Am I An Atheist Yet?

[Word count: 681. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]

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We live in a society that forces you to take sides. One-drop rule says if you’re “part Black,” you’re ALL Black. Hypermasculinity says if a man wears a pink shirt, then he’s probably wearing women’s lingerie underneath. Similarly, there are extremist Christians that believe in all or nothing; if you’re not 100% with us, then you’re 100% against us.

[By the way… Jesus himself preached against this in Mark 9:38-39. When St. John told an outsider, “you can’t sit with us,” Jesus told him, “Chill. Whoever is not against us is for us.”]

People act like there’s a hard line between Christian and not, belief and doubt, like you’re either on one side or the other. I approached the question from one angle in a post called “Am I Still a Christian.” Now I approach it from the other: How indifferent do I have to be toward Christianity before I am effectively an atheist?

I talked to my mom recently and she asked, “Have you been praying?” I said, “Not really.” She laughed and said with a lighthearted finger wag, “Okayyyyy! When you don’t pray, you get what you get!” Only faintly amused, I told her that’s the same thing I get when I do pray which is why I stopped.

Speaking of stopping, it’s been a year since my last blog post and that one was pretty low on faith. The subject hasn’t been high on my interest list. I attend church largely to maintain relationships that began there, but nothing in me wants to go back. Relentless in her mission to shepherd me back to the foot of the cross, mother incessantly asks whether I’ve gone to church and when I’m going again. This is like someone asking, “Whatever happened to [ex-significant other] ? You should get back with them again!”

Why in the hell would I want to do that? I was in that relationship. It didn’t work at all. Neither of us were happy. So why would I want to repeat that experience twice? (However reluctantly, Mom understood the comparison.)

Do you want to be an atheist?

Of course not. I’m probably a bad Christian, but I wouldn’t make a much better atheist. Quiet as it’s kept, I still like God! I want to believe in a force that maintains some semblance of order in our chaotic world. And I specifically reject new atheism. That sect gets so obnoxious with shaming and ridiculing people of faith, that the practice ironically becomes a religion itself. If you go that far, you’re not dissimilar from the fundamental Christians who get so overzealous Jesus doesn’t even like them anymore.

If someone asks my religion now, I usually tell them Christian agnostic. If I were to believe anything, I’d like to believe in Jesus, but I don’t know. I want to believe, but honestly, I still have some doubts as to whether he’s real.

Well what do you want then?

Whenever I express my truest feelings about my faith (specifically the lack thereof), I feel my mother’s disappointment wrap around me like a shawl or a boa constrictor — I can’t tell which. Mother has, for over 30 years, centered her life around church activity, personal devotion, evangelism both domestic and abroad, intercession, fasting, studying the Bible, living the Bible, preaching it, spreading it. Granted, my mother’s faith has helped stabilize our immediate and extended families, but it has also consumed her focus. I see her devotion and I respect it. But that’s not what I want for my life.

At a climax in the movie Spanglish, the lead character asks her child, “Is what you want for yourself to become someone very different than me?” The answer is yes. What I want is to continue working to be a better person, but I don’t want Christianity to be the sole method to achieve it. And I don’t want to be termed an atheist because of it. I just want to be. And be at peace. And I want both these warring sides to take a break… and let me.

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I Don’t Want No Sun

[Word count: 603. Approximate read time: 3 minutes]

Broken Mirror Sunset by Bing Wright -- http://www.photographytuts.com/impressive-sunset-photos-captured-broken-mirrors/

“I can’t see another day.
I can’t face another hour.
Let the night rain down around me.
I’m done.
I don’t want no sun.”

I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t stop playing this song. It spoke to me, singing my life, shaking its tambourine, amening along with every weary sentiment. I haven’t been able to write anything for this faith blog for months. Truthfully, I feared I was becoming agnostic. And I might still be.

These lyrics come from “Sun,” a soulful ballad by Lalah Hathaway from the film For Colored Girls. I personally identify with them because they describe someone who’s been broken… one time too many. It’s not that I don’t want sunshine, rainbows, bacon, and everything else good in life. I just don’t want false hope. I’m so much against false hope that I’m willing to abandon all hope if it guarantees I won’t be disappointed. Continue reading

Hopsin’s Song of Lost Faith Hits Close To Home

[Word count: 464. Approximate read time: 2 minutes]

Rapper Hopsin in "Ill Mind of Hopsin 7"

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.”

