Last Night, I Was an Atheist

You will say, Christ saith this, and the apostles say this; but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?George Fox, quoted by Margaret Fell, 1652

So I have this problematic habit of overthinking, especially when it comes to my faith. I become fixated on an idea or problem and compulsively research and question things until I am a tense, unsettled mess. Last night, as I attempted to pray, I had the mother of all internal episodes.

I have had several “atheist moments” in my life. I am sure the same is true for most intellectually honest people of faith. Last night, in my stress-riddled research on theology, I found a bunch of different articles that supposed God was this or that human projection or fantasy, or a result of somesuch psychological tendency.

The Divine is described as a myth, illusion, supreme power, man in the sky wielding lightning bolts, female with 6 arms, or the Force. If you look up a what God is via Google, scripture, or tradition, you’ll be overwhelmed by the variety and sheer volume of opinion on the topic.

In the midst of all this, I had another episode of, “Maybe this is all bullshit.” Maybe there is just nothing and I am driving myself crazy over something that I was indoctrinated with since childhood. There are just too many varied and contradictory views!

But then it came.

What about my view?

I remembered George Fox’s quote that kicked off this article. Yes, this or that person says X. One article or holy book says Y. My childhood church taught P.

But what do I say? What experiences have I had with whatever “God” is? What are my personal beliefs on the subject?

I remembered my mom’s death and the Presence that sustained me through years of turmoil and change afterward. I remembered my call to ministry, my time in seminary, and praying in St. Peter’s basilica. I remembered the mystical experiences that led me to Quakerism and gave voice to what I have always felt to be true.

As I pondered these things and took a shower to calm myself down, I made a choice to believe. That is, after all, what faith is.

It’s a choice.

I choose to believe in “That” which is the Source of all things; “That” in which “we live and move” and “exist” (Acts 17:28, REB). I believe Jesus shows me the Way of Salvation, which is unity with whatever “That” is, showing forth in my life here and now. I have experienced “That” as a reality that is both within me and beyond me.

That’s where I am at, and I am good with it.

Are you a person of faith? Is it by choice or because of what others have told you? At the end of the day, remember that it’s your call.

Peace be with you!

26 thoughts on “Last Night, I Was an Atheist”

  1. “intellectually honest people of faith” can only remain honest in an intellectual vacuum. Then they have to decide if pretending to believe is worth compromising their integrity to fit in the herd. Belief is meant to be a transition to fact, a trial, not an arrival point. How long do we give religion to meet its objectives? 1000 more years, 2? It has never produced its promised outcomes. It only conflicts smart people like you into wasting a good portion of their life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! I love it.

      I agree that religious institutions have yielded loads of pain and suffering throughout history, but those whose behavior modeled the best of those beliefs also brought about a multitude of good things. My life has only been wasted when trying to fit into molds I couldn’t reconcile with myself. Atheism isn’t “me,” and neither is the creed-based religious zealotry I have been around my entire life. I am somewhere in the middle, which tends to make no one happy but me. But if my metaphors or beliefs produce positive thoughts, behaviors, and meaning, there shouldn’t be a problem unless someone is just projecting their personal issues with religion.

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      1. I call myself an atheist by default. I don’t have evidence for gods that can’t be explained by natural processes. However, the universe is a strange and interesting place, made of energies that some are attuned differently than others. I’m very open to learning about all these different properties and feel we are all somehow connected logically, but really don’t have any spiritual inklings. My wife on the other hand does.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That makes sense. A lot of my belief comes from being raised around it, but I have also had mystical experiences that I use certain language to describe, even if ultimately there is no way to prove it. I think it’s awesome that you and your wife can have that interplay. Such things, in my opinion, provide for a whole host of valuable learning opportunities. I don’t like the thought of a religiously homogenous world or one in which there are no atheists. “Nonbelievers” I’ve known throughout my life help to keep things honest and remind me that it’s best to do what is right because it is right, rather than because “God” wills it. I appreciate your openness!

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      3. Likewise. Thank you. My wife in a shaman/empath/curandera—I describe her and I as perfect opposites. I have a fantastic variety in my life. Funny how the main religions divide people and give the the authority to condemn others and feel right about it. That kind of belief is what I write against. Once people submit to that kind of authority, it is amazing the things they’ll repeat. Not their own thoughts, but the party line. People are better than that.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Hey, opposites attract. My wife is Episcopalian while I am a part of liberal Quakerism. I also have a dear person in my life who is a reiki master/empath/medium. I have found many people crave certainty, and religion can be an easy way to find that. In a world so full of change and uncertainty, having a sure thing becomes appealing. You see this tribalism in everything, from faith to politics. Plus, in the US, religion has also become a business, a sales enterprise. This makes those “insider/outsider” lines even darker, and it is unfortunate. Just keep living, loving, and speaking the truth. All we can do.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. My wife is a reiki master as well. Funny thing, with her heritage she could’ve taught the course before she even knew anything about the official version. A few months ago she went to another class (not sure which one) and the lady there didn’t even know her but kept deferring to her like she was the teacher. She has a strong presence and ability to see things that come true. She reads people so accurately it scares them. We’re actually meeting a couple next Sunday because she shook his faith. Lol. He’s catholic but the things she said, (including telling him about an affair he had) shook his core. He thought Catholics were the only truth out there. Haha.
        She actually didn’t mean to do that to him and we have some things to clarify for him until he’s ready to be in his own.

