Am I an Atheist?

I haven’t had a moment where I’ve decided I don’t believe in God,  a “conversion” to some other position. My faith questions and doubts have been a journey that I’ve reflected here on my blog in several posts. But after my post on spiritualizing the night, I got several comments and emails asking when I had become an atheist. I am still thinking about this question, because I don’t really know the answer. I’m not even sure I am an Atheist.

When does one become an Atheist? Does it happen when you don’t feel a spiritual connection with God? Is it when you start to disagree with stuff in the bible? Are you an Atheist when you associate with other Atheists? Or only when you declare yourself one?  I don’t know.

I grew up with a God. And I still like the idea of a God, but I have no feeling of knowing one or trust that one of the religions out there has God figured out. And I’m not “pretending” to have faith just in case there is a God, a sort of fake it till I make it endeavour. Besides, if there is a God, he wouldn’t be fooled by my pretending anyways.

I am a Pastor’s wife, so I attend two church services every Sunday, as well as a bible study and church events during the week. I do not feel a need to “convert” people, I have no way of knowing who is “right” anyways. My husband knows where I’m at, and he is OK with it. He has heard me, debated with me, and loved me through all of this.  I had someone comment that they are sorry for my husband’s church, I’m not sure why.  No one at church knows that I have serious doubts. I understand that it would be inappropriate for me to debate questions of faith with people in our church. They are good sweet people and I don’t wish my questions and doubts on any of them. That is part of why I started this blog, as a place I could wrestle openly with my faith questions and get interaction from people who freely choose to read them.


Recently I received an email that said that if I truly was a Pastor’s wife who did not know Jesus in a personal way, then I was a hypocrite who needed to stop “playing church”. I’m not sure why this is the case. Am I truly the only one who sits through a church service and wonders if it is all true? Is every single other person in church a solid believer filled with faith and religious experiences to prove it? What does “playing church” even mean? I know that on my part I go to church with an open heart every single Sunday. I read, I sing, I listen, I hope. Hope for what? I hardly know, just that something will happen, that perhaps all of my faith will come flooding back?


I also received a comment asking if I would pray on my deathbed. I’ve thought about that too. We pray a prayer of thanks before meals, and a prayer for peace before bed. In the moment of silence before the church service I pray the same prayer for my husband that I have always prayed, “May his words be your words and not his own,” so I still pray. I don’t know if I would pray on my deathbed. At this point in my life I probably would.  Many times prayer has been a source of anxiety in my life, so I think I would still gravitate towards prayers I’ve found healing or calming in the past. This question reminds me of a story I remember hearing from someone about her ex-catholic mother who despite being a protestant for many years, found herself praying along an invisible rosary while waiting in the hospital to hear if her son would survive a traffic accident. I wonder if I would be like that.

My thought processinvolving God has changed in the last few months. I’ll try to explain how I currently understand the existence of God.


Option 1: There is no God. If God does not exist, then I am worrying and trying to have faith in something I can’t understand for no reason, there is no God to please.


Option 2: There is a God, but God is a non-personal entity who does not care about humanity. God is a being that set the world in motion, but does not intervene or care about it. In this case, again, I am worrying over nothing, God is not waiting for me to come up with the right words or formula. God does not care.


Option 3: There is a God, and that God loves unconditionally and cares about humanity.  In this case, God will be patient with my faults. If God truly loves unconditionally then God will even understand if I can never really get my faith together in this life. Unconditional love means just that, love without conditions.


Option 4: There is a God, and this God has rules and laws about how you must live or what you must believe. God’s love is conditional. If this is God, I could be in trouble. This scenario means that I somehow have to decide which religion has the correct interpretation of God, and then do my best to please that God and live my life the way God wants me to. For a long time, fear of this God kept me scrambling. I had to figure out how to be whatever it was God wanted. I was afraid of going to Hell. Recently, I’ve come to the point of feeling that if God’s love is so conditional that God will send people to hell for not following the right formula, than I really don’t want to spend an eternity in heaven with that God. That heaven sounds like Hell to me.


So if option #4 is God, I would basically get to choose between two hells. The Hell God will send me to if I am not right, or the Hell in which I will spend an eternity with a God who (despite his very conditional love) decided I was acceptable.  I wrestled and wrestled with this idea. I get love being conditional in some sense. After all, if I was in a relationship where we had agreed to be exclusive, and that person ignored that agreement and cheated on me, I could understand ending that relationship.  But I would not send that person to eternal torment, just a parting of ways would be sufficient.  And despite what so many Christians seem to claim, I never had that direct line to God. I was kept in a constant state of guessing and hoping that I was doing the right thing for a God that I’m not even sure exists.

And that was when I realized that there was a third Hell, and I was living in it here on earth.  Despite all my growth as a person and as a parent, I was still stuck in this one-way relationship with a perfectionistic God that I wasn’t entirely sure was not a figment of my imagination. And so I stepped off the hamster wheel. I gave myself permission to take a break from finding the answer for the whole God thing.  I wasn’t hit by lightning and the world didn’t stop spinning. I didn’t have a sudden urge to steal, rape or kill. I stopped having nightmares about God, I stopped worrying about how and what I was going to teach my kids about God, I stopped worrying about where I was headed if an afterlife exists, and I started living the life I am currently in. 


I’m not even sure when this happened, I can’t point to an exact moment. I can’t claim to have figured out the answer to the God question, I honestly don’t know. But for the first time I am OK with not knowing. I even feel OK if I never figure it out. I still read religious blogs and have religious friends that I value highly. I also read atheist blogs and have atheist friends that I value highly. So does all of this make me an Atheist? I don’t know.

**********************


I would like to add, that (as much as I enjoy your company) if you are reading my blog because you feel personally responsible for my salvation, if you feel stressed or upset after reading my posts, if you are wounded by my very raw and open thoughts about faith and life, then please don’t read my blog.  Unfriend me, unfollow me,  I will understand. I blog about topics other than my faith dilemma, and  I welcome any and all comments, thoughts, questions and suggestions along my journey, but I am not seeking to be a source of pain or stress for people of faith.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00597012674027878494 rain ::

    big hugs, my friend. <3

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09906270936399814711 Women for All Seasons

    I am in this spot sometimes, and I have rarely felt sure about divine realities, because it is so hard to know. I truly want to believe in an unconditional loving God, but sometimes things seem so mixed up.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03792937108732259684 priest’s wife

    about not being a perfect believer and being a pastor's/priest's wife- doesn't the Bible say Take the log out of your eye before you comment on the splinter of another?

    so- those people who emailed you should pray about it!

    ;)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06046810877368932569 Holly

    Wow, are we sharing the same brain? I became Orthodox to retain my faith, but I'm still totally fine in "Not knowing or worrying" land.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    I am firmly fixed on option #3, but I still get accused of being "on my way to atheism". Uh, nope. I know whom I believe, and that's Who He is. No worries, take your time, and hope truly is eternal.

