Not Quite a Christian… Not Quite an Atheist May 21, 2008

Not Quite a Christian… Not Quite an Atheist

Kido wasn’t trying to become an atheist or find any fault with her faith, but God just sort of left her life:

I remember the exact feeling. I stepped into the church feeling different. It was different than all the other times. I felt alone. Even surrounded by familiar and friendly faces, someone was missing. I was cold and alone. The whole time during the sermon, I didn’t know what to think..I didn’t know how to feel..I even asked myself, “What am I doing here?” Even after everyone had already conversed and gone, I stayed behind sitting alone and staring at the enormous ornate cross that stood before me..different now than it had been all the previous sundays and friday nights. Alone, I sat there, praying..rather..trying to. I kept knocking..He wasn’t answering me anymore.

God just stopped listening to her, she writes.

It didn’t help that the church she went to was corrupt and Christians were living up to their negative stereotypes.

I’ve finally come to terms with it. I didn’t shut God out. I shut out Christianity..I shut out religion. People kill themselves over religion. People suffer because of it. I rather just believe..believe in myself and in my own beliefs. I believe that God is still with me..just not in the way that other people think. I have my own interpretations and my own opinions..and from now on..that’s how I’ll live–not as a Christian..not as an atheist or agnostic…but as myself.

So, she’s no longer a Christian. But she’s not an atheist. She still believes in God in some ambiguous way.

I’m perfectly fine with that.

Are you?

It’s not that important to me that she brand herself a non-theist.

I’m just thrilled that religion no longer has a stronghold on her.

It would be nice if she threw off the shackles of God altogether, but this is still a significant change of mindset for someone.

It’s going to be hard to convince some people that they should get rid of the baby along with the bathwater.

Some atheists won’t stand for that. (I don’t include myself in that bunch.) They want you to ditch all aspects of the supernatural.

I just don’t think that’s realistic and we should consider this kind of story a “victory” for the side of reason.

Where do you stand on the matter?

(Two points go to me for the seamless use of a baby metaphor.)

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • This is very similar to how my husband feels. He gave up on church and religion a long time ago, but only recently gave up on the Christian idea of God. He still considers himself spiritual (I call him a spiritual agnostic), and believes that there is something in the world that ties us all together, something outside our consciousness. He leans toward a sort of earthy belief system-the tree is alive, the grass is alive, the squirrel is alive, and we are all connected in some way. However he doesn’t worship or pray to anyone or anything.
    You asked “I’m perfectly fine with that. Are you?” Yes, I am. I’m perfectly fine with anyone finding whatever spiritual or non spiritual path that fits their lives, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone. Not everyone is going to leave religion and become free thinking activists (although that would be cool!)

  • Shauna

    I think that she is perfectly fine believing in some kind of god. Faith is a hard thing for some people to completely remove from their lives. To be honest, I still have my blanket from when I was a baby. 🙂 I guess I wish people would just take it that extra step farther, but that’s just me. Good for her that she no longer proscribes to any organized religion.

  • mike

    A similar path eventually led me to atheism. I always had a “liberal” spiritual theology where everything was very metaphorical (so it could be compatible with my understanding of the physical world). I never bought most of the supernatural Old Testament stuff as literal. Then I considered applying that same scrutiny to the more important New Testament stuff (namely, the resurrection). I stopped calling myself a Christian. Soon, I could only reconcile a concept of God that was so metaphorical and abstract that it was no longer supernatural at all. This God was indistinguishable from no God at all, so Occam’s Razor won out.

  • Yes, I’m fine with that. It’s great. I just want people to think for themselves and not follow along blindly. I don’t even care if they stay a Christian. Who am I to say what anyone else should do? But I find it sad when people seem to have no form of introspection and just go along with life for the ride never taking the chance to question and explore on their own.

  • Wes

    It’s going to be hard to convince some people that they should get rid of the baby along with the bathwater.

    Some atheists won’t stand for that. (I don’t include myself in that bunch.) They want you to ditch all aspects of the supernatural.

    I just don’t think that’s realistic and we should consider this kind of story a “victory” for the side of reason.

    I don’t include myself in that bunch either. I’m just happy to see that she decided to think for herself rather than remain shackled to an organized religion which tells her what to believe.

    However, I’m not sure if I’d consider her story a “victory for the side of reason”. Reading through her story, I don’t see reason playing much of a role in her leaving the church. Her “deconversion” sounds like it was mostly emotional, with reason playing a secondary role. And, again, if it was emotion that lead her to question her own beliefs rather than just dogmatically follow Christianity, then I’m fine with that. To each his or her own, I suppose. But I think it’s wrong to equate “leaving religion” automatically with “reason”–people can leave religion for factors which have little to do with reason.

  • Her position now seems mostly deist in nature. I’m fine with that. I think in separating the details its religion and not god that makes people to crazy, nutty, bad things. Just holding on to god seems like it would stay an internal process.

