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Over at his Better Living blog, Mark Daniels has written a heartfelt post entitled 'Note from a Former Atheist and Current Sinner/Saint to My Atheist Friends'.

As one of Mark's atheist friends, I felt obligated to reply.

From Mark's post:

"It’s not too late to make a fresh start with God.'

Take it from one who has wandered from God time and again, God does give fresh starts.

Don't believe there is a God? I was once there myself. I was an atheist. But something (or Someone) incited me to dare to believe. I found myself willing to believe, though I couldn't explain that willingness rationally, in spite of the fact that such belief ran counter to my penchant for utter empirical rationalism and complete self-sufficiency. God, loving and powerful, has been turning my surprising willingness to believe into a deepening trust (faith) in the God made known in Jesus Christ ever since.

If I go to a great movie or a cool restaurant with tasty fare or if I read a book that changes my perspective on things, I don't keep that stuff in. I tell people about them. The same thing is true for my faith. I fell in love with Jesus Christ, God-enfleshed, thirty-plus years ago and I've found God to be incredibly faithful, my relationship with him exhilarating, challenging, and comforting.

Please, consider being willing to believe in God. Just tell the God you're not even certain is there that you're willing to believe and then see what happens.

Then, be prepared to be as surprised as I was and have remained for over thirty years, by all the fresh starts that come your way. Really."

my reply:

"I can't tell you what a heartbreaking, near-insanity inducing process my attempt to maintain and regain faith was. The farther I get away from it, the better and healthier I feel.

The shift in worldview has been painful and overwhelming at times, but now--as a secular humanist--I feel much more justified (and less defensive) in my beliefs. I also feel a lot more compassion for my fellow man, and have found myself just being good--for goodness' sake--much more often.

I don't know whether or not there's a god, but if there is, I can't imagine that god objecting to where I'm at right now."

Even though the prospect of returning to the Christian religion seems akin in my mind to returning to an emotionally and physically abusive relationship, I deeply appreciate the concern for my well-being and eternal welfare. As Penn Jillette remarks in his oft-used youtube video on the subject of proselytizing, 'how much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?'

I agree with Penn, and interpret the witness of Mark Daniels, and all of those other wonderful religious people in my life as an act of love. A willingness to engage in good faith talk about important existential issues--that could certainly cause some social and internal comfort--is a wonderful show of respect. The best way I can think of to reciprocate that expression of respect and love is to return the favor.

I've documented my ascent (or descent, depending on your perspective) from religion here, here, here, and here. It's been a long process that began with an attempt to give God credit for the good things that happen to some while giving him an out four allowing so many inexcusable things to happen to others. This issue--among a handful of others--led inevitably to a view of God that was very close to that of Harold Kushner's: A God that is good, but is not omnipotent. Some other considerations brought me farther away from that point to a deism of sorts, and from there, I landed at atheism as kind of a default state. Realizing that I would now have to create my own value system without the aid of the revelations of a good god, I have adopted the life stance of secular humanism. Things seem to be working out so far. Not being forced to defend claims about things that I couldn't possibly know has been helpful, and it's been a great relief to no longer have to serve as the christian God's spin doctor for some of his less than attractive traits.

All of that as it is, I'm glad that there are people out there who love me and are concerned for my well being. I return their love. I also offer up for their consideration the thought that a life lived for it's own sake, without the need to make and defend unsubstantiated claims, with an awe for the vastness and complexity of 'life, the universe, and everything', a focus on loving your neighbors, your family, yourself, and your community, and with a desire to leave the world just a little better off than it was when you found it, is a worthy enterprise.

As someone much more famous than myself once said, 'there is grandeur in this view of life'.

Originally posted to Spencer Troxell on Wed Sep 29, 2010 at 12:30 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  not wanting to harsh your friend's buzz, (0+ / 0-)

    i'd probably just say, "glad it's working out for you."

    Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues. The Gita 3.21

    by rasbobbo on Wed Sep 29, 2010 at 12:39:58 PM PDT

  •  Tipped and rec'd. Well said. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    UnaSpenser

    Dude, if there is a heaven, and I believe that there is, then I am sure that you will be pleasantly surprised to get there.  I loved this quote:

    How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

    It explains a lot.  

    "People are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what's happening." - John Kerry

    by SpamNunn on Wed Sep 29, 2010 at 12:43:32 PM PDT

  •  Nice response (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Renee, cevad
    I was reading that first guy's message, and there wasn't a whole lot in there that seemed all that objectionable.  What harm could there be in just opening yourself up to a possibility?  I mean, I may be an atheist or agnostic or non-religious, but I still consider myself to have a spiritual side that I try not to ignore.

    But reading your response, I remembered all the years in high school, college, and after, trying to piece together a world view after rejecting the Protestant upbringing I'd been immersed in my whole childhood.  Religion for me was like having an imaginary friend, one where the older you get, the more complicated excuses your brain has to invent for why your imaginary friend isn't currently manifest.  Plus, there were all sorts of rules about how to think, what to think, whether you could have perfect thought or belief or love.  It was way too introspective and OCD.

    Finally ridding myself of all that baggage and being able to address the world as I see it, and not as I'm told I should see it, has been a huge relief.  Before that, my life was essentially paralyzed.

    So yes, I too feel much better in my current world view, and I respect everyone's right to delude themselves as they must, given that the universe appears to be quite insane.

  •  An absurd take (4+ / 0-)

    'how much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?'

    That goes beyond the charitable well into the insane.

    The real question is:

    "How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that, because of a philosophical disagreement, they are going to burn in unimaginable, unendurable pain for an infinite number of years, and that such punishment is right and just, and that you agree with it and are happy with it -- and tell them that?"

    Whenever I meet a fundamentalist, I know that I have met somebody who would be happy to see me tortured.  This goes a long way to explaining their insanity on other questions, as well as predisposing me to give them a wide, wide berth; as you would to any other homicidal maniac you happened to run into.

  •  Poppycock. (0+ / 0-)

    The fucking sheer arrogance of the religious... that just because they are irrational enough to firmly Believe in something there's no rational reason to believe in, that fact somehow makes them superior to the rest of us. I'd like to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster too, just as he does, but I see no evidence to support such a belief.

    Mark claims that His Holy Noodliness has touched him with It's Noodly Appendage and that is why he Believes, and that's perfectly okay. More power to him.

    If It's Noodliness sees fit to touch me with His Noodly Appendage someday, just as It touched Mark Daniels, I too shall Believe, but until then, Rationality rules.

  •  I have to comment. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maracucho, bubbanomics

    I read what you said about feeling better the farther away you get from struggling to retain your faith.

    And I understand that people who are Christian think that they are reminding us all about God's love as a kindness.

    But how kind is it to keep hitting people who have made a decision they are comfortable with over the head with how much God will forgive them if they come back?

    My biggest complaint about Christians is that they can't just say, "This works for me". And DROP IT. If it works for someone else, cool, have a convention. But reminding the rest of us endlessly about the mercy and forgiveness waiting for us if we just wake up and realize that we are dooming ourselves to ETERNAL DAMNATION doesn't seem all that compassionate to me. It seems controlling. It seems disrespectful.

  •  Here Is The Thing I Don't Undertand (0+ / 0-)

    I am not so religious. Not even close. I've given the shirt off my back to help somebody. Do I think God will not love me or not take me into heaven if I did all that and just didn't accept Jesus. I just don't guy that.

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

    by webranding on Wed Sep 29, 2010 at 01:05:54 PM PDT

  •  When a "Born Again" comes a knockin (0+ / 0-)

    I just say: "Born OK the first time thank you very much."  
    Religion is the most personal of relationships.  That's why I can't tolerate evangelicals.

    Don't forget the 10-2-10 One Nation Working Together March on Washington! Put this comment in your signature. Pass the word!!

    by Road Dog on Wed Sep 29, 2010 at 01:26:05 PM PDT

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