Yes, it’s another one of these posts. You see, I have written myself over to a corner dominated by opinionated Christians and I am having a little bit of trouble getting myself back to the other side of the room. But I do like this discussion. And I appreciate the efforts of those who want to save me. After all, some of my oldest friends are not even willing to discuss my loss of faith. So I have patience each time a Christian takes time to tell me that their faith in god cannot be undermined.

But dear Christian, faith in god isn’t the problem.

At the end of the day, you have faith in god because you believe he exists. You are guided by the ideas of others and the information that has been passed down. Your experiences reinforce that faith and lead you toward a more precise definition of god and how he works. And you can stop explaining that, because I know just how real it is for you.

But the possibility will always remain that you could be wrong. This would be fine, except your religion teaches you that recognition of that possibility must be denied completely. Which, you know…. complicates things between you and anyone who is aware that you could be wrong. Which includes me.

If god exists and cares about us, don’t we owe him the effort of being critical of what we’ve been taught about him? Or to even be critical of our own experiences?

We are not ignorant of the fact that man has always used religion to control others. Obviously there are false religions, and for each one there are people willing to die for their faith, too. Are you sure your brand of Christianity and its interpretation of how the Bible applies to your life are truly untouched by human corruption? Or your own bias? You shouldn’t be.

Maybe you have some details wrong. And if one thing is wrong, then any of it could be wrong. Creationists will point to this as the reason we must take the entire Bible literally. It’s a slippery slope to doubt, right? But I don’t think it’s such a bad idea to consider that maybe some of what we find in the Bible was written to keep people submissive to the church- not to god. If you build a religion and give people an official instruction manual from god, you can have power over them.  What a wonderfully terrifying world we create for ourselves.

Maybe you don’t care for atheists because we represent the possibility you have worked so hard to suppress. It is definitely one of the reasons. And it is more than possible that you are wrong about atheism, too. Perhaps we are not deceived, angry, stubborn, or wicked…. maybe we simply stopped believing god would penalize us for having questions about his mysterious ways.

It’s hard to imagine doubting god, isn’t it? You have a relationship, but there are assumptions that must be made any time we’re in a relationship with someone who never appears or speaks audibly. It’s wise to leave room for error while interpreting signs and intuition. But you wouldn’t dare doubt what it all means, because the Bible makes it clear. And the Bible also warns us about how the devil tempts us.

Do you know how I overcame the feeling that doubt would be a terrible betrayal to god? It was easy. I wasn’t doubting god at all; I was doubting man’s interpretation of him. Doubt in man cannot be a sin, right? And so it became a pathway to lost theology. But god remained. In fact, it actually made me feel closer to him. For a while. Many people stay in that place permanently.

When we strip away our interpretation of god, not believing in him doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Christians would say that is exactly why one should avoid this path, but such reactions only hold meaning from a Christian point of view. It is protecting Christianity. Not god. Maybe god doesn’t even realize I have lost faith. Maybe there is no punishment for being wrong. Maybe…. we hardly understand god at all.

What if I wanted to know that kind of a god better? A god who offered nothing; no personal intervention in my life or immortality. Just a belief that he existed. After all, aren’t we supposed to worship god because he is real and we are grateful? That would still be true. If I wanted to know a god like that, a god that truly offered nothing else, wouldn’t I be more worthy of his love?

I don’t think it’s true, but I don’t mind thinking about it.

My point is, it doesn’t matter how sure you are. The possibility will always remain that you could be wrong. Not god…. but you.  Let’s start with that before dealing with the existence of god. Because if you are unable to recognize the possibility of being wrong about the details of god, what makes you think you can offer insight to a person who is  searching for god outside of the rules of Christianity? You can offer up a Bible verse, but the Bible is only an explanation that can help others understand what you  believe. It can mean nothing to someone who has already stripped away that part of their faith.

And until you can wrap your mind around how someone can lose Christianity and still hold onto god, you are completely incapable of understanding an atheist like me.

