I’ve recently realized that I have been shutting people out. I have been afraid to let people know about some changes that I’ve gone through this year. Life in the closet is a lonely one so here it goes.
I’m an atheist.
Basically I’ve been trying to decide which sounds better – Heresy or Apostasy. For the past year I have been critical of the bible. I don’t think that it is trustworthy on human rights issues and other moral topics. To say this as a christian would be clearly heretical. I’m not interested in that sort of duality. As a rapper once said- “be true to yourself.” My loss of faith has a lot to do with the doctrine of heaven and hell, the unequal treatment of women in the church, the condemnation of homosexuals, a growing number of Christians being against science and reason in general, pain in child birth, circumcision, weather, global inequity, the doctrine of vicarious redemption, the general caprice of YAHWEH, the cloudiness of the words of Jesus, and so on. The truth is that I stopped believing in God around the time that my daughter, Jane, was born. I thought that it was just doubt at first and I tried to hold on to my faith for some time after that but ultimately, I was unable to salvage my Christian worldview. I have been largely in the closet about this for most of 2012. I was afraid that I would lose friends and alienate myself from many of the important people in my life. I recently told a long time mentor about my unbelief and he said: “I’d like to think that our friendship is based on more than just philosophy.” Craig’s response really opened my eyes and helped me to overcome my fear of losing acceptance. If you are super bummed out I totally understand. I would be too if I were me from a few years ago reading this. For nearly 15 years I lived for Jesus Christ. I was a true believer and I stood for what I perceived to be biblical truth. Just to be clear, this isn’t anyone’s fault. I have been treated really well by Christians. It was mostly Christians who took me in as family when I really needed people. The Christian people who I have told about my unbelief have been ridiculously supportive.
Some may ask, “why go public? Why not just keep your personal beliefs to yourself?” I asked this question of my self many times. The first answer is that I just need to get on with life. I can’t keep worrying about what I want to say to people. I have a lot of ideas which are no longer in line with the ideology that I’ve held for the entirety of my adulthood. The second answer is that I just want to say new stuff.
Some of you might be wondering why I used the word Atheist. Because my identity was so entangled with my faith in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, I felt it necessary to find a word with which I could identify. I suppose I could have used the words skeptic or agnostic or even naturalist but I think that atheist does the job in this case. I came out to my mom last week and she asked me if I became a Scientologist, proving to me that she deeply misunderstood what I was trying to tell her. I had to go on to further clarify that I don’t believe in any spiritual force or in any deity. I think that it was hard for her to hear but she’s my mom and I know that she will always love me.
This leaves me in somewhat of an awkward situation. My wife Becca and I moved to Germany in order to fulfill what we believed was a calling from God. We were welcomed by an awesome community of Christians at Christus Gemeinde and continue to be in touch with many people from that church. When we got here we got right to work. I started leading worship and Becca started working with kids, doing sound, creating things, and greeting people. After serving for about 15 months I told everyone that I needed a break in order to spend more time with Jane. This was true but there was more to it than that. I just couldn’t lead worship anymore. Worship leading was something which I was very passionate about for over 10 years. I even had the opportunity to do it professionally for a while. When I stopped believing, against the advice of the epic 80’s rock band Journey, leading worship began to feel incredibly inauthentic. I made the decision to step down. All of this has ultimately led to me being a happier person. I don’t have to worry about what God might be trying to tell me in any given situation. When the wind changes I don’t question it. I am no longer suspicious of people being influenced by evil forces. I find it freeing to make decisions confidently without feeling like I need to strike that perfect balance.
Belief timeline and pertinent information:
Moment of self awareness until about 1991- Deist: I entertained the possibility that there might be a prime mover but I did not believe in a personal God.
November 1991 to 1995- The Magic Johnson Period: Most of my prayers were dedicated to the longevity of Magic Johnson’s life after I learned that he had contracted HIV. I prayed to what I would have called a higher power. I prayed the AA prayer that I learned from my mom and I created long memorized prayers which I would recite before bed. During this time I was also very interested in science. I memorized the spellings of long words, and became familiar with one of my life long heroes – Carl Sagan.
May 1995 to February 1997- Returned to Deism: I actively sought spiritual meaning in things after the death of my Father. I didn’t pray during this time but I did expose myself to books about meditation and Buddhism.
February 15th 1997- Became a born again Christian: This was one of the most significant moments of my adolescence. It marked the beginning of a long journey which brought me to where I am today. My ideology changed throughout the years and was highly shaped by the communities to which I belonged but over all, I was an evangelical christian. If you are reading this and you’ve know me for a while, we probably met during this time period.
1999-2008 – Walnut hill Community Church: During this time I became a man. I Learned about honor, perspective, patience, and hard work. I became a musician in this time, attained a college degree, and essentially became myself.
