I know that one can control their being an atheist more than they could control being gay. We don’t have any control over our sexual orientation. But the control that we have over what we believe is more complex than “none at all”. In my opinion, I can control what I read and what information and arguments I choose to expose myself to. I can deliberate on what makes the most sense, or if I see some sense in both sides of an argument, I will usually choose to dig deeper on the topic until I find a more concrete answer. What I can’t control is what conclusion I come to.
Take, for example, the kalam argument. Christian apologists love this classic argument from a first mover: “Everything that has a beginning has a cause. The universe had a beginning, so it has a cause. That cause is God. God never had a beginning, so he doesn’t need a cause.” I suppose it’s my choice to take that progression of presupposed facts as they are and agree that an uncaused God must be the prime mover of the big bang. But I can’t help but not be satisfied in this deft wordplay that keeps this assumedly eternal god exempt from scrutiny. I automatically ask, “How do you know that God doesn’t have a beginning or need a cause? How do you know that he’s the end to the infinite regress of events any more than the big bang is?”
The most common response that I’ve seen to this is, “Well, he’s an eternal being. Infinite, uncaused existence and unlimited power are intrinsic parts of his nature.” Well, apologist, skepticism is an intrinsic part of my nature, and I can’t force myself to find your answer satisfactory. And until I get a better answer, or demonstrable evidence that a god, specifically the Christian god, more specifically the god of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, is actually eternal, uncaused, and omnipotent, I can’t not be an atheist. And I have so many other questions that religion has never answered for me, and not only this one, but all of them, would have to be completely answered before I could ever convert. I can’t just google “How to believe in God” and follow the WikiHow instructions. So I hope that no one is holding their breath waiting for me to change.