I feel like this bog post is about three years late, yet the timing is probably best.
I was raised in the Church. It was practically in my DNA. At no time did I ever doubt there was a God. Jesus was the answer to the questions of life.
I cannot say I believe this, after over 30 years of living. It was about 38 years of living and believing to be exact.
About three years ago, I found I could no longer believe.
There is a quote that has been attributable to many writers, from Stephen Meyer to Josh McDowell. It goes “the heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects.” I have long believed this. It is why people can believe very outlandish things. It is not really a defense, so much as a criticism…but you would not know it, because it is primarily used as a pro-conversion statement.
The road to no more faith in a god of any sort was tough. In the beginning it was more about doubts of the Church and Bible. The Church I was a part of encouraged using the “Year Through the Bible”. It is a Bible structured so that each day, you read a portion of the Old Testament, New Testament and the Psalms (which is…uh, part of the OT, but whatever). Now, I knew the Bible pretty well. I studied it my whole life. And my first pass was pretty uneventful. I was focused on the “year-thru-the-Bible” gimmick.
It was my second pass. The second year I was reading thru, stuff started to seem… a little off. Do not get me wrong…there were uplifting stuff, encouraging stuff. But more and more, God, proclaimed as good and great throughout scripture, started to show as ego maniacal, self centered, manipulative (“If you really loved me…”) and generally petty. God exhibited qualities that I would never see as respectable in a person. I mean, Donald Trump exhibits a lot of the same self regard that God does…I do not consider Trump worthy of worship. The main difference with God seems to be super powers. These qualities are not bad for God, because, hey, God is GOD! Which is a pretty lame defense.
The story of Job shows God letting Job lose *everything* including his family to devastation and death simply to prove a point. God is not innocent of Job’s suffering. God stops show His favor to Job so He can prove Job does not need those things to love and worship Him. There is no indication that God is bothered by anything Job is going through, because it is not about Job…it is about God’s ego. Sure, God gave Job everything back twofold…well kinda. It is not like God raised his children and servants from the dead. No, those people were gone. He just replaced them for Job.
I had kind of rejected Sola Scripture by this point. That is the notion that scripture is the only source of wisdom from God. It is circular logic, as the Bible never makes any such claim. And the verses that speak of scripture being God-breathed were written when there was no Bible. So, it got ridiculous.
I also confess that I gave up asking for anything in prayer.
Wait, let me re-state that. I continued to pray. But I stopped asking for anything for myself. I focused on the needs of friends and family. The common answer Christians give is that God’s answers are yes, no or not now/maybe. So, God is a magic eight ball.
Anyways, I pretty much decided that I had to reject anything that seemed contrary to God. I did not want to accept the idea that God might not be real. I wanted to believe, so I just had to stop buying the idea that God was anything like other Christians were willing to accept about God.
I found other people who had similar ideas, which was a bit of comfort. Unfortunately, they were not at Church, which eventually led to my dropping out. I just could not worship that God. I still participated in the video team, though less and less. I like doing that stuff, I like helping friends.
I had been, for quite some time, finding that the concept of “Faith” as a noble and great thing problematic. Faith in things unseen is actually pretty neutral. Your faith in things unseen might lead you to start a hospital to help the sick or a food bank to feed the poor. Of course, your faith in things unseen might also lead you to fly planes into buildings or shoot doctors.
About a little over three years ago, I was presented a question that I just could not get around. “Could I prove God exists without resorting to it being a feeling or sense I had.
And I thought about it.
And I thought about it some more.
And even more.
And you know what I realized?
I could not. Because that is what faith is.
I claimed a personal relationship with a person who did not answer me back when I spoke with them. I could not have a conversation. We do not get to know people merely by reading about them. I have friends that are very into reading books about various historical figures. But no matter how many books they read on Lincoln or John Adams? They will never be able to claim a personal relationship to either man. They simply know facts about them. They may feel a kinship, but there is no relationship. If they quietly pray to them, it is not a relationship. If they sing songs to them, it is still not a relationship.
Billy Graham was very fond of the notion that God is like the wind. e cannot see the wind, but we know it is real.
Except wind and God are not the same thing. Wind cannot be seen directly, but you can see it physically impacting things. Smoke dissipates or bends to the wind. Branches and bushes sway. We feel it move across our skin. We can hear it make noise. Wind is truly verifiable. If you put five people in a a backyard on a windy day, they will have pretty much the same experience. The variations will be small. But you sit five Christians together and you will easily get five different experiences that are very different. Sometimes even contradictory. Because, unlike wind, we do not hear God (we often claim it is a still small voice-our conscience…but it is not an audible voice that the other four people would hear). Unlike the wind, we do not feel a touch of God on our skin. We do not hear, touch, smell or see God. We rely on feelings about events in our lives. “This happened, it must be God speaking to me”. I honestly do not know a single person who has ever made an indisputable case for God. Instead, their believe is strictly based on a feeling.
I am not denying their sincerity. They truly do believe. They are certain the things they do that are good are because of a change God has made in them. I actually expect sincere belief to change you. If you sincerely believe something, you should be changing. But it does not prove your belief to be true. But honesty, a lot of the attempts I see to prove that Christianity is not simply a religion, but absolute truth ends up reminding me of those Ghost Hunter and Cryptozoology shows on Nat Geo. They present a lot of unverified images and sounds and then demand you offer a better explanation than Bigfoot.
And so I am left having to side with the idea that I cannot worship that which I cannot prove the existence of. I do not believe Christianity is al bad. I do not believe religion has only brought pain and suffering. But it certainly has not only brought good either. The Bible has good concepts, it also has some pretty messed up ideas. While many Christians reject slavery today, it is most definitely not because the Bible condemns it. Slave owners used scripture to justify slavery. Why? Because the Bible addresses slavery…but it does not condemn it. The holy scripture does not ever condemn the ownership of another person. Of course, these things become less of a problem if you do not consider the Bible infallible. If recognized as a book written by flawed humans with human flaws? You can take note of and hold on to the good while leaving the bad behind. Just like we do with any other book.
Honestly, to quote Steve Taylor, “Since I gave up Hope, I feel a lot better.” I am not using that quite in the way Steve intended, but hey. What I mean, really, is that I have found life to be filled with more hope than before. Which surprised me. I do not have all the answers, and I no longer feel like I have to. I also appreciate that I am no longer paralyzed by wondering if my hopes and dreams are God’s will or my will. Maybe I am the only one who ever found that an issue. Do I want to tell stories because of what I want or is it God? Do I want to share my art because it is God’s will or my own desire? And so I would stop trying to accomplish anything. Now? Without being driven mad by such worry, I can pursue creative endeavors.
I realize that the reactions to this will be varied. Some folks will be disappointed. Some will not be surprised. Some will mock. Some will be supportive. But I felt like it was time to say it. You might wonder why it would be so hard. One Christian declared not teaching your kids to believe in Jesus (which I could not do, and my sister is not doing with my nephews currently, though she believes in God) to be the ultimate form of (Cosmic) child abuse. I have seen how some Christians have responded to Ojo Taylor from Undercover. There is good reason a lot of former Christians (and other religions) kind of go underground. And much of my personal life is steeped among Christians. The majority of my friends and family are Christians. My parents are very involved in Church. My mom has terminal cancer that we discovered shortly after I stopped believing. Do I really want to have ongoing discussions about why I should believe in the time I have left with my mom? Not really. I want to build as many positive memories in the time ahead.
But there it is.
I do not believe in God. Or any gods.
Happy New Year?