 

13 thoughts on “The Possibility Will Always Remain

  1. “I was doubting man’s interpretation of him. Doubt in man cannot be a sin, right? And so it became a pathway to lost theology. But god remained. In fact, it actually made me feel closer to him. For a while.”

    One of my favorite Christian bloggers to interact with is in a place like this. And his actions actually support his claims to be accepting of people regardless of their beliefs. He’s pretty cool.

    But yea, you make good points. One of the things I value highly in conversations with believers is to have reciprocal interactions (nobody likes to be preached at, after all). It’s not exactly a reciprocal interaction if one person is willing to consider that they might be wrong while the other isn’t willing, is it?

    Also, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only writing posts inspired by attempted engagements with believers lately…

    1. It seems obvious that we can always be wrong, but it gets tricky when being sure you are right is a requirement of your belief system. It’s the number one obstacle I face while searching for common ground with Christians. Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. Hi Jenny,

    Your post is interesting. Disarming. Skillfully tempting! You just opened the door wide open and showed us the path to where you are…living in doubt.

    If I understand you correctly, this is the path:

    1. Consider you could be wrong (doubt yourself);
    2. Consider they could be wrong (doubt men);
    3. Consider that they mean to control (doubt the faith);
    4. Consider that God is not as you think (doubt religion);

    This is where I suppose you get to the appreciation of a god that is not understood, who may have no other desire for us than for our happiness. You then say:

    “And until you can wrap your mind around how someone can lose Christianity and still hold onto god, you are completely incapable of understanding an atheist like me.”

    Problem is, as far as I can see it, and as you have revealed…you didn’t hang on to God! You dropped Him too. That is not at all reassuring for the Believer who knows their God, and who is capable of doubting themselves and what they have been told, while never denying the revelation that God has given of Himself to them!

    While alluring…I will certainly slam the door shut to the path you have revealed…because God is not there! God lives in the place of faith, which the Bible describes this way:

    “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen”.

    Without this substance, you cannot know or please God. Sometimes, you have to trust God and give men the benefit of the doubt. If God is leading you, as you follow in faith, He will certainly deliver you from any trouble, and any deceit of the enemy.

    Your post really amounts to what the serpent said to Eve in the garden: “did God really say” (the seed of doubt). It’s so very effective, but not against God’s elect, because these operate on personal conviction and relationship, and are not blind followers of a religion.

    Thanks for showing me your path. I know to steer clear of it…

    Sincerely, Ufuoma.

    1. No, you didn’t understand me correctly. But your response illustrates some of the frustration I felt while writing this. I’m not giving you a plan to follow. Is it ever going to be possible to express how one loses faith in theology or god without a Christian viewing it as an argument directed toward them?

      This post is about how difficult it is to live side by side with Christians who do not bend on anything; who are so focused on achieving perfect faith that they are unable to accept the idea that they could be wrong about anything- and that affects everyone around them.

      I don’t want you to agree with me. It’s okay to believe in Christianity or not to; or to have all kinds of beliefs that fall somewhere in-between. Because at the end of the day we could all be wrong about a billion things, and it isn’t that hard to see why someone loses faith. But it is hard for Christians to understand because they cannot get beyond what their own theology tells them about people who are not Christian. And that makes me invisible to you. You don’t see me at all, but rather your made up version of me.

      You can believe something with all your heart and still hold onto the concept that you might be wrong about some or all of it. It doesn’t have to weaken your faith. In fact, if you have found the truth it shouldn’t even be difficult. Believe what makes sense to you, but you cannot fit me into your box. I exist in the space you are not even willing to acknowledge exists.

      1. Actually, you are not that unknowable as you may think. I feel you keep repeating it for emphasis.

        It’s not that Christians don’t understand why you dropped the faith or ‘see’ where you are, which is outside of where they are. They do. It is just that for them, the thought is dreadful. Where you are, for Christians, is a place of dread. You can’t expect any real acceptance from people who are still believing Christians unless They have already decided to walk down that path to where you are!