    *contented sigh*

  • KatR

    Honestly, I could have written this post (except for the still going to church part,I don't know how you do that!)

    I don't think you are an atheist. I know I'm not one. I know that there is some force out there, but what he/she/it is, and how I'm supposed to interact with it, I have no idea.

  • http://www.flatheadmama.blogspot.com Rebecca

    #4 doesn't feel like Christianity to me. It feels like a tiresome pattern of trying to find the perfect works to do. I had that experience as a teenager, constantly trying to be perfect. Never matching up. I was already a Christian but OCD mixed with a tough family environment was messing with my head. That's when I heard the story of Martin Luther and how he felt the same way, striving to please God and never feeling he matched up and how he came into contact with unmerited grace…grace that grasped him and not the other way around. I continue to grapple with works…I guess it's human to do so, but that transformative experience for me gave me a touchstone to come back to and remember what Christianity is really all about. Yes, faith is necessary but it is the gift of God, not of me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08135229596877003069 Michelle

    I like reading your thoughts. You know, I am in the same place at times.

    I remember when I heard someone say that Faith is a Gift. It's not entirely within our control how much faith we have. We have control over our openness to faith. But whether our faith is large or small is different for each person. And what was once a small faith can turn into a large faith. And vice versa. It depends on where we are at any given point in our lives.

    I remember that being a very freeing idea. I remember sort of letting go. I felt some freedom. I felt like I chose to simply be open.

    Perhaps someday, I will feel called to be more active in the process and try to grow my faith. But at this point, I just want to learn to love God and serve Him where I am and have faith that He will meet me there. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03117752360285429048 Jessica

    Nobody is sure 100% of the time! If we were, it wouldn't be belief, it would be we-don't-know-any-other-way-to-think.

    I believe in #3, a God of unconditional love, and I get torn down by those who believe in a conditional God (and that I am not meeting HIs conditions). But if you look in the Gospels, Jesus came to say 'Hey, nobody can earn their way into Heaven, so stop pretending like you have and looking down your nose at people you think haven't.' (paraphrased, of course) :)

    You don't need to be 100% sure about God, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably afraid to turn a mirror on their own beliefs.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13059918466503894975 Leigh Ann

    Still here, still reading. Keep it coming:-).
    I understand what you are feeling in a sense. I firmly believe in God. But all the doubts from all the sermons that demanded I perfectly do my part of the deed for salvation left me miserable. I started shaking free of those the farther we got away from fundamentalism. With the jump into Lutheranism, my escape was complete. The sheer relief of not thinking about it was amazing.

    Enjoy your sweet family. I am so thankful for the path that you started me on toward connecting, compassionate parenting.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02711137394143200105 michelle

    oh doubt. I know this place well. but have the luxary of voices my thoughts out loud. usually at church.
    keep wrestling. it sucks. but it is so much better than all those people who never asked questions.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09586721197750246060 Lara

    You are such an encouragement to me. I'm right where you are. Though I have had some interesting spiritual experiences. I believe it is you that informed me that people of many religions and faiths have similar experiences. So I believe what happened to be real, but not necessarily limited to those people who confirm certain bullet points on a power point presentation.

  • Anonymous

    I have been "stalking" for a litte while but I wanted to comment on this one.

    First, I just want to hug you and tell you how incredibly proud I am of you for being honest and forthright about your doubts and struggles. Most people are not that introspective or real.

    Second, I think you missed an option. Option #5 there is a God who loves us unconditionally and makes rules for our benefit and learning. As a parent you would most likely die for your babies you love them so – but you also make rules in your family to try and protect and teach them. Your love isn't tied to your rules; your rules were made to help them have their best life.

    Keep asking questions. Keep searching. Keep your heart open.

    PS – Knowing atheists or reading blogs written by atheists doesn't make you one anymore than knowing an astronaut and reading space blogs means you're close to a trip to the mooon. :-) One of my closest, sweetest friends is an atheist and I have friends who are Muslim and Hindu and other religions – but I'm still a Christian.

    - Cat

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17033904844103853773 chw

    I have to agree with those commenters above who pointed out that faith is a gift. People often think it's something they have to find/earn/produce for themselves, and they end up frustrated because that's just not possible. Faith is given by God to those who are open to receiving, when they are ready. It sounds like you have an open mind and heart for the truth. So maybe God is just giving you the time you need to heal from your past, so that you will be more fully ready for faith in him when he sends it. I don't know for sure, of course, it's just a thought. :)

    Also, as far a God options, I believe #3 three is true, God loves us unconditionally. I don't see why this has to be mutually exclusive of God having laws for us to follow. After all, I would bet you love your children unconditionally, yet you still have rules for them. God's laws are not arbitrary demands from a petty God who delights in making us work for his approval and his love, just like your rules for your children aren't. They are guidelines he gives us BECAUSE he loves us, to help us live in freedom from pain and sin, just as you instruct your kids not to stick forks in electrical outlets or run into the street, because you know they could get hurt and you love them enough that you want to help prevent that pain and possible death.

    God loves us unconditionally, whether we abide by his laws or not. He would never force us because he loves us and honors our free will. He wants us to live in his law, not out of fear of displeasing him and ending up in hell, but out of love for him who loves us so much. And love really is the key. He loves us. He wants us to love him. He's given us a law that helps us learn to love him and others better. Not perfectly, God knows us better than that! We aren't capable of being perfect because we're human. He just wants us to cooperate with his love and his unending offer of forgiveness and a reconciliation when we mess up.

    And I do believe there is a hell, which is not a place where an angry and avenging God eternally torments those who displease him. Rather, God loves us so much that he will not force us to spend eternity with him if we choose not to. Therefore, out of God's love and respect for our free will, if we intentionally and purposefully refuse him all the way up to when we die, he honors our choice to be eternally separate from him, which is really what the torment of hell is: eternal separation, by our own choice, from the God who made us and who our soul is made for.

    OK! Yeah, I'm a bit long-winded, sorry. :) Anyway, just wanted to share my understanding of faith and God based on Catholic teaching. Thanks for your sharing your thoughts so honestly in your posts!

    -Casey

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11557037093560947882 Anne

    GREAT post. I loved this part especially:

    And that was when I realized that there was a third Hell, and I was living in it here on earth. Despite all my growth as a person and as a parent, I was still stuck in this one-way relationship with a perfectionistic God that I wasn’t entirely sure was not a figment of my imagination. And so I stepped off the hamster wheel. I gave myself permission to take a break from finding the answer for the whole God thing. I wasn’t hit by lightning and the world didn’t stop spinning. I didn’t have a sudden urge to steal, rape or kill. I stopped having nightmares about God, I stopped worrying about how and what I was going to teach my kids about God, I stopped worrying about where I was headed if an afterlife exists, and I started living the life I am currently in.

    I think the correct term for you (if you want to get technical) is agnostic. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01659200420621854710 Maggie

    I just wrote a post about my struggles trusting in God. I think it's normal.

