How an Atheist Made Me a Better Christian

This is a guest post by Alise Wright. Alise is a wife and mom. She loves knitting, playing keyboards in a cover band, eating soup, and writing at her blog.

I love to read and I particularly like to read things that are of interest to important people in my life. So when my husband came out to me as an atheist in late 2009, I went looking for something to read so I could better understand his views. And the first book that I read wasn’t Dawkins or Hitchens or Harris, but rather Hemant’s.

As a Christian, most of what I knew about atheists came from Christian sources, which, unfortunately, are not always as accurate as they should be. Having an opportunity to hear about an atheist’s perception of Christians — straight from the source — was beneficial to me in comparing to my husband’s impressions. And what I’ve found in the past year and a half is that getting to know some atheists has made me more like the Christian that I want to be.

What has changed?

  1. I speak out against injustice. I admit I had no idea that atheists were discriminated against until I had one in my family. Injustice that affects me directly makes me angry and I hope that I turn that anger into action. This doesn’t simply apply to atheists, but to all of those marginalized by society and especially by the church. Hemant frequently calls out people of faith to be a voice for those who are being hurt by the church and I believe his message has caused me to practice the kind of faith that I believe Jesus asked his followers to have.
  2. I actually practice unconditional love. I’m going to disagree with Penn Jillette and say that I don’t find proselytizing to be a display of love. While being a Christian is certainly not something that I feel like I need to hide, I also believe that the greatest commandment is to love others. Whether they choose to believe like me or not, my first goal is to love. Despite having different beliefs, I feel like I’ve developed a friendship with Hemant over the past year and that acceptance has caused me to be more accepting of others who are not just like me.
  3. I’m not afraid to question things. One of the things that I admired about Hemant’s book was his willingness to put his own non-belief on the line and participate in an honest look at the way different Christians practice their faith. While Christian history has always had people who have questioned long-held beliefs, it is not something that one sees modeled often in evangelical circles. While my questions have not led me completely away from faith, there have been changes in my faith over the past year that are a direct result of a willingness to reexamine long-held beliefs.
  4. I realized it’s okay to laugh at myself. Every time Hemant posts a picture of a baby he’s prepared to eat, it reminds me not to take myself too seriously. If someone says something negative about me or my beliefs, I can either get worked up and angry about it, or I can laugh. I always want to work toward better understanding others and presenting myself in a way that can be understood, but I also don’t want to get hung up on worrying about people who have no intention of looking for common ground.

There are no doubt places where Hemant and I will continue to disagree. But there are a lot more places where we agree. Things like respecting the dignity of others, caring for the world we live in, wanting the best for the people we love –- these are values that we share. And I fully intend to continue drawing on the inspiration of a friendly atheist to be a better Christian.

Have you had any unlikely relationships positively shape your life?

Do you think it’s possible to benefit from a relationship with people of different faith backgrounds or beliefs than your own?

  • http://atheismtube.com/ Atheist

    Well, the first step is admitting you have a problem…

  • http://www.aussieinengland.wordpress.com Lissa

    My father is Catholic, and because of two things he said to me (“the Bible is just stories”, and “dinosaurs/evolution are real”) I became an atheist. I could write about How a Catholic Made Me an Atheist.

  • http://brickwindow.wordpress.com Brick Window

    I am happy you have found peace in your relationship. Many Christians I know would find your situation enough reason for divorce. You know, the whole unequally yoked thing.

    My best friend is a Southern Baptist. We were friends before she was baptized and before I came out as an atheist, and we have remained close. I know she has positively shaped my life, and her tears of true grief over her not being with me in heaven atest to the fact I have shaped hers.

    We’ve compromised. We own a children’s theater company together, and I’ve had to ask her to keep the religion out of her teaching, and she’s had to ask me to stop putting atheist quotes on my Facebook wall.

    It’s hard sometimes, but it’s worth it. Even though we both harbor fantasties that the other will come around one day…

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    A claim that is often made by Christians is that their faith makes them a better person. It calls to the to be compassionate and charitable. Unfortunately examples of this actually being true are quite rare in my experience and it is often the opposite that is the case.