        Now, as much as you are saying you don’t want us to, deep down you do! You want to be understand. You want someone to follow that path and say “I get it!”. But by then, it may be too late for that people to find their way back to Christ.

        You said: “You can believe something with all your heart and still hold onto the concept that you might be wrong about some or all of it”. How right! That is the very concept of believing. Otherwise, we would KNOW! There’s no need to believe if you know, because there is no doubt in knowing! So all believers are called to this place of hoping in something with all their hearts, while knowing that they don’t know everything and will yet be enlightened on the journey with God. We all know we could be wrong about it. But that is the essense of faith. And faith remains our gift, which we resist to drop for anyone who suggests it’s a great idea! Dropping faith is dropping God, and it takes a lot for that to happen to someone, but it can. You are the evidence! So we do see you very clearly. More than you realise.

        1. I’m not sure why you mention that I keep saying I don’t want to be understood. Who doesn’t want to be understood? You, personally, not understanding isn’t a big deal. But I certainly do want my Christian family and friends to understand on some level that doesn’t mean the end of our relationship. I do not expect them to understand fully.

          And you are wrong about understanding. Christians do not understand what it feels like to have a world with no god make more sense and make you happier after years of knowing the opposite to be true. That’s why I say you can’t understand an atheist like me; and yet, you constantly claim to understand and define me. That’s my complaint.

          I know plenty of people who get it, and I have never been one who needs people to see the world the way I see it. Again, this has nothing to do with getting you onboard. I’ve been there, and that is not how it works. You are over-complicating this issue because of your faith bias keeping you on constant defense.

          People without faith are often surrounded by Christians who are too focused on eliminating doubt, and it goes far beyond faith in Christ. They want to apply their rules to everyone, and they are convinced they understand our lack of faith better than we do. Can you even for a moment imagine it from our perspective? Probably not.

          I only need you to accept my beliefs to the point that allows me to be left out of yours. I can do that for Christians, and some Christians can do that for me. But based on how often I have seen you attempt to define atheism, I do not believe you are one of those Christians. And I realize that I won’t always get what I ask for.

          1. Thanks for retrieving my comment. I appreciate it.

            I am not saying that you keep saying you don’t want to be understood. I don’t know how you got that from what I said. I said quite the opposite. That you keep saying that no one understands or no one can understand you, but I don’t believe that is the case. I whole response to you is that we see you, we understand where you are, we just dread it.

            I’ll finish reading your response and respond appropriately. Thanks!

          2. I’ve read your response now, and I really don’t know what to say. How can I tell you I understand your perspective and still disagree with you… disagree with you when you say I can’t understand and I don’t understand. We all hate those people who think they know us, but still miss what we are saying. I am not missing what you are saying. Maybe the whole truth is, while I can try to imagine a world without the concept of God…I give up halfway there, because the process is like trying to perform heart surgery on myself! I can’t cut the veins! So, until I do, I will never really know what it’s like to walk in you shoes. I can only imagine it, and for you, that’s not understanding you, and that’s not enough.

            So I guess, that’s it. You are right. I can’t understand you, will I still hold on to God. And I wouldn’t go so far, just to prove I get it.

            I wish you the best!

      2. Hi Jenny, I replied you, and it went to spam again. Please retrieve them. Three of my messages have gone to spam on this thread. Thanks!

    2. “While alluring…I will certainly slam the door shut to the path you have revealed…because God is not there! God lives in the place of faith, which the Bible describes this way:”

      Well this is a convenient argument. It is a circular an argument, protecting itself from criticism. One way in which we can see that is through Douglas Adams writing in the science fiction classic, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in which a creature called a babel fish is introduced as being able to translate languages for people by lodging in their ear and connecting to their brain. It is very useful creature.

      “Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.
      The argument goes something like this: “I refuse to prove that I exist,'” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”
      “But,” says Man, “The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”
      “Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
      “Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.”