    I wouldn't worry about the negative comments. You have quite the positive following, from what I have seen!

    Keep on writing!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10254315970336710941 CM

    I'm glad that at least for now you've found contentment where you are, even in the questions. I also think it's a little ironic that some people think you shouldn't be in church while you have questions. Seems to me like it would be a good place to hopefully find some answers! What is church for if not that? Well, yes, to worship, but for those questioning, it should be a safe place to question. In my opinion, not that anyone asked me. ;)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02979828437531268794 Rebecca in ID

    Your husband sounds like a wonderful person!

    I'm a Catholic (after a long, hard search and lots of doubting) and even though I hold certain things as true, I don't know God, I don't know What or Who He is, and so often I feel so very distant from Him. I know there will always be those questions and that emptiness of not knowing, but sometimes I remind myself of how He is present in the things He has made. I can't see Him, but I can feel my baby's little hand on me as I go to sleep, or see the delicate beauty of a flower, or know my children running and hugging me and telling me how much they love me. I sometimes think that when we do see Him, all those shadows of him, those reflections of His love and His beauty, will come together into one and we will recognize Him, and say, "Oh! There you are!" I'm stating this badly…but I guess I'm just saying that even when we may have found some answers, there is still a journey and a great abyss of not knowing. I love the poetry of J.M. Hopkins because he expresses that so well, that longing and unknowing that we must experience in this life.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16753690091825424985 Hypatia

    I am right beside you. Where you are is where I am. I would love to believe in God. I really hope Option #3 is the true one. But I just don't know. I knock and the door isn't opened. I seek but I don't find.

    I guess I'll just keep seeking and knocking, for now.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14718357472343295031 Hippie Housewife

    I so appreciate your honesty. My prayers are with you on this journey.

    I recently finished a book, O Me of Little Faith by Jason Boyett, that you might find interesting. It's a quick but worthwhile read.

  • Anonymous

    There are some brilliant books out there about why people chose to be atheist/agnostic.
    I find it's better and healthier if I DONT think about it. I've read some great books about it, I've decided I'm agnostic and know I don't think about it.
    Just live a happy, joyful life, trying to be a good person and treasure the big and small things in life.
    And those who disagree-sometimes they themselves have doubts and so hate that which is most like them.
    My best friend is a very liberal Christian and we talk about religion. The rest of my friends are agnostic, atheist and i have no idea. As we don't talk about it.
    Love your blog!
    Rachel (from fb)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10515811554518736780 Alison D

    You're not alone. My MIL is/was a pastor's wife (my FIL has passed). A few years ago, in a conversation about faith that I initiated, she commented that she "didn't really think" she believed in God. DH was surprised (not horrified) but I found I wasn't. She is very pastorally active, one of the most caring people I know, and very popular with the local congregation. For her, church is about community as much as faith. And she didn't marry the church. Faith is not a choice, it's about your innermost self. I love that you are at peace with, proud of, who you are. I've always suspected those who are at peace with their faith (or lack of) are the least likely to feel the need to convert others.

  • http://bundesbedenkentraeger.wordpress.com/ bundesbedenkentraeger

    Truely, truely, you are not far from the kingdom of heavens…
    Thank you very much fr sharing this. I wish more poeple were so open and honest.
    It is not our fault, if we doubt. This isn't a question of fault anyway. It's a state we are in, and that we have to cpe with til it's over. Like if you catch the flu. It happens, it doesn't feel too well at times, but we can live with it. In your case it seems, it was even a relief, as you could leave the #4 option of the condemner-god (whom I'd ratzer call satan, but that's another story).
    So thank you again for sharing and God bless

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14501977005762149736 Saila

    Hi! I've been reading your blog for a while now, but I don't think I've ever commented before. Just wanted to send you a big THANK YOU for writing your blog. Having been brought up in a fundamental church and later converting to Catholicism, I feel like I could have written many of your posts myself. I still live in constant doubt about God and your blog is wonderful because it makes me feel like I am not the only one who is constantly having these thoughts. I think I am currently leaning towards Option 3. Right now, I feel like I don't know anything for sure and all I can try to do is love as Jesus loved. And if Option 4 is right, I'm probably pretty much screwed…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08016230732925516069 Gilbert

    I think there is a lot of room between options 3 and 4. God could be satisfied with a good effort not necessarily demanding success.

  • http://foreverinhell.com Personal Failure

    Are you an atheist? That's up to you, I suppose. Right now, I don't think so. You may end up as an atheist, or spend some time as an atheist then go back to belief, or your faith may be stronger after you take a break from worrying about it.

    I am an atheist. When did I become an atheist? I don't know, to be honest. I didn't self identify as an atheist until around 30, but I've never been good at belief, not even as a small child, and I probably truly lost my belief around the age of 20.

    The real question isn't are you an atheist, but are you okay? Are you happy or scared, satisfied or tormented, calm or panicked? If constantly trying to believe as you were taught to believe makes you miserable and have nightmares, then I'd say you need to find something else to believe. That doesn't have to be nothing, just something different that doesn't hurt you.

    You are a good person with a good heart, Youngmom, you deserve to be happy, not terrified. Wherever your journey leads you, please be as good to yourself as you are to others. You deserve your own kindness.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05598890631695015818 Pippi

    Not believing in the Fundamentalist view of God does not make one an atheist.
    On the Orthodox blog I've been reading, the Father had a good article about the "logocratic" tendencies of Western Christians. It basically means that we require everything to be explainable in words before we can believe it. We take all the spirituality out of our religion. And this leads, I think, to pigeonholing God, Jesus, miracles, evil, and everything else just like we do to other people.
    If you forget the pigeonholes, God becomes something so much more vast; less personal perhaps, but more comforting. At least that how I feel about it.

  • SarahL

    I've read your blog for awhile but have never posted. I love your blog, because you are so honest with what you say. In this post you have summed up my thoughts perfectly. I appreciate your honesty and willingness to accept everyone no matter what they believe. I think, really if there is a God, wouldn't that be what he/she/it would want; acceptance of everyone's views. And I'm so happy that you have support from your husband, lots of people don't have that. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00539628551735497651 Rach

    I doubt. I worry. I question. That's OK, and I think most people of faith do that. Doubting is a brave thing to do, and being as honest as you are is also so brave. I don't worry for you, because I trust in a loving God who will draw you to Himself in His good time, through your doubts and fears. He is patient.

  • Caravelle

    I'd say you become an atheist the moment you think "atheist" is the word that best matches you or your beliefs.

    I guess there are members of the self-definition police out there who would disagree but what the heck.

    I became an atheist the day I realized that the operative criterion isn't whether I know god exists or not, but whether I think god exists or not. And when it came down to it, I didn't think God existed.

    I wouldn't worry much about identification if I were you, although you could always go with "Apatheist" (which I hear means "I don't care either way"). But I'm really glad to hear you feel better and have stopped having nightmares about God !