    It is refreshing to see how Christianity, coming up against atheism, is improved by it.

  • http://www.beermepodcast.com Brett

    I love this, except that she’d be deluding herself if she thinks her religion is one taught by the Bible. I wish more Christians were like her. She’s more of a humanist who happens to believe in a particular myth.

  • Jagyr

    Those four points aren’t just going to make you a better Christian, they’ll make you a better person. The lessons you’ve learned can improve the lives of everyone, whether they are a believer or not.

    In fact, if you keep up with #3 for long enough, you might not be a believer any for much longer.

  • Jon

    @Jagyr I think the point is, though, that things such as unconditional love and speaking out against injustice are taught by the Bible, and the problem is that professing Christians can miss this.

    Also I would echo quite a bit of what is said in that post, in that I am a Christian myself, but reading this blog has helped me to examine myself and spot areas of my life where I am not living out the things that I profess to believe.
    It is easy to be blind to our own failings, and it helps to have outside observers highlighting these things.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I’m curious on how the writer is raising the children. Meh – I’ll check out her blog.

  • http://jacobblock.com Jacob

    Interaction and communication with all types of people is important. It’s very difficult to obtain a consistent and wide perspective of the world by sitting in an armchair.

    There are a couple things that I just disagree with in how Alise is interpreting her newfound perspectives and what she’s learned. It’s great that you are more accepting of others, but you still reference religion as a choice. In many cases it simply isn’t a choice. Call it lack of knowledge, lack of experience, whatever. Some people (babies, people born BC, etc) will never have the option to choose Christianity. How does your faith reconcile that issue? It would seem to me that any negative actions towards those groups of people would be on the moral low-ground. And how would Jesus being sacrificed do anything for these groups of people?

    I have a hard time seeing how any of the points influence your faith in Christianity. You are just associating them with your Christianity because you are Christian. How do you reconcile that many people pursue the same perspectives, but do so without any hint of Christianity? That would seem to me to indicate that they are actually completely independent of your Christianity, but just your natural humanism shining through. These are important lessons for anyone. So if they are embraced by so many people, your husband probably included, how could that possibly strengthen your faith that Christianity is correct? It seems like a case of mis-association.

    The other question is, have you asked yourself why other faithless/other-faith based people seem to often have more consistent answers to these issues than your own Bible has provided? It is easy to post-hoc rationalize many positions from the Bible, but my point is that without the post-hoc, you couldn’t rationalize many of these reasonable humanistic views from the Bible.

  • http://therearethornstoo.blogspot.com/ Denise

    What a lovely piece of writing. *goes to her blog*

  • Tim

    I don’t think I could date/marry someone with such different beleif to me. As an athiest, I have made the acception for deists, but I must admit some respect was lost on my part since I could not beleive this otherwise rational person chose to follow intution and subjective experience instead of logic. I certainly tolerate other peoples beleifs (provided they cause no harm to anyone), but I will never be able to respect them

  • Kristi

    This is a really nice effort to reconcile her own thoughts and treat others with respect, however, I feel if she left the Christian part out of it, it would be exactly the same. She is learning to be a person as a whole, not a better Christian. This there is nothing wrong with, however, she is allowing Jesus and her faith to take the credit where none is due. She has done this all on her own.

  • http://www.twitter.com/thatguyfsu Christopher

    @Jagyr I am a believer and I have questioned things for years but NEVER will I become a non-believer because in my Heart I know this Jesus is real. Words and things and actions can be questioned but His realness (to me and in my life) simply cannot.

  • Thegoodman

    While I admire and appreciate Alise’s sound mind and open perspective, I have the same issues with her that I have with most Christians.

    Faith, according to the bible, is not a free choice democratic process where the congregation collectively votes on which sins to condone, which to disdain, and in some cases, praise. Alise has, like many christians, made the executive decision to adhere to some rules but not others. While this may make her feel better member of society, she is lying to herself that it makes her a better christian. According to a majority of her cohorts, her acceptance of abominations like atheists and teh gayz makes her hellbound.

    If you claim to be a christian but other christians say you are not one, are you really a member of their club?