    Of course I think once you drop religion god doesn’t make any sense and you may as well take that next step.

  • I went from being a fairly devout Christian struggling with never hearing from God to deist in a single moment similar to what she experienced. My understanding of the universe has changed slightly over time since then (now an atheist), but it was that first minute of realization that God wasn’t there that made it all possible. So no, I don’t see a problem with a deistic/theistic belief in some nebulous ‘god’ figure. It’s less sure of the exactness of said ‘god’ which should hopefully mean less chance of fundimentalism.

  • My wife is very much like Kelly’s husband. Her beliefs are reminiscent of the Hindu concept of the atman, and while she knows it cannot be proven, credo consolans. She seldom attends organized worship services. I, on the other hand, am an utter hypocrite atheist who sings in the local church choir…

    Atheism isn’t a creed or political party, darn it. It’s just a single answer to a single question. Any sentence beginning with “All atheists must/should” is in need of punctuation. A full stop at any point in those three words should suffice.

  • Mriana

    I agree with you, Hemant. I’m perfectly fine with that. I think it is possible to disregard the religious texts and still have a belief in something that is not the god of religion, even if it is something indescribable that the person choses to call a deity because they can’t explain it. Psychologically it is part of the human condition since time began to attribute the unexplainable to a god, but we ran into trouble when we started using texts to conform people’s beliefs, impose a concept that was of the Church, and harming others who do not conform.

    Therefore, I think it is OK for people who can’t let go of their own concept of a deity, while letting go of religious texts and the religious authority, as long as they don’t impose their concept on others. Of course, if there are no texts or any authority, what is there to impose?

    Admittedly, I think neuropsychologists will one day explain these feelings of transcendance, what appears to be numinous, and beyond the human understanding that so many attribute to a deity and in terms that common people can understand. They have only just begun researching these extreme emotions and alike that even “non-theists”, like this person, attribute to a deity.

    Yes, I do realize this could be a door in or out of theism, but I think with more knowledge, it could be a door out and while they are sitting on the line and aren’t quite theists or atheists, educating themselves about religion, science, etc at this point would be invaluable, even if they never let go of the possibility that there maybe something that could be a god, but not what religion says it is.

    That’s just my thoughts though.

  • RobL

    While I personally don’t believe in the supernatural I also don’t have a problem with the people around me (most of my family) who have this feeling that there is some sort of higher power out there but who also know it can not be anything like the god of the bible. My unscientific observation is that many, maybe most, people have a hard wired need to believe in something or at least a strong predisposition to believe in something – you cant fight your wiring. It’s the dogma, social control, brainwashing, and group-thought aspect of religion that is the danger. The “I have the real answer and everyone else is wrong” aspect.

    I would say that any time a religious person rejects the dogma of their old religion for an attitude of “I’m not sure what it looks like but I think there is still something more out there” it is a huge victory for rational thought and should be encouraged. Someone with that attitude will be much more understanding of our position than someone still steeped in ancient myths and beliefs who believes atheists are just the spawn of the devil.

  • Joseph R.

    I agree with you, Hemant. I don’t see religion as the poison that Sam Harris, for instance, makes it out to be. I see extreme views on anything, including religion, as the proverbial poison that is harmful to society. As far as this person’s story goes, chalk one up for the side of reason.

  • Siamang

    I just don’t think that’s realistic and we should consider this kind of story a “victory” for the side of reason.

    I don’t know why other people count as “victories” for anything.

    If she’s happy, and not hurting anyone else, then why should I care what she believes? I’m fine with whatever she believes… if she prefers her current beliefs to what she used to have, then I’m happy for her.

    What I am glad of is that she is sharing her stories and her thoughts, and I can learn from her experience.

  • @Siamang

    I agree. I think a person’s actions matter more then how they think about theology. A homophobic atheist isn’t any better then a homophobic Christian. Right?

  • Karen

    It’s going to be hard to convince some people that they should get rid of the baby along with the bathwater.

    Perhaps, though it seems like a lot of people follow this course from conservative religion to liberal religion to non-theism to atheism. It’s a progression and takes longer for some people than for others. For me it was a gradual process over 5-6 years.

    Of course some people stop at one place or another and stay there for years, or perhaps for life. But I think many people agree with Dan Barker when he says, “I got to the end of the bathwater and found out there was no baby.”

  • Shane

    Okay, I’ll bite. I’ll be the ornery atheist.

    I am not very thrilled with this at all. To stick with an over-used metaphor: she has thrown out the bathwater, but instead of realizing there was no baby she just keeps pretending there is a baby.

    These kind of people with undefined, ambiguous beliefs are very frustrating. At least she no longer contributes to an organized effort to undermine truth and justice in the world, but she is still a loose cannon as far as I’m concerned. Ready to be harvested by those such as Oprah and Deepak Chopra with psuedo-scientific feel-good “spiritual” nonsense.

