Metropolitan Antonios of Suroj
Go home and ask yourself when you felt for the first time the need that God would not exist!
Sometimes the man becomes faithless because this is his only shield against his conscience. It has just come into my mind the tale of a very intelligent, refined and cultivated priest from Paris. Once he had been an atheist, meaning he lived without God and he considered himself too much elevated and intelligent to allow himself think about his return to faith. He discussed about that with a priest.
The priest being from a village, without too many special studies and who emigrated from Russia, after listening to him for a long time, told him two things: First of all Sascha, it’s not so important that you don’t believe in God, nothing can happen to Him because of this, but what’s amazing is that God believes in you. And the other one: You, Sascha, go home and think about the time when you lost your faith, when you felt the need that God would not exist?
Sascha came home and thought about that. He was puzzled of such a presentation of his problem. He expected to hear a missionary speech or some recommendations to read certain treatises and got that instead of all. He didn’t understand a thing. And he searched, as he later confessed, for the causes first in the knowledge he had got at the Faculty of Theology from Paris then in the pre revolutionary period from the university in Russia and somewhere else and he couldn’t find anything at all till he remembered the time when he was six years old. He was living in a town from Russia, he was a nice boy, used to go to the church on every Sunday and he was considered a pious boy: he entered, made the sign of the Cross, stopped in the middle of the church and prayed to God. He received each Sunday a dime to give to the blind beggar from the entrance. He gave the dime and entered the church with the feeling that he had done a good deed paying attention to the blind man and he could stand peacefully before God.
Once before Christmas while walking with his mother through town, he discovered a shop where he saw a wonderful hobby-horse that cost only six dimes. He asked his mother to buy it for him but she refused and he returned home terribly upset. The next Sunday when he went to the church, while passing by the beggar thought that if he hadn’t given him that dime for six times he could have bought the horse. No sooner said than done.
He did so for four times and on the fifth he thought: if I took a dime from him then I would buy the horse two weeks beforehand. And he stole the dime from the blind man. Then entering the church felt that he could not stand before God anymore. What if God saw him? He went and hid in a corner of the church. His nanny brought him home and related everything to his parents who were shocked. When he was small he used to stand before God and now when he grew up, he became such an introvert, looking for a hidden place where he could be with God in silence and contemplation. His mother was rather optimistic!
Sascha felt that the situation was getting worse and he had to hide from God. Then at the university his older brother came to him full of atheistic knowledge and started to prove him that in fact God didn’t exist. And Sascha said: I clung to that idea. If there is no God, then it has no importance that I stole the dime and I didn’t give him the other five. That was the beginning of his atheism. The child received the teaching that God didn’t exist as if it were a safety belt against his qualms of conscience.