Problem-Solving and Things

They say there is a sweet spot where passion meets purpose. That is one of those things I just kinda hope is true.

The end of high school all the way through college is a whole period of trying to figure out what this looks like. I moved to Chattanooga two weeks out of college to stay with my sister for the summer because I knew I’d be miserable if I stayed with my parents in our small town where I’d have to drive at least an hour for any decent job interviews. My other sister did that, but I don’t have the kind of patience she possesses. I chose to run away.

When I first moved to Chattanooga, I spent a month volunteer tutoring at a Christian facility for teens from broken homes (family member in jail, terminally ill, etc.). I was still hanging on by a thread as a Christian at the time, and there was one 15-year-old teen who very quickly decided to trust me and pulled me aside one day to tell me the kind of insane responsibilities she has because her parents are deadbeats. She was crying and saying that she knows God is looking out for her. Even then, I knew I couldn’t echo that promise to her. I didn’t pray with her. I didn’t tell her God works everything out for the good of those who love him. I hugged her and let her cry. I told her she’s strong, because she is. I told her that I believe in the power of her will to make things right in her family, because I do.

I’m not really a sappy person, but that was a sappy little story. It’s also the story that intersects my “old” (Christian) and “new” (atheist) self. I passionately love people just as much now as I did before and during my transition. Being a Christian never held that passion for me. I didn’t love because Christ first loved. I love because it’s all I know to do.

I lost my faith because I didn’t see how it was necessary. It filled no hole in my life. Holes were implanted from childhood, of course. I was told that my life only has meaning because of my Creator, and anything I do that isn’t done for God is only done in vain. Those ideas were fed to me, but they were ideas that I was eventually able to see as not wholly merited. It’s very odd to go from a formulaic existence to an ambiguous existence. I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know where reason and logic really came from. I don’t know why I love other people.

I just do. In college, I would think, “My passion is people. Why am I doing math?” Since starting my job in marketing analysis, I’ve figured out why I did math. I really love problem-solving. The challenge I face now is finding a place where I can solve problems that benefits people in the ways that are purposeful for me. Taking away the extraneous factor of listening for my “calling” has, oddly enough, made me more open to my options. I wouldn’t have thought God was calling me to marketing analysis.

This post is lacking focus a bit. What I really want is to find the words to explain how much better life is without God, but that’s difficult. When I find those words, I’ll post them.

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Conceivable Perspectives on Atheism

I’ve come to practically eat, drink, and breathe nonbelief. Still apathetic to political persuasions, I continue to fixate more and more on the nuances of religious belief. Religion, politics, and other constructs of categorization and preference are all matters of belief. In a way, they’re all the same. The shedding of my Christianity, however, feels like shedding an entire layer of skin. I look the same underneath, but those actual pieces of what I was are gone. I want others to know that, and I want to know that as well. Instead of leaving the shell of myself in the yard, I’d rather dissect it, no matter how thin and useless it may appear now.

A piece of what I’ve carried with me from my Christian faith is seeing that we’re all the same. I don’t see us as the same in our sinfulness and rebellion to the Lord, but I do see us the same in our human form. I see the sameness scientifically and spiritually. None of these things I see have to do with good and evil, right and wrong. It’s not important to me that religion be destroyed, but it is important to let others know that belief is belief. The consequences of belief itself are only seen in sensory manifestations. There is nothing about any particular faith that necessarily demonstrates any of them as true beliefs, and this is an important distinction to make.

I don’t see God changing hearts. I see people learning and growing organically, evolutionarily.

This is why I’m very much the same as an atheist as I was as a Christian. The difference is that I now understand the nature of my willpower in a different light. I still make decisions that benefit both my community and myself. I still make sacrifices when I see them as necessary. I still don’t think I’m the most important person ever, even if I do act that way sometimes. What I want to understand from Christians is why it’s important that I see all of these things in light of a Creator God. I want to understand what could possibly necessarily demonstrate that I need a Savior. Yeah, I’m fallible and go through intensely weak periods of life, but the help I find during those moments happen through community and psychological methods. Prayer and meditation are psychological methods.

I wish there was a way to present my beliefs and my case without it seeming like I’m so against God. I’m not, but a distinction needs to be made. We can be good without believing in God even if God is there. Life makes sense without God, and life can be wonderful without God (and it can be even better than a life with God, as is the case for me).

Maybe some people just need to see that the big picture is bigger than they conceive. Perhaps there is a picture that may include God but is not limited to God. I don’t see this as a hateful statement, but rather a more conceivable one.


I Say Never

What probably keeps my family calm and collected about my loss of salvation is the hope that I can reach true salvation one day, Lord-willing. My one major restraint has been not telling them how strongly I feel like I will never be a Christian again. I’m sure they believe God is far more powerful than my obstinacy, but I feel so close to fully confident in saying neverAbsolutely not ever again. Never.

