Thursday, February 22, 2007

Atheist with a Safety Net

My parents were Catholic, so I was baptized. That was basically my last day in church with my parents, other than the odd wedding or funeral.

I grew up never thinking about religion much. As I became a teenager, I became an atheist. I stayed an atheist throughout my college years. My friend knew I'd been baptized and joked that I was an atheist with a safety net.

Side note. Everyone thinks atheists are bitter, angry people with some anti-religious chip on their shoulder. That wasn't me. Those ones are just the atheists that people know about, because they don't shut up. I knew several who just lived life and didn't advertise. The more public ones give the rest of them a bad name. I was always pro-religion, I just didn't believe. In fact, my best friends in college were my friends at the Newman Club.

Times have changed and I'm no longer an atheist. I identify with Christians, but I really don't know where to start with religion. It's been a while since I read The Bible, but the last time I did, I was not inspired.

Here's my problem. I like what God has to offer. Christians and Jews are it. They are obviously onto something. But, I'm not getting the whole "Jesus is savior" vibe. I get why Christians go there, but I don't have that faith.

I refuse to be spiritual. I know it's a catch-all, but please. Spiritual says patchouli, incense, organic foods, and Prius. They all have their places, and aren't bad, but I refuse be defined by some stupid term that elicits that image.

I asked my friend Ed about this whole thing. Ed seems to know The Bible inside and out, like he's some sort of scholar or something. He's a very devout Coptic Christian (which apparently just means that he gets to got to all the Christmas Sales BEFORE their Christmas celebration, instead of after!). He has an air of realism about him and puts regular life into religious perspective quite easily. Ed's a good guy, too. But, good guy and smart shopper aside, he couldn't explain to me why Jesus is the guy. Apparently it's self-evident or something. Must be a faith thing. Which I don't have.

So, to ramble on, where does that leave me? I'm not really sure of my choices, here. I'm not even convinced that a savior is coming, so I don't think I can be Jewish, either. I think there are minimum requirements.

But, maybe I just don't know enough to know yet. Is that it? After more studying, will something just "pop" into my head and I'll be a believer? What do I study?

I can tell what I don't want to be. I can tell the kind of person that I want to be. When I fill out a form or survey, I check "Christian." That's what I identify with. But, why?


  1. What a blog post you've got there!Dang, there's so much I should maybe write to you. I've thrown away most of the doctrines I grew up with, but still consider myself a Christian. But that label, to me, doesn't mean what some people might think it means.

    Here's my two cents -- take it or chuck it, I won't take it personally:

    --Don't worry about the whole "Jesus as savior" thing. If it was that crucial, he would've been clearer about it and left better evidence. Look at what he is recorded as saying, though, and see what you think. Maybe get one of those bibles with Jesus' words in red, and just read those and see what you think.

    --Listen to your spirit. Don't worry about being spiritual. Your emotions? That's spirit. Memory? Spirit. Intuition? Ditto. Spirit is what most people call common sense. What does yours tell you about who you are? You're a very introspective guy, which automatically makes you spiritual. Don't force anything.

    --Study can help to a point, but in the end faith is a mystery that defies formulae. I've studied more in the past two years than ever before, and the result has been a purging of what my family considers "faith". And I pretty well let go of the idea that I can use scholarship and deduction to find the right answers to most religious questions. Go figure.

    If you wanna, let's chat at the summit. Actually, you can chat and I can listen, if you'd like. No pressure. You're a good man, Roland!

  2. Hmmm... You gave me plenty to think about. I'll be picking up a red letter edition, ASAP.

    I'll take you up on that chat, as well.

    If you're still reading, what's your take on someone in my religious state going to a church? How do you find one? They are all just buildings with no clue to the content (like a See's candy). It could take months to find something "palatable," much less enjoyable.

    Good stuff.


  3. My guess is that for you right now, a great benefit from church would be a social network while you search for answers. I doubt there's a specific doctrine or denomination that's a perfect fit for you at the moment, but maybe there's a group of people that are right for you.

    Any churches around you that have a reputation as a loving, accepting place? You might want to try those first.

    My intuition (spirit, again) tells me that in your situation, you might develop a pattern of rejecting things that are presented to you (your friend's self-evidence about Jesus, a pastor's sermon on steps to salvation, a radio host discussing hell, etc...), becuase your own intuition can't agree. This can be good because it's forcing you to think about specific things and use your own judgement.

    The danger, though, is that it creates a reactive habit. At some point we all need to take time to think about what we do believe, rather than how we disagree with everybody else. But how to get there without opening up to everybody else's ideas? And there's the rub...

    What I hope you can find at a church is some people who will love you unconditionally while you ponder some big questions.

    I'll certainly keep reading the blog!

  4. I think one could, based on much of the New Testament, object to organized religion in general, or at least to very organized religion. I have come to the conclusion that I like my religion like my political party. How did Will Rogers say it, something like: I don't belong to an organized political party, I'm a democrat.

  5. What do you mean by organized religion? Do you mean church, in general? Or do you mean big religious organizations like the Catholic Church?

  6. Hierarchy and authority

    Dogma and Creeds

    Morals and ethics not particularly related to the Golden Rule

    Co-opted by the State to serve the needs of the upper class i.e. how Buddhism and Christianity function so often to encourage wars and killing. Oxymoron for those two religions

  7. I consider myself a Christian, but many Christians might not consider me a Christian. Ray Wylie Hubbard wrote, "Buddha wasn't a Christian, but Jesus would have made a good Buddhist." Kind of summed it up for me.


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