Friday, September 16, 2016

Atheist vs Christian, Believer or Unbeliever?

We put people in 2 classes, atheists & christians or more generally believer & unbeliever, but I look at it another way. Maybe it will be useful to someone.

I grew up Baptist, studied science in college & grad school, became a programmer to automate data collection & analysis. Logic was important in my training & career. As time went on, I had more & more doubts. Growing up I listened to so many bible thumping "Repent & be saved or burn in Hell!" sermons that I always thought a preacher would get mad if I asked any questions, so I didn't. For about 30 years, I was a skeptic & a lot of those years I only went to church at Christmas & Easter when I had to keep my relatives happy.

About a decade before that changed, I had a conversation with a coworker about baptism. Our church baptized the child when they were old enough to understand what it is about. My co-worker was telling me about how Catholics baptize the children as infants, so they didn't end up in Purgatory, if they died young. I didn't say a word out loud, but inside my head a voice screamed "NO, NOT MY GOD. MY GOD IS A GOOD GOD." Can't remember where the conversation went from there, because my brain was too busy trying to figure out where that came from. At the time I called myself a skeptic & was debating whether I should just admit that I was an atheist. Why would an atheist or a skeptic defend God? It just floored me.

In the years since I've decided that I think the terms atheist, christian, believer & unbeliever are too black & white, when a lot of us live in the gray, messy middle. I can't throw out a number like 75% faith, because it fluctuates day to day, hour to hour. One minute everything is going well & I'm thinking God is Good. The next I'm pulled over at the side of the road with a flat tire & shaking my fist to the sky screaming "Give me a break, Lord!"

I no longer define faith as 100% belief & the absence of doubt. Now I think faith is belief in spite of our doubts. I might not be able to answer a question or doubt today in this moment, but that doesn't mean there isn't a perfectly good answer out there somewhere. I just might not know it yet. So if you call yourself a skeptic or atheist because of your doubts, remember you can't have faith without some doubt in the mix. 0% doubt turns into absolute certainty or knowledge. That's not faith.

My strategy for doubts & questions that I can't answer is to ask God for help. Answers often pop up within a day or 2. Mt 7:7-8 says "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." If God is okay with our questions & searching, then I should give myself a break from the skeptic that pesters me the most, me. Maybe you should too. May you always find help for your doubts.

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