No Man’s Land – Between Agnosticism and Christianity / Also: It’s Emotional Not Intellectual (PART 1)
This will be a series of posts where my thoughts wander in and out and all over, and it rambles, but there is a point or two behind it.
Since I’ve been in a faith crisis the last couple of years, somewhere between being an agnostic and a Christian, I have noticed I don’t fit in anywhere. I reside in No Man’s Land.
(Even before then, when I was a total, committed Christian, and politically, I was, and am, right wing, I still didn’t fit in at most blogs and forums, including political ones, and including ones for right wingers!
I tend to be one of those personalities who annoys or angers everyone, even those on “my side” of an issue, except a small number of people, who are either on my side of a topic or not, who “get me” or who appreciate where I’m coming from – again, this is true for even the ones who disagree with me on whatever topic we are discussing.)
I am in this really weird place now, where I am critical of some aspects of conservative Christianity, and see where conservative Christians get some doctrines and other things wrong, but, too, I am not fully on board with militant atheism (I find the New Atheists to be arrogant, vile, hateful and rude), and I don’t even care for lukewarm atheism.
Nor am I in the camp of anything and all things liberal Christianity, except where I think they get the occasional point correct (such as their rejection of gender complementarianism).
Since drifting away from the Christian faith more the last few years, I more often began frequenting forums or blogs for and by atheists, ones by liberal Christians, ones by ex Christians, or by Christians who were abused by a former church who remain Christian but who dropped out of Church, or who now are on a crusade to expose abuse by preachers or the absurdity and harm of current evangelical gimmicks.
THE MILITANT ATHEISTS
A clarification: when I say I have been visiting atheist forums and blogs more often, I am very picky about which ones I regularly visit.
I do not like the frothing- at- the- mouth, extremely bitter, biased- against- Christians- type atheistic communities.
The bitter atheist groups sound like a bunch of irrational, hate-filled loons who reject Christianity for emotional reasons, but who lie to others and themselves and say, “Oh no, it’s purely intellectual.”
But their unrelenting, insane amount of hatred at any and all things God and Christian, is just a total turn-off to me, so I try to avoid such sites.
These angry, always-ranting atheists are really nothing more than Fundamentalist Atheists or Taliban Atheists. They are just as dogmatic about their atheism as Muslims are in their Wasabi Islam or Baptists are in their Neo Fundamentalism.
Really, those types of atheists are just as bad as the religious groups they claim they hate, but they don’t seem to spot that they are. It’s ironic – and it’s hard to stomach the day in, day out anger and hatred, so I try to avoid their sites.
HYPOCRITICAL CHRISTIANS VS NON HYPOCRITICAL CHRISTIANS
Also, you have to be honest with yourself, which I do not find militant atheists to be, by and large: not every single Christian is a hypocrite, jerk, idiot, dullard, or complete jackhole.
I say this as someone who is very fed up with Christianity and Christian persons myself these days.
But your average militant atheist will never admit that some Christians are in fact okay and not being hypocrites.
I have known and met a few Christians who were sincerely trying to live the Christian faith out, such as my mother, who is now deceased, and her mother before her (my grandmother).
I’ve met a few honest, sincere Christians online who do help people and show compassion to the wounded.
So it’s not fair to completely dismiss the entirety of Christians and their faith or treat them all like jerks because some are liars, mean, or abusive.
Which is not easy for me personally, because at the same time, I do keep noticing that a lot of self-professing believers do NOT live out what the Bible says.
Many self professing Christians today, for example, do not protect victims, such as young church members who have been sexually molested by preachers.
Nor do many church goers today hold accountable preachers who bilk their church goers out of millions to buy big mansions and jets.
These idiots, these lemmings, actually defend their greedy pastors online, which I’ve written about here: (Link): Your Preacher Sucks – and People Have a Right To Say So And Explain Why.
Then you have a conservative or evangelical culture, which claims to care deeply that people preserve sex until marriage, but if you actually find yourself 40 years of age and still single – and therefore still a virgin, such as myself – these same churches and Christians do not offer you any support.
You either go ignored, or preachers and talking heads of such groups “run down” and insult celibacy as well as older, celibate adults. Churches treat single (and especially celibate) adults as though they are flawed, lepers, weirdos, or losers.