    I hope she chooses love over her supposed religion eventually because they are not compatible, no matter how much she tells herself they are.

  • Silent Service

    I have to agree with the commenters here that point out the fact that Alise being a better person really doesn’t equate to her being a better Christian. It really is just being a better person. Perhaps it is better described as being a better person and a Christian.

  • Amanda Williams

    What an interesting post! I used to be an atheist, and now I am a Christian belonging to a very liberal church that actually accepts all people and welcomes all lifestyles. I knew Alise back before she was so vocal about being a Christian, and she has always been a good person. However, being a Christian makes it easier (at least for me) to be the kind of person Alise is.

  • SWare

    I agree that these things, religious or not, would make anyone a better “person” plain and simple. I wonder though, if her church would view her as a better Christian particularly in light of #3.

  • http://www.JanetOberholtzer.com Janet Oberholtzer

    Great post Alise!
    In answer to your question … yes, I think major benefits can come from being friends with people that are of other faiths or other faith backgrounds. I think one has to be intentional … because it can be easy to stay in our own circles.
    I’ve been on somewhat of a faith renewal (long story) recently … so I’m aiming to be more intentional about not only hanging out with people who think just like me … I’m also reading from a more diverse range of material.

  • http://www.thewordsinthestone.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    For me, the answer to both questions at the end of this post is a resounding “Yes!”. I’m an agnostic married to a Christian Scientist. Before I met my wife, I wouldn’t have thought I could be with someone who was a believer, much less someone with beliefs like hers. Now, I can’t imagine what my life would be like without her. She is the best thing that ever happened to me and her family and friends from her church have been nothing but great to me and I’m happy to have them in my life as well.

  • Robert L.

    How does this whole interfaith thing work? It’s one thing to be friends with Christians and other religious people (I have a bunch of friends who range from non-practicing Buddhists all the way to hardcore Christians), but how does one start a relationship with someone who has a fundamental ideological conflict with him? Religion is part of personal ideology; while I personally wouldn’t mind being with a Christian (that’s my personal ideology), I don’t know if a Christian would mind being with me (that’s her personal ideology). It’s a fundamental thing that often leads to a breakdown in inter-religious relationships, that neither party can come to the exact same view as the other. How can this be prevented?

  • http://atheistreadsbible.blogspot.com/ Jude

    Ah, that baloney about unconditional love. I don’t need you to love me. I don’t love you, and I don’t believe that you’d love me if you knew me (the atheism is only part of it). It’s a meaningless Christian line and it’s utter nonsense. In fact, guess what, you don’t love your husband unconditionally either. That’s a Christian fantasy.

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise

    Thanks, Hemant, for inviting me to post. I really appreciate it!

    I do understand that these traits are by no means limited to those of faith. However, for me, I feel like they enhance my faith and make me more of the Christian that I want to be. I suppose I’m cherry-picking a bit, but I would argue that each of these things is encouraged in the Bible and was a part of Jesus’s message/life.

    For those who asked about our interfaith marriage, when we married, we were both Christians. Honestly, I would say that he had a stronger faith than me for most of our marriage. But ultimately, he’s my best friend and we’ve been in love for what feels like forever (in a good way!) and that wasn’t likely to change. Our faith is a part of our shared history, so there are times when I mourn that loss, but there is so much more that we share that it’s hard to make that a central thing. (It probably doesn’t hurt that I have very liberal religious and social leanings in the first place.)

    I wrote a little bit about parenting recently (I think that post is at the bottom of my homepage) and will probably be writing about it more in the future. Our kids still attend a Christian church with me, but we do our best to expose them to a variety of beliefs and to limit their exposure to things that we believe are harmful in evangelicalism (creationism, homophobia, etc.).

    Thanks for the questions and comments!

  • Steve

    “My husband came out as an atheist” Is this purely an American idiosyncracy? As a British atheist, I just find this hilarious, as if being atheist is something of which to be ashamed. If this makes the lady a better Christian, sorry, I just find it pretentious and condescending.