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17825458003284098965 Scott Morizot

    I've never understood why so many Christians believe in God #4. Such a God has never appealed to me in the slightest. I've been known to say things like, "If Calvin was right, then it's irrelevant to me, because I would never worship, much less love, that God." (Hard-core Calvinism offers the clearest picture of God #4, but softer versions abound in western Christianity.)

    I've been a lot of things over the course of my childhood and my twenties and explored many more things I never actually believed. And I've at least tasted more different ways that people suffer than any one person, perhaps, normally experiences — though not to the extremes that people often suffer.

    I call myself "Christian" because as I followed many paths, I kept running into your God #3. I would say that your not knowing what you are or what you believe (if anything at the moment) is not a problem for that God. In fact, since he loves relentlessly, most of faith involves sorting ourselves out — our healing.

    I'm not cut out for atheism. I have too deep a sense of, for lack of a better word, the "spiritual" aspect of reality. If I came to believe that Christianity was all about God #4, I'm not sure what I would believe. Hinduism just doesn't feel right to me anymore. I don't think that could still be a path for me. maybe Taoism. I've never been that, though I've always admired Lao Tzu.

    Peace. I attend a church where I like the people, but don't really believe much of what they believe. My family (especially my wife) feels comfortable there and that took a long time for her. We don't slide into social groups easily or quickly. So I'm in no rush to find something that "fits" me or that I believe is more "right" (whatever that means). Besides, I spent a lot of my life pursuing what "suited" me. That never really got me anywhere worth being.

  • LP

    I really struggle with my faith in God too. I grew up in a very conservative Christian home. However, my only child-a sweet little boy-passed away almost 6 months ago. God created my son with a horrible heart defect and chose not to heal him and let him die at 3 years old. How do I reconcile that in my mind? I don't think I am an atheist yet, but it could happen. I am not nearly as articulate as you, just know you're not alone.

  • Anonymous

    I'm an atheist and former fundamentalist evangelical christian who went through some of what you went through. I hope you keep searching and feel supported in your search. i hope you enjoy your children and your family. Eventually I couldn't go to church anymore and I was worried about the church filling my children's head with stuff i don't want in there. That is where I am now.

  • Anonymous

    Please don't listen to people who criticize you for "playing church." If you were the pastor, perhaps such a critique would be merited. As the wife of a pastor, what would they have you do? Divorce your husband? Announce in church that you have doubts? You are being honest with yourself, supportive of your husband's vocation/call, and choosing to remain silent in some contexts about private matters you have every right to remain silent about. Hugs to you and all the best on your journey.

  • http://mollymakesdo.wordpress.com/ mollymakesdo

    This post actually makes me happy. Happy to see you fully confronting your beliefs and wanting to understand them.

    Like you mentioned before in your post about praying for whatever evil was confronting your crying childen at night – we can wait passively for God to clearly hit us with an answer ala the burning bush, or we can take what he's revealed to us slowly and try to do the best we can on our own and if we get a burning bush down the road great! To further the analogy just remember how long it took, and how much Moses had to figure out on his own before God finally got down to business.

    Honestly, I think if you're not questioning, doubting and wondering you're not really paying attention. So keep on doing exactly what you're doing, perhaps down the road you'll get the big answer you've been searching for.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15824217102632813598 Tanit-Isis

    This is a beautiful post—good luck to you in your life, your questioning, and your marriage.

    I accepted my atheism when I realized that my wanting to believe in God and an afterlife wasn't a good enough reason for it to actually be real. It all made more sense as a historical invention of frightened people. I wasn't terribly happy about it at the time, but you get used to it. The universe is just as beautiful and amazing all by itself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09697215030563741501 Sisterlisa

    Love this article. My husband and I are in ministry and wrestle with the same things. I think most Christians do and they are afraid to admit it. If we can't be honest about our faith then what's the purpose of having a community of faith? We can only encourage people about *faith*..Jesus never said to encourage people in 'religion'.

  • http://mollydodd.wordpress.com/ mollydodd

    My favorite responses I've heard on this topic were from the priest at my former parish —

    "I don't believe in God."
    "Tell me about the god you don't believe in."
    *the person describes god #4*
    "I don't believe in that god either. May I tell you about the God I DO believe in?"

    And also:
    "I don't believe in God."
    "Ok… do you want to believe in God?"
    "No, I don't honestly think that I do."
    "Well… do you want to want to believe?"
    "… perhaps… yes, I think that I do want to want to believe in God."
    "Well, keep searching, and pray if you can, because God can work with that."

    The loving, eternally patient God who took on flesh and became united with us in nature and in Communion… can be with us even in our doubt, so long as it's honest doubt.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05191120796865740975 Aratina Cage

    Hi Melissa,

    I don't know if you read PZ Myers' blog Pharyngula or not, but even if you don't, I thought you might want to consider submitting this essay "Am I an Atheist?" for inclusion in his "Why I am an atheist" compendium. Submission instructions are here: Call for submissions

    Anyway, the nightmares about God going away (for me it was nightmares about what might be if God is real) and the way you simply took a break from it all and realized life went on quite normally with a little less anxiety struck a chord with me, and even if you are not an out-and-out atheist (or even if you are somewhat of a deist), I think it would still resonate with other atheists.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07676507138237490522 Musical Atheist

    I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and honesty with which you address these questions. I wish you the best in your journey, and warmly second Personal Failure's suggestion that wherever your exploration of these ideas is taking you, you should treat yourself with the same kindness you so evidently offer to others. As always, it's a pleasure to read your comments.

    Some people would say they're atheist when they actively think that a god almost certainly doesn't exist. Others would say they're atheists when they don't have any active belief in a god. There's a little bit of flexibility in the term for you to choose when (if) it begins to apply to you.

    I'm agnostic in the sense that of course I don't know whether any gods (including the three kinds you mention) exist. In that sense I think we should all strictly be agnostic, because we really can't know for certain.

    However in practical terms, we generally think there are reasons for finding the proposition of a given god more or less likely. I don't currently see any reason to suppose that god(s) exist, and I don't have any active belief in any god(s), so in that sense, I'm atheist.

    I also think some god(s) propositions are less likely than others, and have some degree of active disbelief in those propositions. For instance, currently your gods 3 and 4 both seem particularly unlikely to me.

    Like most people I hold my current opinion for a mix of rational and emotional reasons. I'd love to think my opinions are perfectly justified by evidence and correct, but of course we're all vulnerable to bias and error all the time, so one should always be willing to keep checking one's opinions when one encounters evidence one hasn't met before!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07676507138237490522 Musical Atheist

    I tried to post this comment before, and I think something went wrong. I hope this doesn't end up getting posted twice – sorry if so.

    Melissa, as ever, it's a pleasure to read your thoughtful comments. I warmly second Personal Failure's recommendation to try and give yourself the same kindness you so evidently try and give to other people, wherever your explorations take you.