        Liked by 2 people

      6. Wow, THAT is interesting! I love the Catholic rite as an expression of faith, but I can’t get behind certain dogmatics and of course the scandals and power-grabbing within the institution. That sounds like a very beneficial relationship starting up!
        My Quaker meeting has everything from the more Christian perspectives (like and unlike mine) to atheists to Buddhists, etc. I have found that level of diversity to be edifying to my own perspective, and it gives me hope that so many different people can strive for the truth and the common good together. Our unifying belief is in “That of God in everyone,” and that the Light of Christ is present in every person. Aligning with that makes for a faithful life for the good of all. Of course all of that is interpreted differently based on each individual perspective, but the results are remarkably consistent.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “Are you a person of faith? Is it by choice or because of what others have told you? At the end of the day, remember that it’s your call.”

    This isn’t true per what the bible says in Romans 9. “1 Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, 12 not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written,

    “I have loved Jacob,
    but I have hated Esau.”

    14 What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses,

    “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
    and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

    16 So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.”

    So, it is not our choice *if* the bible isn’t wrong.

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    1. Thanks for reading, commenting, and providing this selection of scripture!

      I would agree with that reasoning if I believed in biblical inerrancy or were in some way making that assumption. The Bible is a collection of at least 66 books, all with varying interpretations and positions on various human and theological topics.

      Paul is a human theologian trying to make sense of God’s will and human freedom, particularly as it relates to his Jewish brothers and sisters who are rejecting what he feels is God’s “next step” for Israel. He has to toe the line carefully because he is writing to a mostly Gentile church, so we get this nice, long treatise summing up his own interpretation of things, which includes the passage you’ve provided.

      BUT, if the assumption is that the Bible is the perfect word of God without contradiction or error, then yes, I or the whole Bible would have to be wrong.

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      1. The bible is indeed a collection of at least 66 books. The problems come when Christians claim that the parts they like are what should be taken literally and the parts they don’t like should be considered metaphor, or just ignored.
        I’m assuming that you have decided the resurrection has to be true. Can you tell me why this is true and the rest can be up for grabs, with each Christian creating their religion in their image?
        Paul may or may not have existed as described. There is no reason to think that Paul didn’t mean what he said literally. Plenty of Christians agree with him, Calvinists who think that the bible supports predestination.

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      2. Yesss, I agree with you. I find it odd, especially when the Bible is supposedly the bedrock document through which God reveals Himself. I personally don’t think any part of Scripture should be automatically taken at face value. It’s thousands of years old, after all.
        For me, it is a source of instruction and inspiration, but not the sole source of Godly wisdom. I believe in the resurrection as a truth found in everyday life rather than a literal reality in history. I don’t know what happened then, but I have seen the story of Christ at work in my own life and that’s what keeps me around.
        I think it is a human tendency to emphasize the parts of stuff we agree with while explaining away what we don’t like. Doesn’t make it right or consistent, but it’s a fact of life. Humans want to be right. But I think if the idea predestination makes a believer a better person, emphasize away. People don’t need to agree with me about how we interpret Paul.
        Paul definitely believed what he said, but to not take the context in which he was writing into account seems just as irresponsible as any other lax approach to interpretation.

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      3. HD, so you have made up a version of Christianity in your image, just like every other Christian. There is no truth about people stopping being dead or going to some afterlife, and every theist claims that they see evidence of their god in their life. I could make the same claim about Captain America.

        Yep, it is a human thing to make up what we want. The context of what Paul was writing says Paul literally believed what he said. And you try to claim that I’m irresponsible and lazy, which is what every other Christian says when they want to claim that their version is the only right one. Making false accusations isn’t very nice.

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      4. If my implication about Paul was offensive, then I apologize. Truth be told I wasn’t thinking of “you” when I wrote it so much as the community I grew up in. I don’t know you enough to think you’re irresponsible or lazy… What is pretty clear is that you are angry, but that isn’t my fault. Your past experiences with Christians obviously colored this conversation before it started, which we both know isn’t fair.
        I don’t think you should believe what I believe, and I have no interest in making others think the way I do. I share my ideas on this blog because I feel like it, and I enjoy interactions with different people. I actually like what you have to say a great deal; it gets at the heart of a lot of issues I care about.
        I am sorry that you don’t like the inconsistency of religion and that others have treated you poorly for it. I also don’t like that I have added to the list, and I again apologize. But what others have said or done to you isn’t my fault, and I am free to use whatever language I please to describe my experiences with God. You are also well within your rights to disagree with me and do your own thing.
        I hope we can talk about it, but if all it will do is anger you, then perhaps it’s best to leave it be.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I’m not angry either. It would be helpful if you didn’t use the typical Christian nonsense about atheists when you are uncomfortable with questions and points about your bible and religion. I do think it’s important to show how Christianity isn’t the definition of good and truth so many people want to pretend it is.