      But let me dissect your statement about God living in the place of faith a little more fully. First of all you claim the bible is your source for this knowledge, but the Bible was written by men. And part of the blogger’s doubt lies in the doubt of men. Now you can argue that who ever wrote the verses of the Bible were honest men and that God was working through them, but that requires faith too. So faith is not only the place where God exists, but now faith is something where honest men who had no other agenda exist. Then you have to assume that the bible was translated correctly through numerous languages. many of them dead now, cross numerous cultures, by numerous scholars. You not have to have faith in all those men who did that work. And at some point some people in your life told you about Christianity and God, and someone told you that the Bible was the truth. You must also have faith in those people were telling you the truth.That’s a lot of faith in people other than just God. Of course you could still argue that God wouldn’t let that happen, and your faith in Him is absolute and the Bible tells you that’s enough. Again this idea therefore has no point of attack because it is self-protecting. Let me give you an idea of how problematic that is.

      What if as a ruler I create laws that dictate how people behave? One of those laws is that I or my laws cannot be questioned. To do so would result in punishment. I have others also write about me and support his law that I or my laws cannot be questioned. And why wouldn’t they also do that, especially with the threat of punishment, they will live longer by writing in support of my laws. People who doubt are considered traitors to the state, even just in thought. It’s also okay, because I tell everyone that I am a good person and have their interest at heart. And that I really don’t want to punish people, but if they don’t love and worship me, I have to because I care for their best interest. I mean and why would you doubt any of that, when there are many books written about my nature and my character that support my everlasting love for you, and also my willingness to punish you greatly for disobedience.

      This is the danger of ideas that can’t be questioned, which make the very act of questioning an act of betrayal to the idea. You can clearly see this would be a horrible society to live in. One that is void of free will, and one that can cause great harm against people. You would say it’s not right, but you are content to accept the very same notion with your religion. To say that something can exist without the need of requiring any actual evidence, and that to even search for that evidence is meaningless and even the work of an evil agent is a highly dangerous philosophy to have. it is something we would not allow to apply to any other idea or action. This is not how knowledge is acquired. If it was then faith in any single idea would mean that it was true. Faith in every particular God would be equally as valid.

  3. “But the possibility will always remain that you could be wrong. This would be fine, except your religion teaches you that recognition of that possibility must be denied completely. Which, you know…. complicates things between you and anyone who is aware that you could be wrong. Which includes me.”
    Yes! There’s is no point in having the conversation if the other person is not open to the possibility that they are wrong. And I have to check myself to make sure I’m open. I know I’m less open now than I used to be, but only cause of interacting with my questions not cause I ignored them.
    Always be open to the possibility that you are wrong. But if you have good reasons for thinking you are right, don’t hold back.
    Great post.

  4. Excellent post. What I particularly like about it is that essentially what you’ve done is turned Pascal’s Wager around. Something that religious people don’t often consider. It is the type of reasoning I used when talking to this gay bashing preacher who came on to your campus. I wrote about the experience here: https://cloakunfurled.com/2013/08/19/evangelicals-gay-bashing-on-campus-written-april-22-2013/ (that being said just because I have the time to read what you have written, I don’t expect the same from you! Just thought I’d offer it if you had the time). In summary though I argued that if he was wrong then he’s really just yelled, offended, and hurt a lot of people’s feelings. Of course he weighed that against fire and brimstone if he’s right, but I tried to combine that with the idea that people are less likely to be convinced of your point of view when you are insulting them, and just in case you are wrong, wouldn’t it be better to try to express your arguments in a more meaningful, engaging, but kinder way? Of course this argument was to no avail, but I think the argument is worth making. The Christian always argues “what if you’re wrong?”, and never gets a dose of their own medicine, which is especially important when they are discriminating against an entire group of people. And that’s the frustration isn’t it? While we have doubts, even about something as seemingly reliable as Newton’s Law of Gravitation, for an invisible entity which only exists through faith doubt is not allowed. It makes no sense. And if Christianity is wrong…the lens of history, which is already bloody, will not and should not be kind. Here is a quote that I particular like:

    “During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.
    Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry…..There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain.”
    – “Bible Teaching and Religious Practice,” Europe and Elsewhere

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