Churches wrongly counsel abused wives to return to their spouses – this is particularly true, again, of churches or Christian groups who buy into “biblical womanhood” (aka “gender complementariansm”) or “patriarchy.”
Churches and average Christians also remain ignorant or callous about matters pertaining to mental health issues, from P.T.S.D. to depression and anxiety attacks.
Some Christians wrongly and insensitively teach that “real Christians” can never get depression or other mental health maladies.
Or, some Christians believe and teach that prayer, faith, service to the poor, or Bible reading alone can cure one of mental illness.
Still other Christians (or the same type) will shame and guilt suffering Christians for using anti-depressant medications, or for seeing secular or Christian psychiatrists and therapists (see this link for more, “Over 50 Percent of Christians Believe Prayer, Bible Reading Alone Can Cure Mental Illness (article) – In Other Words Half of Christians are Ignorant Idiots Regarding Mental Illness”).
Yet other Christians are incompetent at, or unwilling, to provide more ordinary, “every day,” run- of- the- mill comfort to other Christians who are hurting, such as a Christian who is stressed out over a job loss, someone who is in mourning for a deceased loved one, etc.
Christians are dropping the ball in numerous ways.
And this failure, this huge failure, causes life long Christians like me to look long and hard at the faith and wonder if it’s true at all.
It causes even someone such as myself to ask if the faith is true, because
- it doesn’t appear to be working,
- it doesn’t make a difference in people’s life who profess it,
- most who claim to follow Christ don’t actually do what he taught,
- and some Christians refuse to hold Christians caught in bald faced sin accountable but excuse them for the sin,
~ and it makes you wonder “what is the point, then.”
I find this discrepancy between confessed belief and actual practice shocking, because I myself sincerely tried living out the faith since childhood.
Also, my Christian mother was a role model for me, and she genuinely, consistently lived out and by biblical teachings, including getting up off her ass and actually HELPING people (giving them money if they were in a bind, cleaning their homes for them when they were sick, listening to them cry and rant about their problems for hours without judging them or interrupting them, etc).
I am not seeing most other Christians do any of this. They say they believe in those things but then they do not do them.
BLOGS AND FORUMS FOR SPIRITUALLY ABUSED OR THOSE HURT BY CHURCHES
Before I actually get into this topic (which I discuss more in Posts 2 and 3), here is some background leading up to it.
As far as the sites I have visited by liberal Christians, ex Christians, atheists, as well as sites by Christians for the spiritually abused:
By and large, these have been wonderful, supportive sites and groups to visit (the ones run by Christians for hurting Christians).
I have noticed, though, that there are problems even within these types of communities, and I don’t entirely fit in at them, either.
I was raised in a Southern Baptist background. I used to attend SB churches weekly as a kid, and off and on as I got older.
I read a lot of Christian apologetic material beginning in my teens and up to my early thirties.
I also did a lot of reading on the history of the Bible (textual transmission, translation, etc).
I obviously read the Bible itself, and even in my current faith crisis, I read parts of it at times.
Some of my biggest reasons for sort of rejecting the Christian faith is based on emotional reasons and the like – not intellectual reasons.
I read apologetics for too long growing up – familiarizing myself with the arguments against Jesus, God, the accuracy of the Bible, etc, as well as the Christian response to those arguments – to be persuaded to abandon the faith, or to think the Bible is a bunch of hooey, on those grounds.
For every atheist (especially atheists who identify as “Ex Christian”) I see online -or anywhere else- who claim they will not accept theism or Christianity, or that they rejected theism or the faith, due to “intellectual reasons,” makes me laugh or roll my eyes.
And I see these types turn up on spiritual abuse blogs every so often.
I noticed that the recent film “God’s Not Dead” was mocked, at least a little bit, by some very liberal Christians (who tend to be overly sympathetic towards hostile atheists, for some reason, go figure) and by atheists themselves because one point the Christian college student character in the movie makes towards the bitter, angry atheist college professor, is that the reason the guy rejects God is due to emotional, not logical, reasons.
I think his character blurts out at the professor in the movie trailer I saw, “Why are you so angry at God?!” That kind of line and view ticked off a lot of ex-Christians and atheists who have never been Christians. They deny to the hilt they reject theism due to emotional reasons or due to personal animosity.