        My past interactions with Christians has little to do with this discussion. My parents are still Christians and are probably the nicest people you’d want to meet. Since i”m the only one that they know who has read the bible, they ask their atheist daughter questions. It is a common Christian thing to claim that there must have been some hurt caused by other Christians in order to discount the points of an atheist. IMO, that is a rare things. Most atheists have dull dry reasons why they don’t believe any more, like the lack of evidence.

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      6. Splendid! Then I must have misread your tone. It happens in writing, to me anyway. Apologies for projecting past interactions of my own.
        My own experience has been similar, as no atheist friend of mine was doing so out of spite, but, as you said, lack of evidence.
        I actually have said several times that I like and even agree with several of your points, so I didnt mean to give the impression that I wanted to use the “angry atheist” bit to discount you.
        On a separate note, I am glad the relationship with your parents is in tact and allows for such interplay. I’ve seen it go… in a not so good direction.
        So. My apparent religious inconsistency is something you’re not a fan of? Or have I misunderstood?

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      7. I’m not a fan of thinking that religion is some truth, when people are good, or bad, in spite of it. You are a good person, so your religion is based on that. Someone else would use their version of the same thing to hurt people.

        In this, all theists are inconsistent with what they actually believe. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it can lead to people tacitly giving cover to those who would hurt people if you don’t make it clear that you aren’t accepting the whole bible at all.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I agree. Religion is a tool, human-made, often utilized for control and wielded by those of malcontent. I don’t think religion is inherently truth. I think it can be used to teach truth. Or not. As a Quaker, I tend to be wary of too much… religious steering.
        I accept the Bible for what it is, a human-produced document attempting to express certain truths according to the authors’ human experience and what they felt were divine interactions.
        I appreciate your calling me a good person. My faith has also helped me be a better man, and challenges me in ways that keep me from crafting my own “hero worship.” So while my faith life is individually reflective of my experience, I also don’t just fashion myself into an idol, if that makes sense.
        Is Calvinism the background you grew up in or was that just an example?

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      9. Ah, yes it is. lol I got that vibe when I was a part of the Assemblies of God. Something about being part of the “insider” crew appeals, and I am not proud of certain stances I took back then. They also weren’t big fans of Catholics. Lots of that sentiment in West Texas. I actually enjoy the Catholic rites and people, even if I am not a fan of the institution. I grew up with a rather eclectic mix of Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist. So Quaker was bound to happen 😂

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      10. Back in my 20s (I’m in my 50s now). There was no particular moment. First I saw my church rip itself apart. Then I read the bible and found out it is full of horrific nonsense. I then looked into more deist things and other religions, Wicca, etc.

        Once I realized that other religions use the same excuses and arguments as Christianity, I came to the conclusion that none of it was true. Could there be some god e.g. intelligent, omnipotent thing? Maybe but there is no evidence for it.

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      11. Makes sense. I’m sorry you got to be one of the “lucky ones” to see your faith family go to pieces. It’s not a pleasant experience. I’ve both seen it and cintributed to it, regretfully.

        I also had a biblical revelation, in college. Commands to commit genocide, obvious rendering of God as supportive of whatever the tribe wants, the depiction of women as secondary humans. Put me off from ever believing the Bible was “perfect.”

        Seminary did even more disillusioning. Seeing the similarities between denominations and religions made me see others more as relatives than “competition” or “infidels.”

        I gave up on evidence a long time ago as well. Experience is all I’ve got and it could definitely all be in my head, but it gives me peace and has helped me find meaning and improvement so I’m content with it.

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      12. I’ve heard that going to seminary is about as good as reading the bible for being disillusioned. 🙂 If you are curious about the whole ugly thing, I do have an “origin story” on my blog, A good friend of mine wanted some people’s stories so he could show his mom when she didn’t understand why people were atheists. It’s a little dated but not much. https://clubschadenfreude.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/atheist-testimony.pdf

        You’re very much like a fellow who was on the old forum for the website Why Won’t God Heal Amputees. He believed and was content with that. And that is something you can’t argue with 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      13. I like the title of the forum. My perspective on that kind of thing has changed drastically since my introduction to faith. Turns out, having a more decent life makes it easy to believe in “miracles.”

        It was an amazing education and spiritual experience. It helped me find my own unique way, and I actually became friends with a lovely atheist guy that was in my systematic theology class. He and I agreed with each other more than most other “true believer” classmates.

        I will check out the blog!

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