    I'm agnostic, in the strict sense that I don't know for certain whether any gods exist:I think we all have to be agnostic in this strict sense. But in practice of course we think there are reason to consider one possibility more credible than another.

    In practical terms therefore, I'm atheist, in that I don't currently find any proposals of god(s) sufficiently credible to have any belief in them. Some propositions seem so unlikely to me that I have some active disbelief in them, so atheism for me is currently a mixture of lack of belief and active disbelief, depending on the god(s) being discussed.

    In any case, the point is not to achieve certainty! The aim is to keep questioning, and developing an impression of the world which is (hopefully) increasingly accurate.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18185954714426587340 Cara Coffey

    Wow, I think you are viewing a relationship with God every single day in that man of yours who is loving you through this pain and that woman who is you continuing to love him, your children, and God.

    We, all of us, have your questions as we progress as pilgrims. I hope that my saying what I just did doesn't stab you with pain. I am trying to identify, and I am a Christian. I understand.

    I sigh in my spirit over discussions like yours because you didn't do this to you. Church did. Please, as a sister in Christ, I ask you to forgive us.

    Of course you can appreciate an atheist, but honestly, as a Christian I am sad for him/her. Because one thing is certain….if doesn't believe in God they certainly can't believe in Jesus Christ, and Him crucified for humankind and risen again. That is the one and only way to be in serious trouble in the afterlife (with the exception of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit which is the unforgivable sin). So I don't judge them, I ache inside. All the time.

    That is the stinking problem with most of Christianity. Fear and unbelief shut out so many people. Jesus loves. We should love. If there are those who definitely and completely turn from God, we have no place to condemn. But we do have place to weep for them before God. Judging is none of our business, but Christians don't get that, either. *sigh* Father, forgive them for they know not what they do is what I'm a trying to learn!

    I struggle with the love/obedience journey in Christianity, too. Nowadays, the fear factor is getting less and the love walk is getting more. But it is good to know He loves me. Period.

    I want that for you.

    Blessings today,
    ~Cara

  • http://secularwings.wordpress.com/ … Zoe ~

    Cara,

    I didn't turn from God. Many former Christians, Muslims, Jews as well as other theists, through study and years of practicing and believing in their faith came to an understanding that "God" does not exist.

    One cannot "turn from God" when there is no "God" to turn from.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18185954714426587340 Cara Coffey

    (((Zoe)))

    Dearest Zoe,

    And it is you whose opinion I respect. It is you for whom I weep on a daily basis.

    Because whether or not we allow for the existence of God makes no difference in eternity. Our human perspective has no sway with reality of what comes after life on this earth.

    And I want to fellowship with you, Zoe, in eternity. The Bible says that there is only one way to have that fellowship in eternity: Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man or woman comes to God except through Christ.

    So I weep though I respect your choice. To be human is to have this choice which you are exercising, and it is indeed a privilege. I agree with you wholeheartedly right there. :)

    But I beg you to reconsider, and I weep inside for you. It is okay if you do not like that because I will weep nonetheless.

    And please forgive Christianity. We have not testified enough of the love of Christ in the United States. I don't know if that sweeping problem has been anything which has affected your unalienable right to choose, but if it was then I ask you to forgive us Christians because we have failed you in this regard, and we continue to do so.

    To understand the sincerity of my writing, I invite you to look at my website: http://www.uncoverednomore.com

    I call Christianity to come back because I was almost destroyed in a Christian context. Yes, and I am not the only one by far. My testimony is one of hope in Christ alone at this time and in this place of Christianity in the United States. Because, generally speaking, there is nowhere within the Christian world where balance is sure. There is very little balance. I have had to take my eyes off my fellow Christian neighbor and place them solely on Jesus Christ. My husband is also a lovely example of Christ like love in marriage, too, but there are many Christian women who do not have this saving factor to take for comfort. I am privileged in this regard, and yet, if you read my first book you will see that it was obeying my husband in allowing his mother to live with me which almost destroyed me, in large part.

    Forgiveness and love in Christ Jesus are powerful unto restoration. But that does not take away from the difficulty among Christians as a whole, at least in this country.

    Blessings,
    ~Cara

  • Keri

    I find your blog very interesting because I have grown kids around your age and I wonder how they will look back on the life they lived in our home.Truly and only By the Grace of God, we have not gone through the things you did but we were and are not perfect parents so it will be interesting.We have a 22yr.old son who will be married soon.They met at our church and they have now dated 6 months.We have heard the courtship term for years and wondered how that would work and really for him and her although they don't like to say they are dating(both of them have never dated anyone else)they like to say courting..But,it is completely different then your story.Maybe I can share it with you someday.Anyway..I just want to encourage you and say that I think it's really good that you are thinking and dealing with all this now because I don't think I started to deal with stuff until I was in my late 30's and I'm now 50..lol..keep writing..

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03703611456000388480 Gwen

    I wanted to write to tell you that I just found your blog, and I am in a similar place, spiritually. I am questioning and afraid of the judgement I will receive from those who used to know me when I was a very, very devout Christian. I started a blog in the hope that writing about my own thoughts and experiences might help me come to some kind of conclusion, whatever it is.

    You are not alone.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06016277303703254572 The Wise Fool

    I bounced here from Zoe's link.

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your post and your candor.

    It is awesome that you and your husband can overcome your differences. I can see myself doing exactly that kind of church-going if I was in that circumstance. I'm happy for you. :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06233321050691782148 Michael Mock

    Cara said, "…if [an atheist] doesn't believe in God they certainly can't believe in Jesus Christ, and Him crucified for humankind and risen again. That is the one and only way to be in serious trouble in the afterlife…"

    Is it? I'm speaking as an atheist myself here, but my understanding of Christian doctrine is that Jesus died for everyone's sins. Yes, the next bit is about "that whosoever believes in him will have eternal life", which does indeed look like it's setting a condition for salvation – but I'm not sure that's how it was meant. I think you can also read it as poetic, rather than legalistic – as a description of how cool that is, rather than a clause detailing what you have to do first.

    I'm an atheist because I see no reason to believe that God exists. (As Musical Atheist pointed out earlier, there's a strong element of agnosticism there, too.) I'm not a Christian because, on a fundamental level, Christianity makes no sense to me.

    But I find it incredibly hard to believe that a loving, merciful, and just Creator would hold my doubts against me. Even Thomas had to touch the wounds for himself, and he knew Jesus personally! No, if God exists and if He's anything like the way Christianity describes him, I'm pretty sure He'll forgive my disbelief. I come by it honestly.

  • Anonymous

    But without FAITH it is impossible to please him, for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6 I was there,too, thinking I had to please God with my works. But God wants us to BELIEVE that through his Son, JESUS CHRIST, he takes away ALL our sin.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17451586866320697262 asmallcontempt

    I just discovered your blog through a comment on Love, Joy, Feminism – and what a great find! You have a great, concise writing style and lots of great observations…I'm sure I'll lose several hours of my life to your contributions.