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise

    @Steve — I definitely didn’t intend for it to be condescending. And I don’t think that it’s something that anyone should be ashamed of. But my experience here in our small town in the states is that there is definitely a cost to being identified as an atheist. I would suggest that a number of the stories that Hemant posts here are indicative that there can be negative consequences to identifying one’s self as an atheist (rather than just “not religious”).

  • HamsterWheel

    “Do you think it’s possible to benefit from a relationship with people of different faith backgrounds or beliefs than your own?”

    Or, to be more specific, where “different faith backgrounds or beliefs than your own” = “belief in absurd primitive superstitious nonsense which is not supported by a single shred of credible, verifiable, compelling evidence, such as, for example, that a woman could become spontaneously pregnant without human male DNA, or that a three-day-old corpse could come back to life, or that eternal ever-lasting punishment is consistent with unconditional love and justice” then no, their “different faith backgrounds or beliefs” would not be a benefit to any relationship. But maybe if they are an excellent cook… a very beneficial relationship would definitely be possible. :)

  • jemand

    In many ways it was the values first taught to me in church that led me away from faith: a devotion to the truth, a willingness to stand up for my beliefs no matter the consequences, valuing honesty and personal integrity which forced me to not let myself continue pretending to believe, etc.

  • http://homekettle.wordpress.com David N.

    Thanks, Alise. Posts like this give me hope that someday we’ll all learn to be nice to each other. Or at least not blow each other up.

  • http://www.amberpeace.com Amber-Lee

    Alise,
    You did an excellent job here. What a wonderful post. It saddens me that people who comment can be just as hurtful in their comments as, say, a fundementalist. We should all be open to others beliefs – even if we can’t understand them and find them to be illogical.

  • http://www.sistersadist.com Cam

    As a former Atheist who’s now moved more towards agnosticism (and even attends Catholic church because I find the sermons of the particular parish to be quite comforting) I love Alise’s perspective and have even discussed Atheism vs. Theism with her to some extent. She embodies what Christians “should” be.

    I think so many Atheists tend to focus on the fact that they think all Christians are of the medieval idea that everyone that doesn’t believe in Christ is going to hell and are out to beat that into your head with their bibles.

    Not so. I’ve met far more Christians who are absolutely the most amazing people on the planet. They are the ones mobilizing the community to help homeless, petition the city for late night bus services after a working mom was attacked walking home, and protesting the death penalty.

    I wish more Atheist communities would help in these ways. Then I could stay out of the Catholic church ;-)

    Alise I love this as I do all your posts :-)

  • http://twitter.com/jeffx108 Jeffrey Durst

    I particularly like the point of practising unconditional love. That’s something I need to work on. Always a pleasure to read your posts Alise!

  • Steve

    Alise, I apologise if I was overbearing, it’s a shame that American atheists have to hide their non belief, it really doesn’t matter here in the UK, just the same as being gay, it’s a complete non issue.

  • http://turquoisegates.blogspot.com Genevieve Thul

    I passionately love an atheist relative of mine and I agree that there are ways we definitely agree…and of course those we disagree. As a Christian, I hope he finds the path to salvation I believe I’ve found. Whether or not he does, I will always adore him…beliefs and all. Thanks for your gutsy post speaking out for Christians and atheists alike!

  • Jon

    @Steve

    Tbh, here in the UK I’d say that if you’re going to get grief over what you believe, it’s not so much what affiliation you are so much as how strongly you claim to be right.

  • http://www.tonyjalicea.com Tony Alicea

    This was so good, Alise! My heart is that we would see how real relationships are founded in love, not your belief or position. Your marriage demonstrates how if we truly love each other, we can learn from each other and grow.

    I hope this encourages and brings down some of the walls on both sides of Christianity and atheism and opens opportunity for fruitful relationships, not just centered around beliefs but on love.

  • http://www.veronicamonique.com Veronica

    It is good to seek understanding and to enter into conversations that allow for honest questioning and self examination. It is admirable when anyone takes the opportunity to build relationships, and continually find ways to strengthen them. Elise, I find it particularly poignant how you have done this with your husband in the face of a fundamental shift that causes so many to do quite the opposite.

  • http://www.messiahmom.wordpress.com kristinherdy

    If we don’t ever encounter people who believe differently than we do, we tend to have a myopic view of OTHER. It seems this happens to Christians and Atheists alike.

