“I’ve been where you are…..”

I was ranting to my brother tonight about religious people who say “Oh yes, I had questions like yours a few years ago, but I finally came to the point where I just had to say “God, I’m believing in you.  I know you’ll show me the truth.” and ever since then I’ve just KNOWN he’s real.”  Or something similar to that.  The other night I was chatting with an acquaintance and my unbelief came up.  He had wanted me to pray about playing violin on a worship team he was organizing for some event.  I said I wasn’t the kind of person he’d want on the team, so naturally he wanted to know why and I told him.  After sharing a few of the questions that lead me to where I am today in my current state of uncertainty and unbelief, he said something like the above-mentioned annoying anecdote.  To be fair, he was very nice about everything and the conversation remained congenial.

On Facebook, a friend posted a status about his recent deconversion, and I noticed a comment someone left that ran along the same lines as that of my acquaintance.  Again, the comment was far from harsh or condemning, just an “I’ve been where you are, but I still believe.”

I am not going to argue that the believers who say they’ve been where I am and have questioned the things I question are lying or mistaken.  I cannot say that they haven’t questioned things like I am.  It offends me when Christians claim I never really believed, because I know for almost my entire life I DID believe completely and passionately and based my identity in my belief in God and my faith in the Bible.  I have no intention of doing that in return.  The thing that bothers me is the suggestion or implication that I should stifle my questions, turn to this god I am not sure even exists and say “God, I have these questions, but I’m going to put them aside now and believe that you are real.”

Perhaps I am just too far gone now.

For twenty-odd years I believed whole-heartedly that the God of Abraham was real and good and that the Bible was absolute truth and infallible.  I believed Christianity was the one true religion.  That therein lay truth and any who seek for truth would eventually find their way there and to God.  I believed it unquestioningly.  But no more.

I owe it to myself to find answers to my questions.

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Your tragedy. My blessing.

I woke up early this morning and wasn’t ready to get out of bed yet, so I lay there listening to a podcast from A Christian and an Atheist (podcast #101 for any who are interested in checking it out).  The title to the podcast is The Problem of Suffering.  For all those who are not interested in listening to it, it’s safe for you to assume the question under discussion is “how can an all-loving and all-powerful god allow so much suffering?”

Only half listening, my mind meandered through different “happy” stories I’ve heard in which God gets the credit for making everything work out.  But what if you don’t know the whole story?

A Christian couple has tried for years to have a baby.  You know the story.  Prayer, tests, more prayer, more tests, and no baby.  It’s just not going to happen.  Finally, having given up all hope of having their own biological child, they decide to adopt.  At the same time, a pregnant woman has decided she doesn’t want her child but she’s too far along to abort it, so she decides to give the child up for adoption.  The Christian couple are the happy recipients of this baby, and obviously God worked it all out.  Right?  Right?

What the Christian couple doesn’t know is that while they’re praising God for being so good to them and blessing them with this “unwanted” little girl, the “unwanted” child’s father (a Christian and a good friend of mine) had very much wanted her.  His girlfriend left him because he didn’t want the abortion.  When she found she was too far along to have the abortion, she never told him.  Never gave him the chance to keep his baby and raise her himself like he’d always wanted to.  Instead, she let him believe she went ahead with the abortion, and then adopted the little girl out to the Christian couple.

Two and a half years after his daughter was born, my friend’s ex emailed him to say she’d had the baby and given her up for adoption.  Attached were a couple of pictures of a smiling blonde little girl.

If God really did bless that Christian couple with the daughter they have been loving and raising all these years, then how does my friend’s loss and heartbreak fit in?  He loved God too, after all.  Did God just not love him as much as the other couple?  Was he not deemed worthy enough to raise his own daughter?  And how many other “blessings from God” do people receive without looking deeper to see whose tragedy they are being blessed by?

(Note: This story was told with my friend’s permission)

Good luck

I’m finding it difficult, now that I’m no longer a Christian, to know what to say sometimes.  How to respond.  An old friend of mine has been job hunting for a while and periodically updates his statuses with hopes and discouragement from his search.  We used to talk for hours about what we believed God was doing in our lives and what he seemed to be saying to us.  In the past, I would have told him I was praying (and actually pray!!), and hope God would “open doors” for him.  I spoke fluent Christianese…and I would whole-heartedly mean every word of it.  But now?

I catch myself saying “good luck” because I don’t know what else to say.  It’s a stupid thing to say….I know he doesn’t believe in luck any more than I currently do, but I don’t know how else to say that I care and I hope things turn out well.  Every time I write something to that effect, it sounds a little like I am really saying “I HOPE things turn out well for you, but I really doubt it” which is the last thing I mean to say.  Maybe I need to work more on my communication skills.

It’s really bothering me though.  I’ve shed this whole other language and haven’t yet learned what the REST of the world says.  Besides “good luck.”  Or writing a long paragraph or two to explain exactly what I mean.  Any suggestions?