    I'm an atheist but grew up conservative Christian; the best I would say to you is to try and have good REASONS for every belief that you have. The kicker is that everyone will have different reasons for choosing (or not choosing) faith, and everyone will have a different yardstick for what "good" is.

    As an atheist, I know that I cannot "disprove" God. I can look around in my life and in the world around me and come to the conclusion that there is no God to be found, but I can't look at the universe and say the same thing. I know that.

    For me, it was a question of how important it was for me to know the truth and what needed to be done to maintain relationships with the religious people in my life. An honest examination of the evidence convinced me that I was indeed an atheist, but what you do with that knowledge is entirely up to you (and the degree of importance that you think the belief should have in your life).

    I don't have children, and my husband is not a pastor. I can't, and would never, use my situation to try and justify yours.

    I hope, though, that you can arrive at a place (in terms of belief) that is comfortable for you and your family. The pressure that you feel may be coming more from a place of indoctrination rather than truth – especially since you're still grappling with/"fearing" the Christian God – curious to note that we don't feel the same fear of eternal punishment for other gods, but only from the one we were taught.

    I hope that you can find peace and happiness – enjoy the uncertainty! :)

  • Vieve

    First of all, I don't see your church-going as hypocrasy, but instead as a loving wife supporting your husband's vocation. But more importantly, it isn't anyone's job to judge whether you are "lying" to yourself or the church – at most, as your husband is the pastor, he would be the one to call you out on that as your shepherd.

    You ask a tricky question that I've never really thought about in those terms. I think I'm used to people being quite proud of their atheism. And maybe that's part of it. The God I believe in is loving. Forever. He never stops loving us, but He does allow us to walk away from him, or, by the grace of Christ turn back towards him. I don't think you need to understand or even know God all that well to make the decision to walk toward Him, and certainly the more time you've spent walking towards Him the better you will know Him. And the further you walk away, the harder it can be to break that pattern. But I think if you were an atheist, you would have made the decision to walk away. There is nothing there, you would say. And, _I_ am the center of this world. I am NOT saying that atheists are not loving, giving, generous people, some of whom are my friends, but more that, without a higher being in their world, they themselves become the highest being. Who may be very concerned for others, and loving and generous etc.

    Do you feel you are there? Because it doesn't sound like you do. God loves you, and knows your heart. If you leave it open to Him, you will find your way to Him. And remember, conversion is not one decision, or one moment, but the sum total of all the moments in your life. But maybe that's the Catholic in me.

    I think Hell is where you go when you have made the decision that you don't want To be with God, or you are more interested in yourself then Him. Because He doesn't force anyone to be in heaven with Him.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01122659239039900398 Sue

    Hi Melissa, just discovered your blog after a bout of surfing from blogs of people I know to blogs of people I don't. So glad to have come across yours.

    I don't know if I would call myself a Christian anymore. I want Jesus to be real, and I have serious doubts that he was. I want him to be real, and even if he was in the way it's written down, I have serious doubts about his divinity – I have concerns that people have built up around him myths and legends that simply weren't there. But still, there's a part of me that stays open to that.

    I want God to be real, and go through bouts like what you describe here in all of your options.

    What I do know though is that my battle is one I'm allowed to have here in secular Australia. There, in your country, you get a plethora of well-meaning people trying to convert you back to the "US of A version of God". An interesting version, that god. Such a patriotic being he is, at the detriment of everybody else.

    But anyway, I digress :) I loved this post and the way you described your feelings and thoughts. I hope this doesn't sound really corny, but there's something starkly beautiful about people's honesty in their doubts. Because doubt is such a no-no "negative" emotion, seeing it expressed so openly is just … a really lovely thing. Thanks.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09569089477407382148 Twin-Daddy

    Just an FYI:
    Your options generally fall into the following philosophical categories:

    Option 1: Agnostic/Atheist
    Option 2: Deistic
    Option 3: Universalism
    Option 4: Theistic

    I learned this after my own deconversion from fundamentalist Christianity over a two year period.

  • Anonymous

    Your last paragraph relieves me. It's sad to watch someone spend so many hours stressing and worrying over nothing. I'm glad that at least last October you were going to let it go and live your life.

  • Aaron

    Cara: "Of course you can appreciate an atheist, but honestly, as a Christian I am sad for him/her."

    Don't worry about us. We're alright.

    Vieve: "I am NOT saying that atheists are not loving, giving, generous people, some of whom are my friends, but more that, without a higher being in their world, they themselves become the highest being."

    Completely non sequitur. There are other people around, real people, who can take the place of God in adoration and love. Humanity provides a bountiful source of targets for affection, as individuals and as communities. With all those possibilities, why would removing God from the top of the heap suddenly rocket the atheist's perception of his well-being above all others? It would be convenient if it did, but rest assured that atheists can be just as consumed by thoughts about others as theists, because that is part of being human.

    Melissa, I wish you the best of luck in self-exploration. I think your current criterion for finding an answer to these questions is a good one: Finding the answer that lets you best sleep at night is completely practical, and about as valid as anything else.

  • http://markkoop.blogspot.com Mark

    Just found this blog. After reading quite a few posts, I have to say, This is awesome. I have been struggling through all of this in the last year with my family, and it is once again very encouraging to read of others with similar experiences.
    Thanks.

  • http://rant5k.blogspot.co.uk/ Rob

    I got linked here by Libby Anne about a week ago, I've been reading through all of your posts. I really liked hearing your story.

    I'm an atheist who grew up in an atheist family (immediate family anyway, most of my aunts, uncles and grandparents are CoE or Irish Catholic) and it's really difficult for me to understand how faith helps people. I had no religious position until I was eight years old, I don't think any child really does, but then at eight I came to the conclusion that these silly stories that we were being told at school (the U.K. doesn't have separation of church and state; quite the opposite) didn't make sense and I went to talk to my parents about it.

    My understanding of the label is simple. The word atheist means I have no positive belief in a god. I suppose I'm also an agnostic. By my understanding you border on atheist a lot of the time, but it ultimately is you who has to assume the label if you want to. There are other words for it, freethinker, bright, humanist. I have a friend who was raised as a devout catholic, but going through university with me she has become less and less faithful. I put her through to a definition of humanism and it's what seemed to fit her best.

    I always feel some weird survivor's guilt when I read blogs like yours or Libby Anne's, because I've never had to deal with this sort of problem and I want to help in some way…

  • Anonymous

    "When does one become an Atheist?"

    Speaking as an atheist (and thus this is a personal opinion; if anyone tells you they represent all atheists then they are talking nonsense; there is no organisation and there is no one viewpoint), I'd say one becomes an atheist when you are 'without (a) god'. I.E. you decide that there isn't / aren't a / any god(s).

    But to some degree, it doesn't really matter which label you choose or which viewpoint you decide fits you. It matters far more that you are a good person. Identifying as religious doesn't tell you how to do this, you still have to work out which rules to apply and how to understand the texts. So in this way you have to make the same decisions and moral judgements that atheist, agnostics and all of the others have to make.