It goes along with how things can’t be unseen, which is a funny comparison considering how faith is certainty in things unseen. So confusing!

The way I lost my faith was a mere matter of backing up. I should start saying that. “Hey, how’d you lose your faith?” “Oh, I just kept backing up and eventually my faith got lost in the big picture.” It’s a perfect illustration. You see, faith is selfish. This is not an accusation where I say, “I’m not selfish–religious people are.” No, I’m selfish, too, but I don’t pretend like there are things I can possibly do that aren’t selfish. Selfishness is not a sin. It is necessary. There are things we do that are more selfish and things that are less selfish, but everything is derived from a selfish intent, even if it’s the satisfaction of doing something good for someone else. That satisfaction is selfish, but it’s not a bad thing.

But anyway, back to how my faith got lost in the big picture. I am a selfish person, yes, and my faith in God was very selfish. I looked for all the ways it could bring me peace and satisfaction. Christians do this under the guise of saying satisfaction in the Holy Spirit is honoring to God, not honoring to man. You can twist it however you want but when it comes down to it, it makes you happy, and you want to be happy. It’s hard to question that sort of faith when it brings such deep satisfaction, which is why it’s marvelous for Christians when doubt finally leads to “humble” repentance. Christians were all for my doubts there for a while, but when the doubts got too doubt-y, they were no longer edifying or acceptable. Once I started observing the world from other perspectives, non-Christian perspectives, I’d gone too deep. And it’s true, there was no going back once I’d stepped back too far. I see faith for what it is and how it works. I’ve drawn the parallels of faith between different religions and different gods. As far as I can tell, it all looks the same. Someone would be hard-pressed to prove to me that one of those gods is real and the others aren’t. They all fill the same role in different lives. Scientifically, without confirmation bias, the whole personal god thing fails. It’s all conjecture built on personal transcendental experiences. Despite the Christian arguments for absolute truth, there is no evidence to substantiate a claim that BibleGod is absolute truth.

Perhaps saying I don’t think I’ll ever believe in God again is a bit of a bold statement, perhaps not totally founded, and maybe I just really don’t want to believe in God again (I do want to believe in God if God is real). The fact of the matter is, I’ve seen too much. I don’t usually blog about these matters with such confidence. I feel a little vulnerable writing all of this, but that’s okay. I might be wrong. Maybe one day I’ll confusedly worship a god again.


I Don’t Need The Answers

“I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love’s not impersonal yet not wholly subjective either. I would like to be everyone, a cripple, a dying man, a whore, and then come back to write about my thoughts, my emotions, as that person. But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with objective curiosity all the time.” -Sylvia Plath

I don’t consider myself a writer, but I share this curiosity/love for people. Seeing through the eyes of others sparked the serious level of doubting I encountered that destroyed my faith in the God(s) of the Bible. It’s also why explaining why I don’t believe in God is so difficult and why I don’t feel like I need to explain it.

When I lost my faith, I knew I’d have some owning up to do. I braced myself for floods of questions from Christians and have answered them to the best of my ability. At this point, I’m over it. I don’t owe anyone an explanation for why I live my life the way I do, and I don’t want the judgment from people who are only asking me questions to find the weaknesses in my arguments so that they can insert their Christian apologetics into my train of thinking.

I know my arguments are weak. Some of them are probably terrible. But you know what? I don’t care! When you don’t believe in gods or an afterlife, you’re just kind of free from having to explain that kind of stuff. If I was a deist, I’d still not have anything to explain. Deism is a very loose, non-consequential belief. But once you start attributing qualities to a god, you’re put into a position of needing to justify those qualities. I don’t believe in god because I’ve never seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted god. I’m not sure what sort of sixth sense I’d have to use in order to encounter god, but whatever that sense is, it’s not been made known to me either. I had faith in god, but it was unfounded. I was born into it and taught all the right maneuvers for justifying it, but I found out it’s just as justifiable as any other belief in any other god. It flowed down from tradition and plopped into my brain. This is why I say seeing through the eyes of others can demolish faith. You see how viable other beliefs are and suddenly yours falls in line with the rest. Whatever I believe right now falls in line right along with the rest as well, which is why I don’t feel the need to justify it as the “right” belief.

I don’t know what’s right. I’m guessing we just spend our lives trying to figure that out, and in the meantime, I’m not comfortable promoting what I believe as right just in case it’s not.


Toe in the Water

There was a time when a separation from the world seemed right. From what I understood through Scripture, God treasured his people, which meant he treasured me. It was wholly within his character to hold me near and guide me through the difficulties of this world, those difficulties being a result of sin–human sin–my sin. I never truly felt the weight of my sin. Sure, I felt guilty when I did wrong things, but that is pretty natural. I’d apologize to God before apologizing to the person I wronged, and the burden sometimes lifted then, for sin is first and foremost against God. This is what a relationship with God looked like for me. I didn’t really fawn over God or speak about God in romantic, girly language. But I loved God, and I respected God. And most of all, I knew that God loved me.

