God: Reflections of a Former Atheist" by Alicia Britt Chole

"There is only one reasonable response when a God—whose reality you have denied—pursues you."
You could have guessed that someone could write a book with a subtitle like "Reflections of a Former Atheist" any number of ways. One way might be sappy and clichéd. A second might be polemic and combative. Another might be condescending, or glib, or sardonic. But you might not have guessed that, instead, this book would be refreshing, gripping, and original. Or how about artful and intelligent? Whether she knows it or not, Alicia Britt Chole has given us a glimpse at what a masterful writer can do with a difficult subject and a dichotomous audience. Reasonable Theists and Atheists alike can appreciate this little book's big presence.

From the moment I opened the Table of Contents (Literally. Have a look.), I knew "Finding an Unseen God" was going to be an interesting read. And it was. The book alternates between two threads: her reasons for her now "former Atheist" status, and the story behind it all—going back to the beginning of her childhood. The net: you begin to feel that you know this young Atheist, you understand (if not accept) her reasons for being an Atheist, and you understand (if not accept) why she can now say that she not only believes that God exists, but believes in Him, as well.

Through the weaving reason and experience, Alicia confesses why her belief does not mean for her intellectual high treason and why Atheism can mean intellectual integrity.

Atheists will find the Christian Chole respectful, level-headed, and even partially affirmative. She says,
"Some would say that the Atheist disbelieves too quickly. Perhaps. But then, perhaps some Theists believe too easily.... Atheism still makes sense to me and I am delighted whenever I meet a practicing Atheist. No doubt my past biases me, but I find Atheists to be thoughtful, intelligent, concerned about the world, and grounded in reality."
Theists will find the former-Atheist Chole challenging, inspiring, and even tonic.
"...not having grown up in this faith, I had very few preconceptions of what followers of Jesus did and did not do. No doubt, more than a few were puzzled by the dissonance between my clearly earnest faith and still-in-formation theology. But the close-to-blank slate gave me the freedom to focus on simply knowing God as opposed to worrying about if it looked like I knew God."
"Finding an Unseen God" not only traces the course and pulse of Alicia's life, believing and unbelieving, it provides sound reasoning for integrity in the dialog between Theists and Atheists. Atheists can sometimes be heard demanding of believers of any kind, "Prove to me the existence of deity." Theists often reply with the regretful explanation that God's existence cannot be proven empirically. Alicia comments,
"When the tables are turned, however, I think the honest Atheist might say, 'But God's non-existence cannot with finality be proven.' I agree. Why, then, is it considered ethical to ask the Theist to absolutely prove what the Atheist knows cannot be absolutely disproven? Theists are challenged to do the impossible, and then their failure is entered as evidence that their beliefs are misplaced.
"This is not a cry for mercy. It is a cry for integrity in the discussion."
Chole does not ask Atheists to consider an easy, ignorant Theism. Instead, she describes a God who isn't afraid of being questioned:
"What a relief it was for me to discover that this continual questioning did not make God nervous. Interrogatives do not irritate God. Emotionally charged query does not shut God down. Over the past quarter century I have come to the conclusion that God is, after all, rather secure."
"Believing" she says, "does not mean that you will no longer have questions.
"Believing does not mean that you will turn off your brain.
"Believing does not mean that you will enter into a relationship with God in which you can bribe him to do your will.
"Believing does not mean that you will live in denial about real, raw life."
She describes a God who pursues personal relationship and who loves indiscriminately.
"When this pursuing Presence caught up with me, it did not crush me with anger or cause me to cower in the corner with shame.... love itself was redefined. God's love had a backbone. God's love was strong and volitional: a trust-inducing blend of unreserved devotion, full knowledge, and acceptance so lavish, so complete, that it was healing.
"The one reasonable response? Surrender.
"God was. My worldview was irreparably altered....
"It was true that God's existence would change everything. But I had never intentionally lied to myself before, and I was not going to start then."
Though more directly written with Atheists and Christians in mind, whatever your conviction, "Finding an Unseen God: Reflections of a Former Atheist" is a very appreciable read, one I personally found both fun and stimulating. And at 164 pages and interwoven with very well-written biographical story, it's a breeze to be sure. This is a book I'm proud to have on my shelf.

"Finding an Unseen God: Reflections of a Former Atheist" by Alicia Britt Chole


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