They claim oh no, their rejection of faith and theism is all purely and consistently rational, logical, and intellectual – but I don’t buy that for a nano-second.
I don’t know why people fool themselves, or try to.
My habit in my own life has been to face inner pain and problems head-on and directly and deal with them squarely, rather go into denial mode over those types of issues, or try to wash it away using alcohol to cover up the pain, as my family members have done.
I do suspect that all or most atheists (and agnostics) have, at the root, an emotional reason for why they reject God and Christianity.
The Bible, of course, gets into the true reason people say they refuse to admit there is a God: they love darkness and sin more than the light – and that the rejection is a matter of their will (which is totally self-serving), and not due to the intellect.
I further believe atheists and some agnostics use logic, science, and similar labels, to paper over, excuse, or add an air of intellectualism to their rejection, to make it seem more respectable or impervious to criticism.
Why they cannot just be like me and honestly admit, “Hey yeah, some of my rejection is based on emotion, because God let me down, or some Christian X years ago treated me like trash” is beyond me.
There is nothing wrong with grappling with the faith due to emotional reasons. There’s no shame there.
I do have one online friend who partially admitted as much, that she rejects Christianity not over intellectual pretenses but emotional ones. So kudos to her for the honesty.
This friend of mine dabbles in Wicca and other such religions, and is wary of anything or anyone Christian, because her stepfather, who worked as a church minister, used to physically abuse her.
I listened to a recent interview by Janet Meffered of Boz Tchividjian (founder and executive director of GRACE – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), where Tchividjian said out of the many child sexual abuse victims and their parents he has interviewed, one recurring response they give as to why they want nothing to do with Jesus or the church anymore (they have become agnostic or atheist) is that they were abused by self professing Christians, and their churches (other Christians) did nothing to help them or blamed them for the abuse, when they stepped forward asking for help.
At least those folks are being intellectually honest, by admitting to themselves and those around them, that something other than a Richard Dawkins book, science, rationalism, a liberal college professor’s anti-Christian classroom tirades, or Darwinism, is the precursor. So I can respect that.
When I hear or see people say they left the faith, or refuse to join it to start with, over something like a Dawkins book, or a love of intellectualism, it not only sounds intellectually dishonest (and I loathe intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy), but it sounds so damn pretentious and condescending.
As though such people are saying, “Look at me, I am too smart to believe in a god or the supernatural. I am no rube and red neck, like those foolish Christians over there, silly, stupid, uneducated hillbillies!”
Not all people of faith are illiterate or dim bulbs or uneducated yokels.
I actually used to get picked on by other kids for being a nerdy, book worm, intellectual type. I made straight A’s in high school and college – and I was a staunch Christian at those times.
Edit. (Link): Sexual Immorality and Five Other Reasons People Reject Christianity by D. Johnson
The above page discusses several reasons why people become atheists. I will excerpt part of one portion, where atheists admit that they chose to reject God based upon emotional reasons, not intellectual ones:
Vitz himself became an atheist in college, and offers a frank assessment of his motives:
“On reflection, I have seen that my reasons for becoming, and remaining, and atheist-skeptic from age eighteen to age thirty-eight were, on the whole, superficial and lacking in serious intellectual and moral foundation” (Vitz, 139). He notes that he accepted the ideas presented to him by academics without ever actually studying them or questioning them in any way. So why did he accept them? One reason was “social unease” (134).
Vitz was embarrassed to be from the Midwest, which “seemed terribly dull, narrow, and provincial” compared to the big city. He wanted to “take part, to be comfortable, in the new, glamorous secular world” into which he was moving, as did many of his classmates” (135).
He also wanted to be accepted within his scientific field, so just as he had learned to dress like a college student by putting on the right clothes, he learned to “think like a proper psychologist by putting on the right – that is, atheistic – ideas and attitudes” (135).
I would encourage you to click the link to read the rest because it confirms some of the things I was saying in my post on this page.
– See Part 2 –
(Link): Part 3 – No Man’s Land – Part 3 – Liberal Christians, Post Evangelicals, and Ex-Christians Mocking Biblical Literalism, Inerrancy / Also: Christians Worshipping Hurting People’s Feelings