    I’ve never been perfect in treating those who, at first glance, appear to me so opposite from me, as I would like them to treat me, but the more I interact with people holding diverse views, the better I get.

    I can only imagine how living with someone who holds vastly different views would be, but loving them would make understanding them worth it, and knowing them better would (hopefully) help you grow to love them more.

  • Kenny

    Meh. I always find it weird how cherry-picking liberal christians are even religious at all. After hearing Lawrence O’Donnel’s tirade against biblical literalism I figured he might be a non-believer… but he’s a big old catholic who believes in the zombie jew like all the rest.

  • Faith vs. Asking Questions

    Alise, I like most of what you wrote and I’m glad that we share similar politics, but there is one point on your list that I find particularly incompatible with Christian faith. You write “I’m not afraid to question things,” but you simultaneously talk about having faith. Faith is by definition having belief without evidence. So I guess my question for you is how can you simultaneously have faith and question? As I wrote when recently when a Christian pastor asked us for questions, please think about the scientific method:

    “Thinking about the ability to falsify an hypothesis is extremely important for understanding what is intellectually dishonest about faith. Is faith an intellectually legitimate reason for believing in something given that faith is belief without evidence? If it is, then you are forced to accept the faith of the Muslim terrorists who flew planes into the twin towers in the name of their faith as equally valid as your faith in your god, because neither faith is based in any evidence and as such cannot be logically differentiated from one another. If faith is intellectually legitimate, faith in anything is equally legitimate.

    What this gets at is that if the standard of evidence requires no evidence, then no hypothesis can be falsified and all hypotheses are equally valid. If on the other hand you are going to claim that there is evidence for your particular god then you must come up with an objective standard by which the evidence for other gods is rejected, but the evidence you present for your god is not. This would not demonstrate definitively that your god does exist, but it is a basic first test which I don’t think your god can pass. So if you are interested in this inquiry compile evidence for other gods as well, put it to the test, and see if there is any objective standard by which your evidence is not equally discarded. If you cannot come up with standard, you obviously cannot show your beliefs to be true. Finally, understand that you have the burden of proof, otherwise it would be perfectly legitimate to base one’s life around a celestial teapot.”

  • Kayla

    @To thegoodman,

    There are Christians who accept homosexuality, abortion, etc. Christianity is not monolithic. That’s why there are pro-choice Christians and gay Christians.

    And Democratic Christians, etc.

  • Terry Groff

    Religion is not necessary to practice all the tenets she described above. As I’ve often said “No one owns morality”. Religion and morality are not mutually inclusive.

    Just because I’m an atheist it doesn’t make me evil, just different.

  • Kate

    It’s entirely possible to benefit from relationships with people of different beliefs. At least, this has certainly been true in my own life. First, my best friend is a Christian — a rather liberal one at a more conservative church. We can talk to each other about anything and our honest discussions about faith, religion, and morality have had a profound impact on how we view the world and treat others in spite of our different beliefs. Second, a newer friend of mine is also a Christian and while I certainly don’t agree with his reasoning, his reasoning behind his belief is some of the strongest I’ve ever seen. Because of the depth of our mutual understanding of philosophy/morality, science, and religious texts, we’ve found it easy to respect one another. I’m really looking forward to getting to know him even better so we can continue having these discussions and improving our understanding of the world and our beliefs.

  • fastthumbs

    @HamsterWheel – My sister had an ‘immaculate conception’ experience. It’s a real condition called ovarian teratoma where basically an egg cell spontaneously starts developing without being fertilized (obviously, the cells are all haploid, so it will never develop properly). If not aborted, it can cause cancer and other health issues. From what I read, this haploid embryo sometimes grows and starts tissue differentation (teeth/bones/GI track) for several weeks before finally dying inside the womb. (BTW this condition was caught early in my sister and it did not impair her health)

  • martha

    A lot of the “one true Christian” nitpicking going on here. Come on, everyone rationalizes. Even atheists rationalize. I do not find it the least bit problematic that there are a wide range of people who call themselves Christians and that many of them do not take much of the Bible literally.