Who get’s the credit?

A couple of weeks ago the café I was working at closed shop, so my boss and I have been job hunting.  Yesterday morning she had an interview at a local coffee shop but found the shifts won’t work for her, so she mentioned me to the shop owner and gave me a glowing reference, and after leaving the interview she called me and said I needed to get my résumé in ASAP.  Around noon yesterday I was able to go in and talk to the owner who gave me an interview and I got hired right away!  And it was all thanks to my former boss.

Sounds pretty straight-forward, right?

I was thinking last night about how I would have viewed the above-mentioned events a couple of years ago.  When the café closed, “obviously God has something else in mind for me.”  And when I got the job after my boss sent me up with my résumé, “God just works things out so well!”  My boss’s kindness in suggesting me for the job would be overshadowed by whatever I thought God was planning for me, even though my boss is OBVIOUSLY a part of the event and God has to be fit in there somewhere…wherever I can make him fit….

It’s just nice now to be able to give credit where credit is due.  God, if you want some credit too, you have to do more than try to piggyback on my boss’s kindness.

Complications of god

I plead busyness with school as my excuse for not having written here sooner.  Excuses are a bad habit though.  It IS one of the main reasons I haven’t written, and the other would be that I just haven’t been thinking about anything I felt was blog-worthy.  Nothing deep-ish, that is.

Today I realized that my thinking has been taking a decidedly agnostic turn.  I still pray on occasion, although that has become increasingly difficult in the last year, but more and more often I catch fleeting thoughts to the effect of “how can anyone really know if there is a god?”  I know some people require irrefutable proof of the existence of a deity before they will believe one exists. Others believe that god is something or someone who, by nature, can never be proven to exist or not exist, and that one must choose (rather blindly, it seems to me) to believe or disbelieve in his/her/its existence.  I, for one, cannot bring myself to confidently believe either way.  I wonder sometimes if I ever will and envy those who do.

I would like to believe there is a god.  A god who takes an interest in life here on earth and who is approachable and relatable.  But if there is, then what is he like?  All sorts of religions claim different things about her or them (gods plural) that it gets confusing trying to sort through it all to find out who is right.  Life would be simpler if god didn’t exist and everyone knew it.  Would there be meaning to life?  I was lead to believe that without the Christian version of god life was meaningless.  But is that really true?  Probably not.  Maybe there is not a universal meaning that is applied to everyone’s life, but instead an individual one chosen by each person.  And maybe that’s the case even if there IS a god?  That seems more likely to me.  After all, everyone seems to have different values and find meaning in different things.  Why shouldn’t it be individual?

Honesty

“We cannot be ourselves unless we know ourselves.  But self-knowledge is impossible when thoughtless and automatic activity keeps our souls in confusion.” –Thomas Merton

Honesty is important.  It is vital for freedom.  One of the hardest things I’ve had to do is to learn to be honest with myself.  Honest about my questions.  Honest about my doubts.  Honest about my failings.  The absolute hardest, though, is to be honest about my successes and my good qualities.  

As hard as it is to be honest about both the bad AND the good, that’s what I want in my life.  I want to live honestly.  Be myself.  Live intentionally.  I think this ties into my earlier post about experiencing life.  I can sit all day and think about who I am or who I seem to be and write pages and pages and pages of self-analysis in my journal…but until I go out and start experiencing things and testing my limits, I’ll never really know who I am and what I can do.  I hate saying that here because someone will read it (I know my mom does) and make me go out and do something.  And honestly….that just sounds scary and uncomfortable right now.

An error made on your own

I joined the “Free Believers Network” page on Facebook a while ago and have found some interesting and thought-provoking posts and comments and articles there.  Today a quote someone posted caught my attention:

“…an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.”  -Ayn Rand

I think she makes an interesting point.  I have mostly not been an experientially-focused person.  Even from a young age I have lived (or have tried to live) by the saying “learn from the mistakes of others.”  I still see a lot of merit in that.  After all, life IS rather short to go making all the mistakes myself….but I have found that I’ve gone to the other extreme and am now often afraid of making my own mistakes.  And having to live with the consequences.

For most of my life I have accepted the “ten truths on faith”, not having the wisdom of experience to evaluate the validity or merit of those “truths”, and now I find myself having to re-evaluate.  But what standard am I to use to distinguish truth from error?  Experience, apparently.  Which means I need to actually experience something.  Will I survive?

Actually, this is something that keeps coming up in the things I read, the stuff I’ve been listening to, and many of the conversations I’ve had with people lately.  That is, the idea of relaxing and letting myself make mistakes.  Allowing myself the freedom to live life, make decisions, and learn from the “bad” or “foolish” decisions I make without condemning myself.

It’s almost as though the universe is trying to shake me awake and say “Hey!  Get up and go live your life!”