Instead of thinking about an eternity in heaven, do you ever think about the world our evolved species will be born into in just 1,000 years? The possibility of things that have yet to arrive but will almost surely arrive enthralls me. It grounds me to the reality of who/what I am right now. The furthest we’ve come is where we are today. The furthest we will go lays in wait. I think not about what’s in store for me in the future but what is in store for our descendants. I think of their needs, not mine; their strive for understanding, not mine; their bliss, not mine. That’s the reality of life as we can empirically understand it. I don’t lament it. I celebrate. When I look far into the future, I humbly imagine the things to come for them, not for me.
And I fully expect that they’ll do the same in succumbing to the unproven phenomenon of future and moving forward.
I call myself an Absurdist these days. For one, I really like the word “Absurdist,” and I especially like capitalizing it. It makes me feel like some sort of Metaphysical Magician, like my dendrites are juggling contradictory ideas at all times. That’s how my mind works–cyclically aware of where and how I am living for and against my convictions in seemingly infinite (but mathematically, finite) ways. People say having convictions and living by them is so honorable, but I just don’t fully resonate with that. I say flubbing or contradicting my conviction, noticing that, spotlighting that, and limply presenting that to the public is what says more about who I am both as a part of the humanity blob and as an individual mass of human.
*This is edited to preserve anonymity.
Something you said or posted a while ago has really stuck with me. I don’t really remember the context or when exactly it was (or even if it was you!), but it said something about why can’t you be a good person if you aren’t a Christian. Basically, I haven’t been to church for a while and I feel like a better person for it. I feel like I don’t have all the opportunities to be a “good” person like I did before, but I feel like when I get the chance to do things for people, it’s more genuine. I feel more like myself and I’m finding people who accept that and understand. I’m not at the point of telling people what I’m going through, I can’t even see myself doing that, but I want you to know that your posts make me less scared of what I’ve been feeling for a long time.
My last thought for right now: People who claim to be so “good” can be such bitches sometimes.
Here’s a thing I wrote but never sent to a friend several months ago.
It’s possible we’re not really friends anymore, but I’m honestly moving past posting definitive labels on what we are. It’s complicated—very, very complicated. I think it was always going to be that way. Just look at who we are. I know you’ve reflected on it, the nature of who we are individually and together. I’ve wondered since I stopped believing in God why it really is that we can’t talk to each other anymore. I know it’s not because you don’t care about me. It’s a matter of self-preservation, I suspect. Do you know that what I’m thinking is threatening? Are you concerned about what that could mean for you? It is possible to leave the embrace of God. I promise you it is. I know you don’t want that. To tell you the truth, I didn’t want it either. Sometimes I still want it all back. I think of how much more symbiotic our relationship could have been if I could have just been awed instead of confused by God. What would my awe have looked like? Would it have made us closer friends?
I wonder if you suspect how conflicted faith looks on someone like you from my eyes now. I think you want to believe that I’m okay without God, and, even scarier for you, I think you do believe this. You know I don’t need God. You must know. You saw the turmoil, only you saw that. It was such a terrible, vulnerable time that only you can fully understand. I feel as though I threw you away with it, as we are no longer in contact. The more I shed my faith, the more I seem to be shedding you. I hate how the two got so twisted together. If I’d known that was what was happening all along, I’d have thrown my faith away long ago to hold onto you. You were always so much better to me than the invisible God. I remember the night you told me to stop emulating your faith so much and learn how to emulate God. You said it like it was so easy. Why couldn’t I just get it? Why couldn’t I get beyond the comforting tangibility of your body?
Scarier still is that living by faith, exemplifying Christ–it was all a failure for you in our friendship. Seeing you try to live like Christ only made me feel conflicted in myself. I felt distanced from you as you had your increasingly intimate times with God. I felt distanced from God, watching you with him. I just wanted to feel as though God loved me as much as he seemed to love you.
I know that’s hard for you to swallow. Everything you ever believed about being a witness for Christ, showcasing Christ’s love, has been brought into question by the person you ended up becoming closest to. In an odd, indirect way, I completely betrayed everything important to you. I ripped this sense of purpose away. I destroyed everything you could have ever hoped our friendship would be. I don’t know how you cope with it now. I imagine you pray a lot, write a lot. You probably seek redemption a lot. I wish you’d see how strong you really are. I wish you understood that you’re doing all of this by yourself. You’re picking yourself up by your bootstraps, which no one else can do for you. I just wish you didn’t call that beautiful part of your willpower “God”. It’s so much more than “God”.
