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.
Happiness is a funny thing.
It’s so transient. Today was my last day on 60+ hour weeks. My box of bike goods arrived, and my new duty time is 0630. So I will be riding my bike to work again. I will be seeing my family again. I am getting rid of my little Panda. (I liked the Panda, it was a fine little car, but I’ve learned all I can from it. I’d like to have small car that I can hot rod a bit, and if I fix up the Panda I’ll have the world’s fastests P.O.S.) I’m getting a used Volvo V90. I’m putting it on finance to work up my credit score, though I could afford to buy it in cash.
Everything is working out my way for the first time in awhile, and today I am happy. I thought for a moment that I sort of missed being able to thank God. But then the one sidedness of that relationship came back to me.
I think I would still be religious if it was OK to get angry at God. I had a great day today, and I wouldn’t mind thanking God for it if when at some point in the future, when I have lousy, lousy day I could be pissy at God. I mean if a good day is His fault, then a bad day is too right? He’s either Lord of all or He’s not.
But no, bad days were always somehow my fault. Even if I didn’t cause the ‘badness’, I was sinning by not blessing God in a bad situation. I was sinning by doubting, sinning by having such a poor attitude, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Today I am happy. Sometime, sooner than later, I won’t be. Crap happens. While I am happy I will celebrate with my loved ones. When I am sad, I will be sad with my loved ones. No fault, no failure, no blame. Life is so much simpler and more peaceful as a spiritual atheist than as a Christian.
This is not a flippant thing that I am about to do. I think a lot of people who care about me are really confused about what I believe, so I am going to give you all a view into a letter to God that I am sincerely writing as well as posting. If you, the blog readers, think you have an answer that can backed up, please feel free to answer any of the questions below in a comment.
I don’t get you. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten you. I know people say this is because you can’t be gotten, but I don’t buy that. Even if I never understood you, thats what friends do, they try to understand where each other are coming from. People tell me that you want to be my friend, and I guess I want to be yours. I say “I guess” because I am not really sure. I hear that you offer a love like no other, but you seem to charge a price like no other as well. The US Military (my employer) says I must offer my life for them. This I must do only once, and often as not, should the opportunity arise it will be to save my comrades. You demand not a single, ill-though, impassioned second to save those I love, but every second, of every moment, of everyday, for the rest of my life. My job demands my life but once. You demand it forever, in this existence and the next.
All that I know about you is contained in my heart, the words of those around me, the world around me, and the Bible. Though emotions give life color and verity, they make a poor compass. I will not trust my heart to know you, not if I believe what you say in the Bible. You say the heart is “deceitfully wicked”. I can’t trust what is deceitfully wicked to guide me. And the heart is capricious, loving someone one moment and hating them the next. Thats why a good man speaks from his mind not his heart, which you also say: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”
The words of those around me are sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly, but regardless of specific instance, generally useless when its about the spirit. Truth is not true because of consensus, it either conforms to reality or it doesn’t. Besides if my heart is wicked why are other peoples’ hearts different? I cannot be alone in my sin: “For all have sinned…” When it comes to you, everyone has an agenda and I can’t trust anybody who claims your name to say to me only what benefits you and not what benefits the speaker.
The world around me is beautiful. I love the trees and ocean. I like to ride my bike in the roasting sun and have the wind blow the sand stinging against my legs. I see around me beauty and order. Because the world you have made is full of order I see man’s greatest dream over my head everyday. We always wanted to fly. With the physics you made as part of the universe you created and the minds you gave us we figured out how to make great tubes of aluminum fly through the air not as stupid bullets, but guided in flight by our hands, obeying our constant whim. Science, the systematic study of a rational universe, is the greatest tool we have ever found. Because with science, we can make an airplane fly, and our ancestors could not. Yet… you and science that describes your creation are not in agreement. You claim to have made the earth in 7 days, and the genealogies you provide in Scripture tell us that the earth is about 7000 years old. The science that gives us such a window into the depth and power of the Mind that designed all says that the earth is 4.5 billion years old.
I trust the descriptions of this rational universe we live in to be true everyday. Every day I use my front door because I trust that I still can’t walk through my wall. Every week I put gas in my car and expect to get around 30 mpg. This is because I trust that the description of the combustion of hydrocarbons with oxygen producing CO, CO2, water vapor, and l trace amounts of various things will function the way they always have since the 1600’s when we began to study such things. But the science that flawlessly describes the 60 cycle alternating current which is invisibly turning my monitor off and on with clock-like precision mysteriously fails totally to date the earth I live on.
Contained in my blood is DNA, which I have always believed that you were the author of. The ability to even visualize this DNA did not exist until 50 years ago, and I’ve thought us blessed that we could have this lens into how “fearfully and wonderfully made” that we are. My father, dying of a virus, may yet be saved by the executed knowledge of DNA to create a cure. The tens of of thousands of people cured by the recombinant DNA created were saved by man doing his best to manipulate the physics you created. Yet this knowledge points to evolution. The more we know about DNA the more man appears to be related to African Apes. False conclusions show themselves in false results, but recombinant DNA heals. How can it be so repeatably, veritably right in all regards but this one?
Finally, the Bible, my source of meaning and context since childhood. The Bible I have is a Protestant Bible. It does not contain the Apocrypha, because that is not part of the Protestant tradition. The Catholic Bible does contain it, because of the Council of Trent in the 1500’s, over a millennium after it was written, decided it too was canon. But it wasn’t written when it happened. Your word was written 50 to 100 years after the events it describes happens often by people who weren’t there. Why? Why would wait a century to write your inspired word? If the writers were writing your words, why was the canonicity of many unestablished till the 400’s? Then, a more then a millennium later at Trent, the Catholic Church had to take a stand. Luther’s sola scriptura meant for the first time the Catholics had decide what was scripture (since prior to this tradition and papal bulls were equal in authority to scripture).
God, this looks horribly like humans, not like you. Your omnipotence seems sorely lacking in all these proceedings, as clearly as it is lacking in the actions of those who claim to act in your name. Please answer these questions, they confuse me very much
The lost sheep