    I am a believer and I have questioned things for years but NEVER will I become a non-believer because in my Heart I know this Jesus is real. Words and things and actions can be questioned but His realness (to me and in my life) simply cannot.

    And I will never be a believer because I do not have the same emotional experience that you do. I have no faith. It is not my nature.

    Who really has a choice about much of anything? You are a product of your genes, your environment, your community, etc. All your choices are driven by these things. People seem to think that we have free will or something.

  • http://jacobblock.com Jacob

    @CAM:
    First I would just like to say that most atheists are actually agnostic atheists. Atheism is a lack of belief in a deity. If you don’t believe in a deity, you are by definition an atheist. If you aren’t certain if a deity could or does exist, then you are agnostic. If you ask most atheist if they are 100% sure there is no god, only a minority will say yes.

    They are the ones mobilizing the community to help homeless, petition the city for late night bus services after a working mom was attacked walking home, and protesting the death penalty.

    I wish more Atheist communities would help in these ways. Then I could stay out of the Catholic church

    If that is the only thing keeping you associated with the Catholic church, then let me please free you from that hold. There are so many secular humanist charities it is just baffling at times. Hemant even just made a post about foundationbeyondbelief.org and raising $18,000 for the Japanese Redcross. If you are interested in local chapters, you really just need to do a search on your town and add in different keywords like secular charity or humanist group. You could also look at this published list. It really just depends on your interests and not all groups have the same goals. Some prefer debate and philosophy, some prefer helping the community in different ways (which it sounds like you are more interested in). In my own experience, atheists and humanists can feel very compelled to do charity work because they believe it’s the only way to change our world. There are no second lives.

    @Kayla

    There are Christians who accept homosexuality, abortion, etc. Christianity is not monolithic. That’s why there are pro-choice Christians and gay Christians.

    I think thegoodman was just stressing the point that not all views are compatible with the Bible. People can post-hoc rationalize whatever perspectives they want (e.g. the bible supports homosexuality), but just because you can say it doesn’t make it so. It has always seemed to me like there should be some kind of breaking point, or critical mass, where you support enough positions that aren’t derived from the Bible, that you should want to just drop the Bible and the rest of the mythology.

    @Kenny

    It’s because they are cherrypicking! I didn’t know O’Donnel was a practicing Catholic; that is very disappointing.

    @Amber-Lee

    I have yet to see any hurtful comments posted here. What are you talking about?

  • Steve

    Christians seem to think they have the monopoly on love, faithfulness, charity, in fact all the human traits that have NOTHING whatsoever to do with any deity, Christian or otherwise. Yeah, Jon in the UK, it’s not so much what you believe, it’s how much people can shove in your face.

  • http://Www.Sistersadist.com Cam

    @Jacob my statement was a bit tongue in cheek. I actually enjoy the community of the particular parish. And I know a good many atheists that would argue their agnosticism with you ;-) I agree though, and merely used the parallel to point out that I no longer consider myself atheist but am not a Christian, however I do now believe the possibility if divinity.

  • Steve

    Oh, I’m most definitely atheist, no fence sitting for me!! There is no God, full stop. Yes, I’ve heard the argument that this is a statement of faith, that I should have some doubt along the line but like the most intractable fundamental whatever religion, my mind is made up!!

  • Richard Wade

    Christopher, you said,

    I am a believer and I have questioned things for years but NEVER will I become a non-believer because in my Heart I know this Jesus is real. Words and things and actions can be questioned but His realness (to me and in my life) simply cannot.

    It doesn’t matter how long you’ve questioned things, if you keep a rope around the question’s neck like a dog tethered to a post so that it can only go so far and not get too close to the belief that you have predetermined you want to keep. If you are satisfied with simple answers that make you feel good, the tether is quite short, and you are not honestly self-questioning. Cut the rope and let the question go wherever it will, or don’t say that you question things.

    “In my heart I know this Jesus is real” sounds like “It makes me feel good to think so.” This is what I call “Argumentum ad Euphoria,” or “it feels good, therefore it must be true.” That is a child’s way of thinking. Is that what was meant by “become as little children”?