College days were my separation from the world days. That was when I found peers who I really loved who also loved God, and my love for God started to become very real to me. The realer that love became and the more I found “true fellowship” with my Christian friends, the more aware I was of our special separation from the world. I was challenged by notions of evangelism and felt occasional guilt over how rarely I shared my faith with any non-Christian friends and acquaintances. My best friends were my Christian friends. I could expose my whole, true self to them, and I could talk theology with them for hours, knowing the conversation would flow from a deep, spiritual, sacred connection we had as believers. This was amazing. Shared spirituality was amazing. True fellowship was amazing.

What crept up on me was just how not amazing this all started looking when I realized the types of people I knew I couldn’t be close with. Gays, lesbians, hardcore partiers, and others who appear to be “living in sin”. I didn’t hate these people, and I was friends with them to an extent. But I wasn’t best friends with them. I didn’t share deep, spiritual connections with them, because they weren’t part of my sweet, fulfilling community. The notion of this eventually became a bit nagging. I realized that I held myself to a standard that I didn’t expect of “the world.” And very gradually, this started to seem wrong. Arrogant even.

I’ve titled this little reflection of mine, “Toe in the Water,” to pull that metaphor into how I perceive evangelical Christianity. When evangelicals look at and experience the world, they stick a toe in the water. Sometimes when they stick a toe in, they find the water either way too cold or way too hot and retreat. There is this constant forced separation because they were told that water that is too hot or too cold is not water to swim in. It is impure.

Ever since I did take that plunge, if you will, into the too hot/too cold water, I’ve found that it’s not really what I thought it was. I never thought the world was scary, but I knew that there was evil in it. No longer do I suspect that these are shark-infested waters. People are people, and I’ve discovered that I can make true human connections with Christians, non-Christians, partiers, gays, lesbians, and everyone with any sort of passion that reflects my own. I’ve found that when you’re passionate about Scripture, it’s sometimes harder to share passions with people of the world. But when you’re passionate about the world, love is more beautiful and more natural and more bountiful. The world is raw in a great way and more vibrant. Turns out the salvation experience didn’t happen for me when I was eleven like I thought it did. It happened when I turned twenty-three, and it continues as I’m going on twenty-four.


Tired

Simply tired. I’ve adopted a child’s mentality that not going to bed affords me more time for fun. The reality being that another day of <doing life> lays in wait upon my awakening. It’s not like I want to drag through my day half-awake tomorrow, but really it is like that. I’d rather be most alert at this moment when I’m reflecting, mulling, dwelling, existing. “Real life” is spreadsheets and deadlines and business models and initiative. Real life without the quotation marks, for me, flutters beyond offices, laptops, and words. I write here in an effort to catch a fleeting, meaningful thought and tack it down for internet archiving. This doesn’t amount to much ultimately, just like my spreadsheets. I find it hard to justify anything these days. Perhaps this is how someone like me might eventually cave into the God scheme.

I’m very tired of God, no God, and possibilities.
I’m tired of caring.
I fear I’m tiring of existence.


Jesus or Bust

Atheists are assholes like Christians and like Muslims and like a lot of other people. I’m having one of those “Oh, woe. I feel slain by the labels” days. All the while, I’m still annoyed by people longing to be free from labels. So basically I surreptitiously hate myself, which means I’m in a good place.

I think that if I went to therapy, I’d just want to figure out why the therapist is a therapist. That would be my greatest interest in that scenario. This must be why they call my type the “existentialist.” Yes, I am concerned with existence. You’re welcome.

What I may or may not like to know is whether Jesus should be my concern or if I should be concerned about Jesus being concerned about me. Phrasing it that way sounds like I am not sure whether to chase my own tail. I don’t have a tail. I’m not prepared for dizzying myself for the sake of dizziness, and I’m surely not prepared to cling to any meta-crosses, let alone carry them on my meta-back.

I should make it clear that I’m not questioning whether I should accept Jesus into my heart or brain or liver. I’m speaking as the absurdist, the one noting all of the weird tension and contradiction and confusing stuff and asking, “What do we make of this?” Probly just take it for what it is. It’s weird. I don’t need redemption from this weirdness, not because I’m awesome on my own but because I don’t see existence necessitating redemption. I’m laying on my couch listening to Kanye while typing this. If anyone needs redemption, it’s not me. It’s probably the people who are starving and being raped and murdered and tortured who need redemption right now. Yes, I think of redemption in physical terms, which strongly affects psychological terms. I believe in both and that there is more to a person than an intricate cell design. But I don’t think the “human condition” needs redemption. We do shitty stuff, and we do loving stuff. These things may or may not be balanced on the universe-level, but that doesn’t concern me. What concerns me is that I’m not sure what to be concerned about if anything at all. Maybe I should be concerned about life. But what of it?