I just found my typed up testimony saved to my computer. I’d written it to apply for a leadership position at the Baptist Collegiate Ministries for my senior year of college, so it’s roughly two years old at this point. I figure I’ll post it here to freak all of you out who only know me as atheist Kate. Enjoy!
I remember crawling under the pews of my church when I was a child as my dad stood behind the pulpit delivering God’s message to a much more patient and attentive congregation. I remember my cousin Morgan coming to visit when I was around 8-years-old on a Sunday when we took communion, and I recall her confused face when the plates simply passed me by without me partaking. She could hardly believe I was not a Christian, but I shrugged it off. I remember when I did learn to sit still and would stare at the engraving upon the altar: “Do This In Remembrance of Me.” I remember not knowing how to read the first time I noticed it, but over time I gradually gained knowledge of each word’s pronunciation along with its meaning. I came to the point of understanding each word’s meaning but still being confounded by the entire command itself, so I shrugged that one off, too.
I shrugged a little less when I got to a Christian camp during the summer I turned 11. The news got out that I was not a born-again Christian like apparently every single other girl in my cabin. Thus, my counselors’ mission to save my soul commenced. I was pulled aside during pool time to “chat,” only to be given a tract with a very simplistic illustration of a changed life in Christ’s salvation. It’s not like I didn’t know what it meant to be a Christian. I got the gist of it, seeing as I did go to church and my father was a pastor. However, this was the first time that anyone really invited me into the body of believers. I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but I still didn’t quite get the importance. We all left that tract session with my counselors under the impression that I had just been saved. I knew, though, that nothing had changed but my growing curiosity.
Upon arriving home from that experience, my parents actually talked to me more about what it means that Christ died and rose again for us, and they told me that I can come to experience Christ’s love at any time if I can recognize my sin and my need to have Christ as my Savior from my sin. After doing some serious 10-year-old thinking on this, there came a day when I was sitting on the toilet and decided that was the time to pray to God and confess my sins. I do remember *feeling* the change at that point. I remember bouncing out the bathroom to tell my mother that, “It happened!” I had just flushed my sin down the toilet, and I’d never felt so free.
Shortly thereafter, I was baptized in my church by my father, but eventually the newbie Christian euphoria faded. I spent my subsequent years straight through my graduation from high school not pursuing a relationship with Christ, let alone gaining more knowledge of who Christ really is. To do “this” in remembrance of me was to nibble on a piece of bread and suck down a shot of grape juice. I am so taken aback now whenever I see middle schoolers and high schoolers truly living in faith. I didn’t get it back then.
So let’s fast-forward to now. I still don’t feel like I get it, but I learned that’s part of the importance of faith. God reveals himself in different ways to different people, and I’m slowly learning to see God in every moment and through other believers’ eyes. Finally, I understand that doing “this” is to do all things in remembrance of Christ, and I experience just how bad I am at trying to do this on my own. God doesn’t guarantee that we will ever fully “get it.” In fact, he assures us that His thoughts and His ways are not our thoughts or our ways. Consequently, God is our endless pursuit. To get a better understanding of my walk with Christ now, at this very moment, here’s my latest blog post:
“What does it mean to be in the presence to God?
What does it mean to *feel* the presence of God?
I spent the majority of my thinking and praying time this past weekend at Eagle Eyrie caught up in these two questions. Asking them to God feels a little strange–to think, “God, where are you?” when that question can really only *feel* like it’s being projected into thin air. Recently a girl I attend Bible study with shared that she feels like her prayers are bouncing off the walls. She was yearning and praying for God to do something big and apparent and meaningful and purposeful and without-a-doubt Godful. That desperation has manifested itself in similar ways for me at somewhat frequent times this junior year of college, so I was totally feeling her when she was telling us all about this so freely. The funny part was when she was asked to close the study in prayer and she could really only give a bit of a smirk before she started praying, revealing that she *knows* she’s still gotta pray even when her prayers are boomeranging in her head.
That’s the cool thing about spiritual lows and feeling out of tune with God. You can’t ever really say something weird is up with God, like he suddenly decided he doesn’t like you today or that he really is just playing games with you for funzies. Even when you’re frustrated with God that he doesn’t feel accessible anymore, you still know his truths and his qualities that are forever fixed. Whenever God is up to something, it would be a lie to say he’s not doing it for your good. A blatant lie. It’s the truth of salvation that holds onto you, not vice versa, so as Jon Foreman sings, “It would be a lie to run away.”