    We definately have this life. There is no evidence of anything afterwards but that doesn't decide things either way. We'll work that out when we get there, for now, let's try to make the most and the best of what we do have. Good luck (although I hope you won't need it).

  • Anonymous

    I like your perspective on this. I have wrestled with these myself, but you have put it in words better than I could. Thanks :)

  • Anonymous

    Glad to see someone bring this up. Agnostic (literally no knowledge) as a label doesn't get much attention, but I think it is a far wiser and kinder thing to apply to oneself when struggling with questions of faith than atheist (literally no gods or God).

    I lean toward your option 3 myself, you articulated it very well. Keep writing and keep thinking!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18185954714426587340 Cara Coffey

    While I don't read around blogs much anymore, a comment from this blog post pops up now and again in my e-mail, so I re-read it today to remember.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I keep hearing you, and a multitude of others like you, softly cooing in the background of the loudness of Christian living within the United States of America.

    When will they not understand we are not as much the land of the free as one would suppose? The 'they' in this case is not you, not me. It is simply 'they'. The ones who put strings of expectation upon our most holy faith. Except nowadays I don't suppose I consider them strings. They were, and are, chains.

    I am glad you have a husband and children who don't do it to you. I have that as well, and I had to fight as did my husband to keep it that way. Otherwise, I would be insane and 'they' would have blamed me for the insanity. Or 'they' would have just been sad and confused. Actually that is not a "would have". They did it to me. I am no longer status quo, you see.

    For me, nowadays as I continue to write to Christianity and therefore witness the Grand Hypocrisy, my testimony is that miraculously I have no more chains attached. But I still know there is I AM.

    And the closer I got to that point, the more I saw fully the extent of chains and bias which God didn't do. People did it, do it, and I ache for them too. Because they are just as chained as the ones they have chained.

    I think it a very good place to stand outside of it all as you are, but I admit to aching for your questions about I AM. Well, but perhaps your ache is gone there, and I am glad for you.

    I am writing a third book some day, and it is for the atheist and homosexual, mainly. God the Father yearns for them. This is what I know deeply. But His yearnings are drowned out by the Grand Hypocrisy perpetuated 24/7 across this 'free' nation of the United States.

    ~Cara

  • A Reber

    Quoting the remarkable Melissa: "I gave myself permission to take a break from finding the answer for the whole God thing."

    Bingo! The problem with atheism is that folks start wanting you to follow an atheist's credo, disavowing God, dismissing believers…. quoting Dawkins.

    Back when I was in academia, I taught a course on the Psychology of the Paranormal. Toward the end when we looked at the nature of belief someone would realize that God is a "paranormal" entity and the fun would begin.

    Invariably I'd get pressed to define my belief. My answer always was "It's not a relevant issue."

    "So," the obvious inference would be made: "you're an atheist."

    "No, not really," I'd answer. "It just not relevant."

    "But you have to believe in something, right? Even not-believing is believing."

    "Do you," I liked to ask, "believe in purple unicorns?"

    "Huh?"

    "Do you believe in purple unicorns?"

    "Well, no …."

    "Do you deny their existence?"

    "Well, I might — but I don't think about them, they are not relevant in my life."

    "Bingo."

    Now, if you were to ask me what metaphysical arguments I might raise in a discussion about paranormal entities with hypothesized abilities we could talk about Gods, religion, the evolutionary mechanisms that make theological belief systems so common in human societies … and all the rest. Nowhere would we need to avow or disavow theism or atheism.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I've read 3 of your posts so far, this being the third, and find your thinking clear and balanced. Raised as a Jew, having long given that up, and existing as a spiritual being day to day, I really appreciate the thoughtful way you ponder the possibilities. You aren't afraid of the questions or the answers, or at least you don't let your fear cut you off from exploring them with an open mind.

    I'd like to share a few thoughts that work for me. I have had several experiences which leave me with no doubt that there is something greater than us in the universe. I don't know whether it is conscious and lucid, or whether something like an energy that just binds all things together. I don't like the word God, and try not to use it. If I say "God" to a Christian (or any person from another religion that believes in a supreme being), they presume that I mean what they mean when they say the word. I rarely mean the same thing they do.

    I have come to believe that we are all connected, and not just humans to other humans, but to all animals, plants, and even inanimate objects. I believe all religions and all spiritual pursuits are different paths up the same mountain, some more direct, and others filled with dogma and obstacles. I, like you, believe that if there is a single benevolent entity called God, any kind of judgement of humans would not be predicated on superficial concepts like what name you call God, what religion you profess to follow, or how loudly, but rather how you treat others, how you treat creation, and how closely your actions match your words- a measure of honesty. The fact that so many evangelical Christians have told me over the years that no matter how good I am, no matter how closely my acts fall in line with the philosophy of Jesus, without claiming him as my Lord and savior, I'm going to hell. That sounds like a statement filled with human pettiness, not one from the advanced mind of a sensible and loving God.

    If you want to connect with spirit… meditate. I have occasionally attended religious ceremonies of a varying affiliations, and have noticed that much of the rigid dogma seems designed to lull the mind into a meditative state, because that is when we are quiet enough to hear the whispers of the spirit world, God, the universe, or whatever else you want to call it. As we in the west have watered down the rituals to make room for our materialistic lives and pursuits in the industrial world, we enter that quiet state less and less frequently, and deny ourselves the deeper connections to spirit. It is this disconnect that I think is plaguing America today, creating the feeling of emptiness that people try to fill with drugs, sex, food, material goods, and various unhealthy behaviors.

    Thanks for writing, and for listening. Keep asking questions.

    –Alan, TN, USA

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05190740445879897601 Eric Jones

    A Reber,

    I'm not sure what you are protesting here? It seems to me that you, like a lot of people, have placed a pejorative stigma to the word atheism, where none should exist: which is reflected perfectly in your purple unicorn analogy. As an atheist, I'm slightly baffled what you mean by an atheist's credo. I think I know what you mean, but in order to be charitable, I'll just clarify a few terms and you can feel free to show me if this is incorrect from what you mean.

    You seem to be equating atheism (simply a lack of belief in a deity) with [take your pick] humanist/secular/rational/skeptic activism: which of course are two entirely different things. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in a purple unicorn known as god. As an atheist, and rationalist, I would never say we have proven that god does not exist. However, what I would say is that the possibility is extremely unlikely, combined with a lack of a shred of evidence. Therefore, we can pretty safely assume that there is no god, until such time as evidence might suggest otherwise; at which time I will revise my position if necessary. I think this is exactly how you feel about the purple unicorn scenario, because in order to be intellectually honest, that is how I feel about the purple unicorn scenario. And this is exactly what atheism is in regards to any god so far put forth for scrutiny.