—Psalm 139:1-4

In a post on JFuzion.com, I discovered a music video for the recently released “Ill Mind of Hopsin 7” from former Ruthless Records rapper Hopsin. The Los Angeles native became a born again Christian 2 years ago, but now finds himself doubting his beliefs. With its starkly honest lyrics, a video set against a barren desert panorama is only appropriate.

If you can wade through the expletive-heavy verses without grimacing from offense, you’ll find the song is essentially a mournful prayer. Similar expressions of disappointment and lost faith might be found in Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Job, or Lamentations.

An orthodox Christian might declare this irreverent and unacceptable, but if Psalm 139:1-4 is true and you’ve ever prayed while in anguish, your distressed prayer probably sounded to God much like Hopsin’s may sound to us. Beneath the bared teeth of his words is a heartbreaking expression of hurt. Continue reading

Why Do Christian Artists Need To Lie?

Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying

[Word count: 577. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]

Billboard reports that Timothy Lambesis, lead singer of Grammy-nominated Christian metal band As I Lay Dying, now admits his band faked Christianity to sell records. Lambesis, who became agnostic while in college, says the ruse is not uncommon. “In 12 years of touring with As I Lay Dying, I would say maybe one in 10 Christian bands we toured with were actually Christian bands.”

How did no one notice? I suspect a familiar naïveté helped this to happen. Worship leader Michael Gungor described it in a viral blog post:

We really want the people on the stage…to have it together more than we do. Because we are messed up, we need them to be a sort of savior and hope for us. The result of this is…the people who are really good at pretending that they have it all together…make it to the stage and the book or album cover and the radio stations…

Rather than just being honest about where we are at and what we all struggle with…we look to our gatekeepers to…live morally vicariously for us.”

If you were to ask why Christian artists need to lie, the answer would be because Christians require it. When a believer asks you if you believe too, a plaintive puppy-dog-eyed “please say you do” is always implied.

The What Not To Say section of SuicideIsPreventable.org warns you not to ask questions in a way that indicates which answer you want to hear. It nearly invites dishonesty to say, “You’re not thinking about committing suicide, are you?” You might as well say, “This is what I want to hear. Please don’t tell me anything else, even if it’s true.” These are the things we like Christian artists to say… Continue reading

The Darkest Night

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“Skepticism is the beginning of faith.”
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

What if, some glad morning when this life is over, none of us fly away? What if the lights go out and our stories just end?

More than a few occasions in 2012 found me devolving into a non-violent, slow-motion panic—mostly over my God and his perceived absence. Enough flummoxed descriptions of my mounting crisis of faith and someone finally put a name to it: the Dark Night of the Soul, a temporary spiritual crisis marked by doubts about the afterlife. Reportedly, Mother Theresa was a notable sufferer, having spent nearly 50 years of her life in this state. Though technically correct, nothing that lasts 50 years should get to call itself “temporary.”

For someone outside Christianity, a more accessible term may be existential crisis. Whatever you call it, I’m just glad it’s identifiable. If someone recognized it, then it wasn’t some new mystery disease with no treatment, no cure. Someone lived to tell the story. Continue reading

For Believers Who Have Considered Apostasy When Faith Isn’t Enuf

[Word count: 1671. Approximate read time: 6-7 minutes]

God prompted me to write out my testimony of why I believe in him recently. That was probably so I could have a more sure footing from which to talk about why I doubt him. I usually avoid disclaimers, but for this entry, it’s been as difficult to write out as it has been to live out. So please pray about what you don’t understand or agree with, and also be considerate in your judgments. If I deliver it correctly, you will do some judging.

For all we know

“And help us to be wise in times when we don’t know…”
—from “The Prayer

For those outside Christendom who are unaware, apostasy, also known as “falling away,” is the act of abandoning the teachings of Christ to become an atheist or agnostic. It is essentially the opposite of conversion to belief in Jesus. This is one of the most feared things that can happen to a Christian. It can get you ostracized from your community of believers, and though some believe in “once saved, always saved,” most believe this loss or rejection of faith results in eternal damnation.

For those inside Christendom who are unaware, where Christians believe Jesus Christ is Lord, and atheists do not believe God exists at all, agnostics say “we don’t know.” Agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify the belief that deities either do or do not exist. It does not reject that God exists, but it does not prove him either. It’s like the spiritual embodiment of “I can neither confirm nor deny.”

As un-Christian as this viewpoint is, I can honestly say, I have leaned toward this philosophy for years while professing belief in Christ. It’s not foreign to me. I’ve just never really allowed myself to examine it until now.

Continue reading