Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Super Atheist III

So what ties the previous two blogs together?  In the first blog, I talked about sometimes missing the comfort the church provided me.  I spoke of speaking in tongues and the joy of sharing spiritual experiences with others.

In the next, I wrote about one of the best nights at house church.  What happened that night felt wonderful, a pleasure not entirely unlike the non-sexual part of one’s wedding night.  When you get married, there is this joy that seems to exist independently of the joy of sex . It’s the joy of belonging to someone totally and them belonging to you.  There is a spiritual sharing, a knowledge that this person is really, finally, yours.

And that was the feeling I felt that night.  My life would forever be tied to those people in that room.  We had all adopted each other, so to speak.  We had committed ourselves to love them, to care for them, to help them be the best they could be, and they committed the same to us.  There were perhaps 30 of us in that room, and we conscientiously decided we were going to be the early church together, God’s little point of light in Westport, Kansas City.

The feelings I felt that night were real.  The elation, the warmth, the affection.  All of those feelings were real feelings.  It’s just the premise which was false.  None of us really loved each other, not like that.   We all thought we did; I don’t doubt anyone’s sincerity that night.  It’s just that our hearts were writing checks our lifestyles couldn’t cash.

I remember once taking an old, rotten wood and canvas canoe down a river.  My father and I began with the feeling that everything would be OK.  The boat fell apart over a little 3 day trip, patched beyond repair. The next year we began another river trip, this time in a heavy aluminum jon boat.  Again we began with the same hope, excitement, expectation and the feeling that everything would be OK.  That trip was OK because our feelings were founded on solid fact, unlike the first, when the feelings were not.

The comfort of the church I miss is the false comfort of kindly lies.   I do miss the comfort of naivety, but not at the price of living a lie.  To be naive because you are ignorant of the truth is a normal part of youth.  To be naive because you choose to believe lies rather than truth is the first step toward mental illness.

Above all, I guess what I missed was the friendship, but upon reflection I realize, I didn’t have real friendship, but rather real feelings about non-friends.   An acquaintance asked me the other day if I still wanted to be friends with her.  I laughed out loud.  Real friendship isn’t something you choose to do, it’s something you cannot chose not to do. And that sort of friendship takes time measured in years and decades, not months.

Let me plug my friends Jason, Paul, and Ben here.  I have known all of them for 16 years.  Any of them would lay their lives down for me, and I for them.  We aren’t friends because we know how to be, we are friends because we don’t know how not to be.  All saw me through an awkward adolescence, the turbulent nine years of teenhood, 3 failed attempts at college, a failed engagement, marriage, fatherhood, ministry, and finally atheism.  And nothing I have done has made it possible for them to stop loving me.  That’s friendship.

I am not super atheist. I do miss the comfort of the church sometimes, but it was real emotions based on false events.  I miss the feeling, not the falsehood.

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June 20, 2009 - Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,

9 Comments »

  1. I have a question. I am not looking for an argument or to try to convince you of anything. I am simply curious: what was the thing or things that moved you to your current view of life? I see so many people in life that have gone from a life perspective of belief in God to one with no belief in God. I am only a bystander in life (I think I know a few things but I am willing to admit that I don’t know everything). Whenever I see people making fairly radical changes, I am curious to find out why. Anyway I still hope that you have a good life. I will give you this, your assesment of true friendship is a good one. True friends are ones born in experience and adversity. I have a few of those 20+ year friends that no range of simple emotion could disrupt.
    Thanks, Glenn

    Comment by kingdomkeysbooks | June 21, 2009 | Reply

    • A simple phrase: “There is no functional difference between a God who takes no action and God who does not exist to take action.”

      Those were my watch words when I explained the charismatic movement to non-charismatic Christians. My de-conversion is not a radical change in direction, but continuing search for truth, as my belief was.

      I’m enjoying your comments, by the way. Keep posting.