    Atheism has no credo, in exactly the same manner that not believing in purple unicorns has no credo. The term atheist wouldn't even exist if other people didn't insist that an god with an equal amount of evidence as a purple unicorn (zero), does in fact exist – in large enough numbers for those of us who reject that proposal to have a label separate from those people.

    With that part hopefully clear, activists who happen to be atheists is what I guess you were referring too in a derogatory manner? I happen to be an activist in the rational/secular/humanist movement, in the sense that I promote those values and traits, and stand against those religious and conservative values, among others, that are opposed to mine. This activism is motivated from those three values I just listed, among others; however, a lack of belief in anything (god in this case) isn't among them. A lack of belief in god doesn't inform you anything about where I stand , nor does it influence me, on issues any more than a lack of belief in purple unicorns does. Saying I reject your god hypothesis until sufficient evidence is presented, in no way gives me a reason to lean one way or the other on any particular social issue, such as equal rights for the LGBT community.

    The only area it becomes an issue is when another person tries to interject the god hypothesis as their reason for contradicting the rational/skeptic/humanist values that I actually do hold: which happens far too often.

    So lets get off the atheist bashing for the incorrect reasons at least, please. You are free to disagree with rationalist/skeptic/humanist activism if you wish, which is your right; but lets at least recognize that atheism isn't the motivating factor behind that activism. Instead it is a conclusion reached from rational and skeptic values that do in fact lead some to activism, not all.

  • A Reber

    Eric:

    I certainly was not "bashing" atheism. My point was that religion and supreme beings of all descriptions are simply not relevant elements in my life. I used "purple unicorn" as what philosophers like to call a "place holder." It has no special meaning; it merely serves to mark a category of things that I don't think about and have no emotive role in my life.

    I am deeply interested in religion, its evolutionary origins, its role in human conduct and its profound impact on society. Religion is a cultural universal which implies deep adaptationist roots. As the philosopher Bob McCauley noted: "religion is natural, science is not."

    The element in Melissa's blog that caught my eye was her determination to take a break from the struggles. In short, to move toward making the whole thing simply "not relevant" — like purple unicorns.

    I have yet to meet an atheist for whom these and related issues were not relevant — so I find it uncomfortable calling myself an "atheist" even though I am "a-theistic."

    If you want a simple example, note that you used a lower case 'g' in "god" whereas I used an upper case, "God." The lower case 'god' is typically used by atheists to show their affiliation with their point of view and their denial of the special role of a "God." I treated God as a name for an entity, like my cat, whose name is Burney — with a capital 'B.'

    And, FWIW, I am, for the most part, quite comfortable with rationalist, skeptical, humanist thought. There is no inconsistency here — other than the fact that most of the data on human cognitive functions suggest that we aren't particularly good at being rational.

  • Will – Toronto

    Venturing in from the Canadian healthcare entry…

    Wow. You've got one heckuva life and 180 degree turnarounds that seem fictional.

    But I do know from first hand that truth is stranger and more fantastic than fiction.

    Thankyou very much for your entries.

    I thought I'd chime up here since this is something I am working through myself having been raised Catholic.

    I know many on the evangelical sides of Christianity and Atheism look at Agnosticism as a non position. But I and many others would beg to differ.

    Lately, I think I'm identifying more with Agnostic Deism.

    Something… God… created the universe and setup the rules by which things come and go. We are strongest and go further when we work together and we are weakest when we divide and fight amongst ourselves.

    God may reveal itself sporadically and randomly to certain people but for the most part seems content for the rest of life to live within the boundaries and it's up to us to figure it out with what we have.

    That's my take on it… Kudos and God bless. Glad to see you enjoying the journey of life even with how interesting it's getting.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18185954714426587340 Cara Coffey

    Eric Jones wrote:
    The only area it becomes an issue is when another person tries to interject the god hypothesis as their reason for contradicting the rational/skeptic/humanist values that I actually do hold: which happens far too often."

    Hey Eric….being that I am the conservative and religious person of which you speak, I wonder if I can say anything to you because you will cry "god hypothesis" concerning everything I say. And anyway, being that I am caught up into a love relationship with the Son of God, I can't write intellectually without His influence. But what I can do is ask your forgiveness. It is true what you say: many of us, if not most of us, as Christians (or perhaps Muslims or Buddists or any other number of religious groups) do indeed assume too much when speaking with an activist such as yourself. As a Christian, I can do something about that and I will by asking your forgiveness for the Christian religion. We shouldn't do that to you. We should respect your un-belief in anything about any god. You shouldn't need to call yourself atheist I guess, if you were completely free from the god hypothesis.

    But I contend it would be fun to discuss many a thing with you. Wish I could over a cup of coffee. I would ask you a ton of questions because I want to understand your mindset.

    And then, I will laughingly say that I would disagree wholeheartedly with one of your main points: God is not a hypothesis, at least He is not to me nor is He to a host of other people worldwide. And those people, though we can be a bit too taken up with our belief systems, also testify of miracles we see and experience 24/7. But I think that may be the root of the difference between a Christian person and a skeptic/humanist/rationalist person such as yourself: You would call what I am testifying to be miracles "coincidence". In my estimation, that is the difference between faith living and knowledge living. Faith goes where knowledge never could, and knowledge goes where faith never would. The person of knowledge and the person of faith will always deduce from different viewpoints. And I suppose that is the Grand Discussion, yes?

    Since God has proven Himself to me (and a host of other people worldwide) in any number of ways, then He is no hypothesis to many of us. And though I assert that He has proven Himself to us, I cannot say what you are able to say. I cannot say I have figured it all out about God, and I will not ever be able to say that on this earth. It is stated biblically like this: We are known, but until the time of face to Face (in eternity which you may or may not believe in), there is that little element of knowledge which I cannot have fully. But you can have it as an activist who is a skeptic/humanist/rationalist. And I respect that.

    I would guess that the activists such as yourself call us Christians, worldwide, "stupid" which is the exact opposite of the humanist/rationalist/skeptic who is not. I personally think that He has concretely proven Himself; but that is something that I don't think you and I could discuss without serious issues of disparity regarding what is and what is not hypothesis. And then there is the other problem with what you deduced (and A Reber used as an example) for me: Purple unicorns are the little horses my daughters love to comb the hair of in their playtime. They have absolutely nothing to do with the god hypothesis. Big difference, at least to me. (smile)

    But that is not to say I don't get all of your points, and I thank you for making them. I enjoy the thought provoking discourse with all of you. And I agree with the Anonymous person raised as a Jew and A Reber: Melissa is remarkable, and she is balanced.

    ~Cara

  • A Reber

    Will said: "you've got one heckuva life and 180 degree turnarounds that seem fictional."

    Yeah, my BS detector went off some time ago. Melissa tells a great story and it is fun to read about the turnaround but it doesn't pass my "smell test."

    Too much learned, too fast; too much growth, too soon; too much wisdom, too young. But, hey, maybe it's all true which would be even cooler.

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