Friday, November 27, 2009

So of course I am feeling ambivalent about posting that bit about atheism. For one thing, I only have about a dozen regular readers and I don't want to lose any of you. But also because it has caused a fair amount of dissonance within me. I've come very close to deleting it several times, not because I didn't mean it, but because I don't think I quite said what I meant to say. So here is a brief second attempt.

In some way that I can't quite articulate, at this particular moment in my life, acknowledging my atheist thoughts has become a necessary part of being a believer. The tension between the two of ways of thinking (believing and not) feels like two sides of the same coin. They arise organically out of each other. I find some comfort in various OT stories: Jacob is blessed by God after wrestling with him all night; David is perhaps more beloved by God than any other character, yet he sins egregiously and repents from the bottom of his heart (Ps 51); Job shouts defiance at heaven, and yet in the end, God is pleased with him and blesses him. It occurs to me that all of those times in the prophets where God says (through the prophet) that it isn't empty sacrifices that he wants, it is human beings' hearts-- all of those times may be a reflection of something very simple: God wants honesty from us, even if that honestly involves speaking thoughts that aren't orthodox.

This is coming very close to me sounding like I'm patting myself on the back for having heretical thoughts and that's not what I mean to do at all. So maybe I should just stop. It's just that some days it feels like an act of faith to stand before God, courage in both hands, and say "I don't believe in you."



  1. ha. it's odd that when I'm expressing unbelief is when I sound most like a believer.

    Mark 9:24, the obvious reference.

  2. Faith seeking understanding . . . I think that's what our life journey is all about. I really appreciate the words of St. Anselm:"I acknowledge, O Lord, with thanksgiving, that thou has created this image in me (seeking God), so that, remembering thee, I may think of thee, may love thee. But this image is so effaced and worn away by my faults, it cannot do what it was made to do, unless thou renew and reform it. I am not trying, O Lord, to penetrate thy loftiness, for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it, but desire in some measure to understand thy truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this too I believe, that 'unless I believe, I shall not understand.'"

    I think when we stop questioning, we stop actively believing. -gb

  3. I am experiencing most of the ambivalences you are - just not characterizing them as atheist.

    I live my life as though the Christian God of my twenties exists. As though that system is true in a concrete and absolute way. This is my will, my choice. I act as though I believe.

    On the other hand (I was going to say "rationally" but I'm not sure whether it is thoughts or feelings speaking), that Christian system doesn't seem tenable. I don't expect heaven; I expect that when they close the grave on me, it is all over.

    I am learning to live with these two competing parts of myself.

    The second part, the one I think of as the doubting/unconvinced part, motivates me to really live . . . right now. Not to count on eternity.

    The first part, the believing part, contributes most of the integrity of my life.

  4. excellent quote, gb, thanks. I may post this over my computer: "when we stop questioning, we stop actively believing."

    cheery-o: yes to everything you said. :-) I'm not sure I should characterize it as atheist, either. I'm not sure what to call it. But it feels important to acknowledge it.

    Thanks for chiming in (both of you), it helps me keep going.

  5. I have no religious quotes, I was raised Catholic and we were not made to memorize the bible or even read it, only memorize the mass and prayers, which I can do (best after a few). I sometimes feel that raising my younger 2 children without religion may harm them and then they will join a cult, but that is the irrational side of me. The rational side says that I am raising them to be honest, loving, respectful, yadayadayada...

    Thank you again for giving words to thoughts that rattle around in my head and heart.