(My local newspaper column)
Sunday evening saw the first of a three part series "Is there anyone out there?" in which Anna Nolan looks at the state of spirituality in Ireland.
Taking to the streets of Limerick she asked if Irish people believe God really exists. One bookie was so certain that God doesn't exist that he offered odds of a million to one! He isn't the only one that is fairly sure that God either doesn't exist or is irrelevant. I remember seeing a leaflet some time back that claimed that 140,000 Irish people claimed to be atheists or non-religious, that's roughly the size of a county.
I always find it interesting that these programs are often made more for entertainment than for any serious purpose. They play with serious themes, but only succeed in trivialising them. Seldom do you see anyone interviewed that has something substantial or convincing to say. Those who do believe are often made to look foolish. It is made to look as if there is no evidence at all for God, whereas it more likely simply reflects the producer's bias - they didn't want to deal with anyone who had something coherent and rational to say.
The most direct proof for the existence of God is Jesus Christ. His existence is a historical fact. The facts of his life and the historical reliability of the gospels have yet to be seriously challenged, despite the efforts of popular writers such as Dan Browne in his "The DaVinci Code" (More of which in a later article). Jesus' claims to be God the Son, are well documented. His death is a historical fact. The evidence that he rose from the dead has proved to be a rock on which many serious-thinking atheists have floundered. That leaves us with a choice, in the words of Irish author CS Lewis:
"I'm trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice: either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool; you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Perhaps a more significant question to ask is not, "Do Irish people believe in God?", but "Does God believe in Irish people?". Because, after all, we can sit with our head in a bucket and believe that it is nighttime, but that doesn't change reality one bit. If God exists then no amount of hiding will change that.
Mark Loughridge is the minister of Milford Reformed Presbyterian Church and Letterkenny New Life Fellowship.