    When I became a man, I put away childish things.

    • Adelineadrenaline

      Very interesting. I personally do not believe in It- whatever It is- because it feels good to. God isn’t Valium for me- Its more like a bad acid trip. I believe in God because I have seen manifest in my life the nasty counterpart to God- and not believing that there is something good out there is too horrible to imagine. Take from that what you will- but it works for me, gives me hope and keeps me from being a statistic.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Cam,

    I agree though, and merely used the parallel to point out that I no longer consider myself atheist but am not a Christian, however I do now believe the possibility if divinity.

    If you’re still hanging around, I’m curious. Shedding your atheism to consider “the possibility of divinity” is so alien to me. I don’t quite understand how an atheist comes to that position. Atheists, do, of course, concede that deities are theoretically possible, but it sounds like you mean something other than that. It sounds like you have started to believe (or have considered believing) that deities are real. Since you’re hanging out with Catholics, they’re all talking about a specific deity from a specific cultural tradition. I guess what I’m wondering is what leads an atheist in that direction. What do you mean by “divinity?” Have you given this “divinity” a number, gender, or personality? Where did you get your ideas about it? Do any of its characteristics correspond with Western monotheism? I guess I’m just having trouble seeing how an atheist would go about trying to form a god-concept without relying on the culture around her. If you consider specific religions and specific deities to be a product of human cultures, how can you know about “divinity” outside of that? If there was such a thing, how could human beings know anything about it/them?

  • http://www.sistersadist.com Cam

    Anna – honestly it’s a really long story, but I’ll try to be brief.

    I was raised with NO religious upbringing, my parents never discussed God or religion in our house. Atheism was logical to me and still is most days. A while back a friend of mine and I were bantering back and forth in theological discourse and he said to me “Well, what do you believe?” he wasn’t being contrite or silly, just asking me what I believed in.

    I had to be honest and say that I’d never really thought about it because I wasn’t raised with the concept of ‘belief’in religious context – I thought most religious practice fell precisely in between absurd and insane.

    My life took a few strange twists and turns and I was slapped in the face with more than a few coincidences that I just couldn’t write off as random happenstance.

    I don’t believe that there was a man with a white beard hanging out in the heavens behind it all, but I looked at the essence of my life and the vastness of the universe and I couldn’t believe that everything in all of it’s brilliant and intricate glory was created from nothing. Our lives, our existence, our universe is such a breathtaking work of art I felt as though there had to be an artist (or artists).

    I don’t think it’s a man or a woman or anything we can truly categorize, for now I would say I consider it an ‘Is’- an essence, a feeling of breathtaking exasperation at the excruciating brilliance of it all. I could spend the rest of my life trying to quantify it using long scientific labels and reasoning or I could just resign to it and appreciate the wonder and mystery and say “This is where I found God.”

  • George

    http://www.radical.net/secretchurch/about.html
    This is Church.

    It’s definitely a great thing to learn from other religions. After all, if as Christians say we say we have the monopoly on moral teachings regarding love, we’ve not paid attention to similar other religious teachers that teach similar messages regarding loving one’s neighbor. 

    However, where our religions differ, that’s where we have to examine what we believe, and why we believe it. Ephesians 2:8-9 says ”
    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; cit is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The idea of grace-based salvation is unique- people aren’t saved because of anything they do, but because of trust in the sacrifice of a perfect Son who lived the life we couldn’t live, and died in our place. 
    Our responsibility as Christians, then, is to “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, halways being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and irespect, ” (1 Peter 3:15), understanding that our interpretations cannot be based on taking verses out of their context, but understanding them in the context of the theocratic society (Jewish and non-Jewish) and empire (Roman) to which they were delivered, and understanding which parts of the Bible are descriptive (things that happened in a particular time) and which are prescriptive (things mandated for all Christians in all cultures) based on the context of the statement (context being audience, time period, author of statement) and hollistic placement of the verse in the larger context of the Bible itself. And where we disagree, we must understand that the responsibility of Christians cannot be a compromise on what the Word says, or what Christ says, but an accountability to Christ and to God above all else. Will this cause friction? Yes. How do you sharpen swords?Friction. 


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