I heard a “ding ding” come from my iPad, which meant someone commented on one of my blogs. It was like a bell to a Pavlovian dog as I quickly went to read it! In case you haven’t noticed I have one very big “issue” and that is my desire to make people like me…A LOT! And I may or may not need attention. Despite the encouragement of my therapist and support group I am not admitting to that just yet. So, I rush over to read the comment hoping my words have encouraged and transformed! Uh, not quite. It was a comment from an atheist who refuses to let me win him over with my sweet southern charm.
Comment I received
I’ve always found it interesting and revealing when a christian has to claim that parts of the bible aren’t to be followed by them claiming that it isn’t 100% inspired by their god as it claims.
Tony, christians all disagree on how to interpret their bible, including which parts to claim as from their god, as literal, as metaphor, etc. As a former christian, and now an atheist who has concluded that no gods exist, this just shows me that you are all making this up.
You’ve invented a religion in your own image just like all of the other christians and theists who disagree with you.
In putting atheist in as a searchable keyword, you seem to have wanted the attention of someone like me and wantedto convince me your version is the right one. That doesn’t work very well with someone who knows the bible. This jesus says humans deserve eternal punishment for daring to disagree with it. that isn’t love at all. That’s an abusive lover or parent
Let me share a quick story, before we address his love note. Years ago I saw an ad in a newspaper (remember those) for a nice SUV. So I went down, took the always friendly test drive, and told the salesperson I was ready to buy. And he got me in for a great monthly price! So off I went with a happy wife, and the kids buckled in the back. A couple years later I went to trade it in and was told it was a lease. “No way” I said, I would never lease a car, due to how many miles I drove at that time. However, as we examined the fine print…I had leased the vehicle. I had NOT gotten a great deal at all! For about 15 minutes nothing that came out of my mouth demonstrated that I was a pastor. I felt deceived, duped, and embarrassed that I would fall for it.
I share that story, because we have all been there in life. We thought we had been told the truth, given a great deal, or even put our trust in something or someone that ended up hurting us. And that is how my new atheist friend feels about Christianity. As he said, he is a former Christian and after examining the Bible and doing a lot of research…he has come to the conclusion he was duped! He has concluded that God is now god, the Lord is not a lord at all, Jesus is an it, and last but not least…the Bible is a bible. And I am not the least bit offended, because I have been there!
His comments remind me of myself several years back as I explored my belief in God and the Bible. Like he has obviously done, I began to read Dawkins, Hitchens, White, and several former pastors who are now agnostic or atheist. And guess what? I began to feel duped by my religious upbringing, and my Christian school and seminary education.
I too believed I had accepted a fairy tale after reading all the books, and listening to the podcast and lectures. And then there was all the pain and suffering in the world! I had the thought over and over again, “How can I believe in a loving God?” And thus, I attempted to throw away my belief in Him. And then one day, I began to miss Jesus like a best friend I had not seen in years.
There was a great evangelist and friend of Billy Graham named Charles Temptleton. He partnered with Dr. Graham and would speak to over 30,000 people in stadiums about Jesus. And one day the man who had lead many to believe…stopped believing. He declared himself an agnostic, and it apparently had a lot to do with the Old Testament. He also became convinced that Jesus was not the son of God, but said the following in an interview with Lee Strobel approximately two years before his death:
“He was,” Templeton began, “the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?”
Strobel: I was taken aback. “You sound like you really care about him,” I said.
“Well, yes, he is the most important thing in my life,” came his reply. “I . . . I . . . I . . . ,” he stuttered, searching for the right word, ‘I know it may sound strange, but I have to say . . . I adore him!
Strobel, “A Case for Faith”
Later in the interview my heart connected with the former evangelist as he emotionally said, “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, ‘I . . . miss . . . him (Jesus)!” When you have come to a point in your life where you absorbed the teachings of Jesus and He becomes real to you…leaving Him is not an easy task. It’s why I am not offended by my atheist friend, because I know this journey has not been easy for him. I assume that he left something and someone he once adored. He insinuated that this has been enlightening for him, but for me it seemed to lead to a deep sense of emptiness.
When I tried to walk away from my faith in Jesus I felt lost at times. It was a very dark period for me and my wife. And it may have contributed to our eventual divorce in some ways. I became a very different man when not following Jesus. Not a bad man. Not an unfaithful husband. Not a horrible father. I’ve met atheist and agnostic who behave more Christlike than many of us Christians, but for me the emptiness lead me to isolate myself from others. And at times I didn’t recognize myself. And in the summer of 2022 I chose to begin reconnecting with my faith. I decided that even on the days I had my biggest doubts…I would stay the course.
I want to admit that the comment he posted to my blog has some truth in it for me. Over the years I have unapologetically developed my own definition of what it means to be a Christian. My path is very different than the Baptist church of my youth. I have thrown away the rules and legalism, and chosen to simply focus on the words of Jesus. I do disagree with his belief that I have created a God in my own image. I am not a creationist, but I do believe that we were created in the image of God. And we can get connected to the heart of the true and living God through the life of Jesus.
The reason I started this blog was in hopes of giving people a new way of looking at Jesus and Christianity. I want to give people an alternative to heaven vs. hell. I want to provide a path to Jesus for those who think they have to believe every word of a Bible that was written over 3,000 years ago, translated hundreds of times, and put together by men. Why? Because I believe the Bible is a beautiful book that is full of inspiration and transformation despite its moments of mistranslation. I usually fall asleep each night with the Bible next to my head after reading it so I’m not saying ignore it. I’m saying focus on the red letters (which are the words of Jesus). John said it best, “In the beginning was the word (Jesus), and the word was with God.” Jesus is the word of God. And He focused on love, grace, and kindness. Let that be the filter when you read or hear people’s opinion on what is “truth” or the word of God.
I have put myself in a unique position where fundamental Christians and atheist don’t approve of my beliefs. However, the first step to determining YOUR spiritual journey starts with being honest with yourself and others. Too many of us accept our religion, spirituality, or lack thereof from parents, pastors, or friends. We never take the time to dive deep into our questions, doubts, and disbeliefs. And thus we live a shallow existence, and have a disconnect from a God who lives within us. I have chosen to pursue what brings me peace, and inspires me to better serve and love others. I really don’t think someone should feel forced to debate or defend how they connect to God.
Let me end with the words of Billy Graham to his friend Charles Templeton, “I don’t know about anybody else, but I’ve decided that that’s the path for me.”
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