As I write this, my dad is having bypass surgery to open a few narrowing arteries in his heart. He had a mild heart attack the day before Easter and since then, I’ve had my first experience as an atheist listening to excessive amounts of “praying for you” and “God is in control” types of sentiments being tossed about. I’m far enough along in my recovery from deconversion that these things don’t really bother me, but my different perspective now is still so stark.
Two days ago, I observed my 93-year-old great-grandfather feebly lean over toward my father and promise him that the Lord will keep him stable during surgery. For the first time, my great-grandfather sounded like a small child. I hear supernatural assurances and imagine children awed by the wand of a magician.
It was kind of cute, actually. I hope it’s not too condescending to think that faith in God is just a little precious.
I’ve been part of some groups lately full of both ex-Christians and questioning Christians and people who are generally fed up with Christian culture and/or Christian faith. A big theme as of late has been how many of these people lost so many of their close Christian friends once they started asking “too many questions.” What I’m not sure Christians realize is how bad this really makes them look. I imagine from the Christian perspective, some of them feel betrayed by people who leave the faith. Others probably take the “unequally yoked” thing to heart and decide it’s best to gain some distance from those people. Others probably just don’t know what to do, so they don’t do anything at all.
There’s nothing in the Bible that speaks to how you should treat people who have really honestly considered the veracity of Scripture, lived it for a while, and for some reason or another found that it probably isn’t true. Those of us who have been on this journey have come by our non-belief honestly. I don’t hate God. I don’t insist on not believing in God. I simply don’t know how to believe in God at this point. I do wonder how there could be a God who would have just watched me on my honest journey and didn’t think it necessary to guide me toward him. Perhaps believing in God isn’t all that important to God after all?
When I try to explain all of this to some Christians, they really can’t get it. I get a lot of blank looks. Preachers tell them from the pulpit that every single person is depraved and rebellious to God, so this is the only way they know how to see me. I can tell them that I am being honest and that I am not rebelling from what I think is true, and they really just can’t get that. For this reason, a lot of Christians don’t talk to me anymore. Honestly, I don’t even know how to talk to many of them either. What do I say to someone who is convinced that love is solidly founded in God, and I’ve recently come to my own realization that this is not actually true? There’s just kind of this inevitable divide. I can reach out to these friends, and we can mutually say we care about each other still. However, we can’t go to the levels we did before, and I’ve always been such a deep conversationalist that it would just be weird of me not to talk about consequential things with them.
I lost my faith because I took it so seriously. How do I tell that to a good Christian friend? How can that possibly not sound offensive and/or concerning to this friend? My loss of faith has been a celebration of freedom for me, but it is a mourning for these friends. It makes sense why we can’t talk anymore, and it makes sense why some actually refuse to talk.
Jesus never told his followers to rejoice with those who lose their faith. I’m looking for those who can love and embrace my discoveries. Those people are not Christians.
I hate Christian apologetics. Not because I find it challenging and therefore frustrating, but because I find it absurd and therefore frustrating. Christian apologetics insists that since we make arguments from a reason based in faith, that faith MUST be the Christian faith, which has not been proven. However, the atheist only says that we don’t know what the source of reason is or if there is a “source” at all. Intellectual honesty is admitting that we don’t know that. Sure, I have faith in the capabilities of my reason to bring me to understandings of truth, but this is grounded in a demonstration of my reason forming an understanding of a shared reality I have with fellow human beings. This is vastly different from having faith in one of the many proposed supernatural figures. Atheism starts with what appeals to our physical senses. Religion starts with something that is hypothesized and can’t be tested. I was so blind to this before.