Personally, I’m not particularly keen on labels and I don’t identify at all with the popular forms of atheism I’ve seen online, so I’m not quite sure how to gauge this recent post on RELEVANT Magazine about Mike McHargue, a Southern Baptist deacon who became an atheist… and then became a Christian again two years later.
Here’s the meat of his story:
One day I said this during prayer: “God, I don’t know why I’m praying. You aren’t even real.” Just like that, I was an atheist, and I spent the next two years living a lie. I pretended to believe in person, while advancing humanism on the Internet. I know that sounds silly, even duplicitous, but I really wanted to help people.
A Deacon can’t just show up at church and say they don’t believe in God anymore. Plus, I found hundreds of people on the Internet who were losing their faith like I was, and I wanted to help them adjust to finding meaning via means other that belief in God. It’s harder than it sounds.
But God wasn’t done with me. Even though I didn’t believe in any god, God reached out to me standing on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. In that moment, reality seemed like a veil that was stretched taught [sic]. I could make out the glory of God on the other side, and it moved me. I felt connected to God, and through God to all my fellow humanity. It was beautiful, and it changed my life forever.
It also left me confused. I know I couldn’t have experienced God if He didn’t exist. I spent two years climbing back into Faith. I had to start over, learning who God is and how I can be a part of God’s work.
Everything described is so… vague. Was he ever really an active atheist? If so, on which websites? What exactly changed his mind? I mean, my difficulties with faith after spiritual abuse aren’t fixed by looking at the Pacific coastline three blocks away from where I work. It’s beautiful, yes, but how did that change his mind? And is his experience one he expects will make sense to anyone else?
McHargue said on Ryan Bell‘s blog that his piece was heavily edited for length and flow, but there’s no indication that the answers to those questions were the parts that were cut.
What do y’all think? Genuine? Click-baiting with a buzzword? Just testing the longevity of his faith by dropping it and then coming back to it as soon as it felt fresh again?