Believers or Atheists: Who Has it Right?

07/19/2016 05:26 am ET Updated Nov 02, 2017

I had this dream once that I only had 2 days left to live and I was hysterically crying because I was so terrified by the idea of death. What if I just ceased to exist? How can you go from something to nothing? I woke up in a terrible sweat, the bedroom felt claustrophobic and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I had so many questions swimming around my head.

Jan Veldman

Recently a friend of mine posted on Facebook about being an atheist. Her co-workers were discussing religion and how awful it is that someone would not believe in God. I have no problem with atheists, nor does it bother me what other people believe, but it got me thinking. Why do people who believe in God have such a problem with atheism?

I thought about my own feelings on the subject, and realized atheism scares me. What if atheists are right and I’m wrong? What if there really is no God? I think atheists scare people who believe in God because we all have that same small fear; what if we’re wrong? There is no way to know for sure, all we have is faith, hence the fear of death.

In 2015, Associated Press reported on an auction selling letters written by Albert Einstein. In one of those letters, Einstein was quoted as saying,

“You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist. ... I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

As a kid I would stare up at the stars at night thinking they seemed so close. I wanted to know everything about the universe and I wanted all the answers. When I grew up and met the man I fell in love with, it felt like some higher power brought us together; all the unique circumstances that led to us meeting worked out so perfectly, as if we were being guided.

I myself believe in a higher power, a universe that has my back, but I don’t believe in everything the bible says or everything I heard at church growing up. We all have such unique beliefs that form the foundations of our lives. There are religions in which women cover their heads and sometimes their faces, religions in which people cannot dance, and religions in which people cannot use birth control. We live our lives in the best way we can, taking a gamble with the information we have.

I asked my friend who posted the Facebook status about atheism a couple of questions. I wanted to know if she had always been an atheist or when she realized she was one, and what reactions she gets from people who believe in God.

“I was always an atheist and I never believed in God or life after death; I believe in science, technology, etc. People don’t say anything to me, but they get upset. I have nothing against religious people unless they try to push it on me.”

Atheists and believers are not as different as we would like to believe. We are all ignorant to the true powers of the universe, and none of use will ever know for sure what happens after death until that last trip into the unknown.

I remember watching a documentary about Stephen Hawking and his thoughts on God; it scared me so much I had to turn it off. He is one of the worlds best known atheists and has been quite outspoken about his beliefs on the subject. One thing Hawking and I can agree on is the fact that we should all continue to ask questions about our existence, and what will happen after death. He is quoted as saying,

“It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space, the universe and philosophy of our existence, our purpose, our final destination. Its a crazy world out there. Be curious.”

Rather than reacting with fear or anger, atheists and believers in God could learn a lot from each other, and dare I say it, even work together to answer some of the questions we all have about our place in the universe and where we may be going after death.

Sarah Veldman (Daggett) is a freelance writer. You can view more of her work at sarahveldman.com.

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