I believe love encompasses a lot more than we can ever understand. I do praise God for that, even when I’m not feelin’ him.
For a little scriptural version of what’s been boomeranging up in my own head and in my prayers, here’s Psalm 13:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
for he has been good to me.”
Tim Keller makes a lot of sense, and I read his book The Reason for God twice and one of his other books as well when I was still a Christian. He really is the greatest hope Christians have of actually rationalizing with “the world” in a public manner, but when I went back and started reading The Reason for God once I no longer believed, I noticed one thing that never occurred to me as a Christian.
That is, Tim Keller (and every evangelical Christian) places certainty in God as the goal, when there is nothing extra-biblical to suggest we must be certain of such a thing. There is nothing innate about human nature that requires we profess certainty about our beliefs in order to operate as we do, as human beings. It is a notion that interests some people like myself, but there are some who can go their whole lives without even entertaining the notion of a higher power. Tim Keller claims that they are taking a leap of faith and taking on a certain risk by being this way when they really are just working from their default position of not even weighing those matters heavily from the start.
Tim Keller is highly intelligent, but nothing about the books he writes or the speeches he gives offer any valid reason to believe in God. Even for people like me who care, I can’t even jump on board with him to his second rung as he outlines in his speech at Google.
When do apologetics actually start to work for people like myself, particularly as a former apologetic Christian, who really are open and eager to know what is true? I would say probably never, but of course I’m not completely certain of that. :)
The first religion course I took at my liberal arts university was “Christian Beginnings,” where we did a parallel study of the gospels and followed up with Pauline texts, clarifying which definitely, maybe, and weren’t actually written by Paul. Before I took this class, many cries of warning came from the general direction of my family and my church. I was told that academia would try to teach me their worldly, “scholarly” lies and that I needed to remain steadfastly discerning, guarding myself with the Word and prayer.
I remember the doubt that inevitably ebbed as I sat through the entire semester of this course. For one assignment, I was told to write a letter from Galatia to Paul, calling out his bullshit, and I executed this task with creative fervor. It was terrifying how confidently I stood against Paul, and I could tell my professor was just as shocked when he gave me an A and wrote, “VERY Insightful, Great Work!” at the top.
If there is such a thing as destiny, I’d think I was destined for a massive break from Christianity. It took a long time and a decent amount of exposure to new ideas for me to discover what had always been true inside myself the whole time, which is that I never found the Bible intellectually resonant no matter how many apologetic books I swallowed.
Should I have been terrified of information that contradicted what I was told to be true? At what point in a Christian’s journey is it okay to face the whole wide world of information out there? What does sheltering yourself from other information really produce? Not an understanding person. Not a person who has verified a tested reason to believe. I dug in and asked the hard questions and happened to come out an atheist. Is this so wrong? What did I do that was so bad? What law did I break?
Some people move from conservative to liberal Christianity in their journeys, and I’ve wondered why that didn’t happen for me. Instead, my entire foundation was overthrown. All of the presuppositions for a belief in God crumbled. I think part of it is because I just don’t care about Jesus. I see no need for Jesus, salvation, or any of that stuff that can only be necessary for someone who starts with a belief in a cosmic power of Evil. That belief itself is not necessary. I learned about the notion of necessity and discovered how much about beliefs aren’t necessary for understanding or surviving. A belief in God is born from something perceived as necessary to a person.
You get notions like these – For anything to exist, God was necessary. Since I feel this desire for God, God must be necessary. I can’t fathom the idea of there not being a God, so God must be necessary.
All of those conclusions are false conclusions for me. God is not necessary for me. I think this was true for a long time, but I didn’t even know it. Some tell me I am having a hard time with the deconversion because I have separated myself from God. Let me ask you about the former Muslims who are having an even harder time or the former Mormons having a harder time or the former Jews having a harder time. Believe me, I’m handling this better than a lot of people–a lot of people who believed in different gods. Why is deconversion so difficult for them? Is it because we’ve all been separated from our respective gods?
A lot of “logic” is flawed, particularly apologetic logic. A lot of the logic that I followed to get out of Christianity was also flawed, but what I finally landed on because of that was the extent of my own ignorance. I wish agnosticism didn’t get such a bad rap because it is truly the position that displays the most intellectual integrity.