    She rejected Christianity but for the wrong reasons (organized religion is bad and people suffer for it not because it simply isn’t true) so she’ll end up falling into some other “spiritual” mind trap (and there are many). Hopefully it will be less harmful than Christianity.

  • I’m good with this because, for me anyway, atheism was a process of slow steps. First rejecting Catholicism, then religion, then god, etc. It takes some people a while to feel comfortable with their new ideas and I think most people never really get to true atheism. But, as long as they are thinking critically about religion, its a step in the right direction.

  • Obviously we should all be fine with her doing whatever she wants to do. I think it’s good that she’s not religious any more.

    However, like Christopher Hitchens, I do think the concept of God itself (even removed from religion) can be a horrible shackle for people. So I am an anti-theist as well as an agnostic atheist. I think most conceptions of God are like Orwellian dictators in the sky.

    But she might be deist, in which case her concept of God probably wouldn’t be much of a shackle.

  • She rejected Christianity but for the wrong reasons (organized religion is bad and people suffer for it not because it simply isn’t true)

    What’s “wrong” about rejecting something that makes people suffer? Your ideology is showing. 🙂

  • Kori

    I think some form of Deism (or something that appears similar to it) is a pretty big step away from an organized form of religion… assuming that I would want everyone to be atheists (which I can’t really say that’s my primary goal in life – just it would make a lot of the goals in my life easier to pursue, but that’s kind of the point of it…) I’d say that’s a very good thing. Being open within your own mind is the hardest step, being honest with yourself. As long as you aren’t letting your beliefs cause you to lead other people (directly or indirectly) into harm, or yourself, then I think that’s really all that matters.

  • mikespeir

    Most of us who have deconverted have gone through this phase. It’s hard to let go of God altogether. I know I didn’t want to. I just finally had to admit to myself that the same arguments that devastated the religion I’d been brought up to believe argued just as persuasively against the whole shebang–God included. For sometime after I grudgingly admitted I was an atheist, I still had a gut-level aversion to the word.

  • 5ive

    I don’t think she is a non theist since she still thinks there is a god out there, just not the one in the Christian bible.
    Of course she does not need anyone’s approval, so I won’t give or withhold any. While this is definitely a step towards enlightenment, I have to agree with Shane’s assessment as well. Fantastic that the Dogma is gone, but by leaving herself open to god, she is still allowing a being other than herself to be in control of her and the world. The supernatural is a great logic and reason killer. Creepy. Not as creepy as all the stuff in the holy books, but still in line with the worship of rain gods.
    And when shane said that bit about rejecting it for the wrong reasons, I don’t think s/he was saying that it is wrong to reject suffering, rather this woman would be more honest rejecting god because it is wrong altogether. Also, religious organisations provide more humanitarian help than our government at times, so you can’t say a blanket statement like” religion causes suffering and therefore I can no longer adhere to it.” Well, you can say that, but you aren’t following it through.

  • Chris Bradley

    I think that, in the future, there won’t be atheists or religious people, because we’ll be post-theist. The attitude that god isn’t important enough to do anything about is a fairly post-theist attitude. The question of god’s existence or lack of existence shouldn’t even be important – it should be relegated to same importance that comic book fans give to if Batman can beat up Captain America.

    That said, I believe that supernaturalism does harm – it is the belief that all human thought, reason, evidence and experience is irrelevant in the fact of “bigger truths” that can’t be challenged or discussed (and seem to do no real good). So I can and will, present and future, say that people should abandon supernaturalism entirely, but for my own part I don’t think it can or should be compelled. I think that sort of compulsion is a distinctly religious pattern of behavior – I think the time for threats and intimidation for obedience and conformity is well and truly gone.

  • drew

    I’m fine with it, but I’m not happy about it. It sounds like she’s lost the comforts and benefits of religion without gaining the new perspective that comes from being comfortable with the idea that there’s no God.

    I kind of feel sorry for her. I think it’s better to be a Christian out of stupidity than to become an atheist out of depression/discontentment. I dunno. At least that way you’re happy.

    [edit] It occurred to me someone might misconstrue what I said here… I certainly don’t mean to imply in any way that she is stupid, I was just trying to come up with a good example of a weak reason to turn to Christianity. (Not that there is a strong reason.)

  • drew

    By the way– how is an emotional rejection of God a victory for reason?

  • Read the article again. God is not being rejected here.

  • Dan

    This is exactly what needs to start happening more. People need to realize that religion and spirituality are two completely different things. My hope is that one day people will either believe that there is a spiritual world or that there isn’t and leave it at that.

  • I wish her well.


    Derek said,
    May 21, 2008 at 5:45 pm
    Read the article again. God is not being rejected here.

    lol, at least someone can understand what they read.

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