May 2009-Worship director Grace Community Church: I had been leading worship for about 8 years at that point and I’d been offered a job to do it. I remember talking on the phone with Terryl Delany, the pastor of the church during the interview process. He was long winded and very energetic for a person of any age. During one of our talks he said, “all we can offer you is money, but when you take this job, you are giving your life.” He was right. It’s hard to describe how immersive serving on the staff of a church can be. I was highly involved. I came to know a lot of really great people. I also came to realize that there were certain things which I believed which were not for sharing. At this time I was skeptical of the supposed dangers of homosexuality. I believed that the church was on the wrong side of history on that topic. During this time I became reacquainted with the theory of Evolution and concluded that it was by far the best explanation for the diversity of species on our planet. I also started learning about Astronomy again and learned tons of information supporting a universe from nothing. None of this interfered with my belief in God. I was able to keep my biblical beliefs separate from my growing knowledge of science and my evolving morality on social issues. In this particular environment I decided that I needed to keep these ideas to my self. There was a very strong emphasis on the total inerrancy of the bible. I learned that this position can be polarizing.
January 2011- Missionary partner at Christus Gemeinde, Gau-Algesheim, Germany: In the months leading up to the biggest and by far most stressful move of my life, Becca and I weighed the pros and cons of moving to a foreign country to serve the local church. I had felt drawn to german speaking people for a number of years and had even begun to learn the language. My responsibilities at Grace Community Church increased greatly but my position was not made full time as was previously promised. It was obviously a closing door. I contacted some people in Germany, set up a visit, went, was offered help to get started in Germany, prayed about it, decided to move and moved all within a 3 or 4 month period of time. It was exceedingly fast. Ultimately I’m happy that we came here. I led worship nearly every week for the first 5 months and after that I led at least twice a month for the next 7 months. The biggest challenge was learning songs in German. I was able to sound decent pronouncing the words while singing but I realized how much I truly dislike worship songs. I knew that I wasn’t such a big fan of the style but having the words distanced from me like that really took the magic away. I even got a chance to lead a christmas choir. It was really fun to work with those people in that context. I love helping people create beautiful music and discover the sense of pride that comes with being a part of something cool. We were heavily involved up until a few weeks before Easter 2012.
December 4th, 2011 – Shadow of Impending Fatherhood: Before we learned that Jane was female I was worried about the baby being a boy. It wasn’t because I didn’t want a boy, I actually was really looking forward to using the boy name that we had picked out. I was worried because I didn’t want to be involved in any ritual which involved cutting the baby’s genitals. Becca was in favor of circumcision because of her jewish background but I had come to think of it as mutilation and immoral. The arguments for circumcision are in my opinion base. An uncircumcised penis looks bad, I want him to look like me, it prevents the spread of disease, it is cleaner. The second two are debunked and the first two have nothing to do with the child. I thought that cutting an infants genitals in order to have it look like me would be an incredibly egocentric stance. There is a surprisingly thick cloud of BS encompassing this topic but it seems like circumcision is largely unnecessary and in many cases dangerous. Becca being a person of reason was able to look at the issue objectively and she also concluded that it is a less than favorable procedure. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway because the practice is not an option here in Germany. With Jane on the way, I started thinking about all kinds of things. It is typical for Christian families to perform a baby dedication at the church. It’s sort of like infant baptism but without water. I realized that I did not want to have such a ceremony for Jane. I became leery of her becoming indoctrinated. I had already needed to deal with and unlearn some bad things I had been exposed to at church. How could I start Jane off like that? This caused me to think deeply about what I actually believed. When Becca went into labor it was long and horrible. Her travailing began on Saturday and Jane was born on Tuesday afternoon. I know that her experience was abnormal but I kept coming back to Genesis where God punished all women with pain in child birth. After watching my best friend go through that I could no longer believe in spiritual matters. I realized that we are just mammals and nothing more. Also suffering in general makes me think that if God exists, he, she, or it is bad. I took this as doubt at first but now I realize that my disillusionment really starts with the birth of my kid. For some reason this was the last straw. The foundation of my faith had come undone.
Current perspectives and gratefulness: I think that people are good and that I have a particularly decent crop of friends and acquaintances. I have had tons of support and help from all kinds of people who believed in me and what I invested in. Friendships have been extremely important to me as I am a secret extravert. For this reason I resisted coming out but ultimately I realized that I couldn’t retain any real depth in friendship while keeping my identity hidden. I am ultra grateful for the path I’ve been able to travel and for the quality people who I’ve met along the way. If you made it this far down the screen, I commend you. Thank you for your acceptance and understanding. I would like to think of this as the beginning of a new conversation.