I’ve had wonderful conversations with my girlfriend, Tricia, over the past few weeks as she’s queried me about my faith status saying that after a year she still doesn’t really know what I believe in. Also, for me, this week has historically been significant as a time when I’ve reflected on my faith and more than a few times found myself on my knees looking for forgiveness or understanding. I’ve always been … religiously sensitive. The church and God were just part of my understanding of the world from my earliest memories. Like the days of the week and Sunday being the beginning of the week, it’s just the way the world was. Was…
I used to look at my life as being divided into three segments of 15-years: 15-years of my youth, 15-years as a believer and 15-years in self-imposed exile from my faith. I guess that leaves the last seven years as an extremely compressed version of the previous three segments with a real WTF quality to it. In that short period I went from my exile status to diving back into reading my bible, to looking for a fellowship, to leading worship (both in small gatherings and in larger Sunday services) and then back to exile. I learned a lot, but in the end I felt like I had gotten it wrong, in that I wanted the faith of the second 15-years, but it just didn’t work. So, back into exile I went.
During the transition I was reading New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, which helped me understand the tension between my experiences, my love of the Bible and a god-given intelligence that couldn’t mediate between my understanding of the modern world and these ancient texts. At the same time, while I respect my skeptical friends I couldn’t accept that it was all biology and rationality, or even all understandable. I can see how Richard Dawkins and other neo-atheists see the whole thing as delusional, but I cannot go to the extreme measure of calling to question everyone’s experiences, any more than I accept it when Christians say that my experiences of love are meaningless without a connection to the divine love of god. Reading Karen Armstrong‘s The Case for God and The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness helped bridge the possibility that there are other options between blind fundamentalism and equally blind atheism.
Then a few months ago I saw the following TED video about atheism 2.0 and have to agree with Alain de Botton’s thoughts about where atheists are missing the boat. Enjoy.
I’ve been reading Gina Welch’s In the Land of Believers: An Outsider’s Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church for the past few months (yeah, I’m slow, now you know why I do audiobooks and podcasts… reading is hard!) and just like de Botton, Welch recognizes so many human or cultural things that believers gets so right, that skeptics ignore because of the emotional baggage “all things religious” tends to have for non-believers. And that’s what I miss the most, the regular meeting, talking, singing and sharing with a small group of friends who are openly honest about their struggles and joys in life. That’s the life I need to move toward without fear of misunderstanding or assumptions, I need to make those human connections and share the good news of being alive. Time to celebrate life in all of its diverse meanings, implications and expressions. Happy Holy Friday, y’all.
- image: Crowd on oktoberfest in Bavaria, Microsoft Clipart/iStockphoto, http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=crowd&ex=1#ai:MP900444216| retrieved 4/5/2012.
- youtube video: Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0, Uploaded by TEDtalksDirector on Jan 17, 2012
- amazon link: In the Land of Believers: An Outsider’s Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church by Gina Welch
- amazon link: The Case for God by Karen Armstrong
- amazon link: The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness by Karen Armstrong