      Comment by truthwalker | June 21, 2009 | Reply

  2. I’ve never been convinced about the pentecostal practice of speaking in tongues. I tried it as a child in the middle of the night and thought I was just babbling. It is a lie and a sin to do that which you are not totally convinced. Speaking in tongues, as I understand was real in the first century, and was a sign for unbelievers who heard the gospel in their native tongue. I know there is tremendous pressure in the pentecostal movement to conform to this practice. If you do not conform you are treated as one who is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

    On the other hand the Christian faith is strengthened by the Holy Spirit who guides and empowers the Christian to give up the old life of sin and to live by the Spirit.

    Comment by youngearth | June 21, 2009 | Reply

    • What a strange world we live in when an atheist defends the practice of speaking in tongues.

      Unlike Catholicism, which claims that God instructs man through a tripod of scripture, papal authority, and tradition, Protestantism believes in Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone. Now, while I think the Bible is a collection of myths and not the word of God, I did not lose my ability to determine what a text says about itself. Regardless of the fact that I think the Bible is not inspired, I know what it says, and I know what a person who wishes to base their life upon it must do.

      I’m not being mean when I say this, but it doesn’t matter what you think about speaking in tongues. If you are a Christian the only thing that matters is what God has to say about it in the Bible. If you read every passage about it, and read it the original language, you will find that logically, the concept must include both speaking in a recognizable language and what is now called a private prayer language.

      You also mention a pressure to speak in tongues. Well, of course! If you believe that something is obedience to God there is pressure in the Church to do it! There is also pressure not to have extra-marital sex, for the same reason. (I will add here, I was never socially pressured to speak in tongues in my little corner of Pentecostalism.)

      So while ultimately I believe speaking in tongues is bologna, I believe that for extra-scriptural reasons. If you claim to follow Sola Scriptura, you will find the teachings of Pentecostals on tongues, prophecy, and healing significantly more based on the claims of the Bible then the Evangelical views on the same subjects.

      Comment by truthwalker | June 21, 2009 | Reply

  3. I am picking two random things to comment on in this post…totally unrelated to your atheism. The first is the marriage thing about belonging to someone. It is totally how people feel (def. how I felt) and I think is a flaw in marriage. So many people I know are either getting divorced or wanting to and I think it comes back to that. When enough time passes you realize you want to belong to yourself (or even something bigger than you), but not just to another person.

    Also, I love your thoughts on friendship. I am going to start applying that…which of course might mean less friends. 🙂

    Thanks again for so openly sharing your thoughts! I enjoy reading them.

    Comment by lesleehorner | June 21, 2009 | Reply

  4. Actually, yeah, I have to completely agree, its a less than ideal view of marriage, and in the wrong person can be down right harmful. Abandoning that paradigm did wonderful things for my wife and my relationship. But, as you pointed out, it is a very common thought as you step away from the alter. I love people who get my atheism, btw. No attempt at conversion, just a gentle steering around what you think is bogus and picking out the stuff you like and respect.

    Comment by truthwalker | June 21, 2009 | Reply

    • Just wanted to let you know that you inspired me to write a blog post about my three best friends. It will be up in the morning 7am (eastern time). I quote you and link to your blog. Thanks for the inspiration. And you had my blog link correct in our other comment exchange.

      http://lesleehorner.wordpress.com

      Comment by lesleehorner | June 23, 2009 | Reply

  5. I agree. The only think I miss about being a Christian is the comfort I felt. But it was a false comfort, like painkillers. The pain is still there, but you can’t feel it because the medicine has blocked the pain receptors in the brain. I suppose prayer works in the same way, as studies have shown that prayer releases seritonin and adrenaline into the bloodstream. I guess, by that definition, religious people are technically drug addicts, though that seems a harsh comparison.

    Comment by amarisgrey | September 21, 2009 | Reply

    • “I guess, by that definition, religious people are technically drug addicts, though that seems a harsh comparison.” Ah, my dear, whats the difference between the Orkin man and a serial killer? It’s an issue of degrees.

      We are all addicted to the chemicals in our heads. As far as addictions go, being addicted to, at worst belonging to a cult and at best giving to the poor and singing with your friends is a pretty good way to go.

      Comment by truthwalker | September 21, 2009 | Reply


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