We Talked About the Why

Many of you have suggested that I should walk my wife through the process of how I became an atheist.  Perhaps if she saw things from my perspective more, then she would be more understanding.

I’ve been reluctant to do that because I’m not sure I want her to stop believing in God.  She had a very traumatic childhood, and her faith in God is what helped her survive.  She “knew” that everything was going to be ok because God was watching over her.  That’s just not something I want to steal from her.

But last night we had that talk.

You’ll have to forgive me, I was a bit inebriated at the time.  For this dialogue (virtually a monologue) I’m doing the best to remember how the important parts of the conversation went.

Earlier that day I preached on how it’s ok to be disappointed in God.  It’s ok to look up to the heavens and wish God would audibly speak.  The gut twisting part in when I then said something to the effect of, “we know that when Christ returns we will see him face to face…blah, blah, blah…”

That was the first time we had been in Church together since I came out.

Her: It was difficult at church today.

Me: Yeah.

Her: I mean, you were leading worship and praying and the preaching.  The music was awesome.  That was the first time in a long time it felt like real worship.  I had to several times stop myself from crying.

Side note: I’m pretty sure the crying has more to do with the worship service moving her emotionally (spiritually?) than with, you know…me and my issue.  But perhaps it was a combination of both.

Me: I wanted it to be true. I wanted the words that we were singing to be real.  I wanted to believe the sermon [message] was real. I just can’t.  I want to but I can’t.

Her: [She speaks with and compassion and insquisitiveness flowing from not only voice, but every aspect of her body language] Why’s that?

Me: You remember that marriage confrence we went to?  What about “her”?

Within our first year of marriage, we attended a marriage conference.  The main speakers were very gifted at communicating the hard truths of living life as a married couple.  Simultaneously telling you how hard things can get while they fill you with the hope that you can succeed at it.  One session the wife told the worst story I’ve ever heard an American tell.  While she was pregnant with their fourth child, their third child, a toddler, ran into the home to say something was wrong with the older children.  He took her to a pond where his brothers had drowned minutes before hand.  She didn’t see the bodies and so she went in after them with tears searching for her little ones.

I don’t need to remind my wife of the story, I only need to mention “her”.

Me: What about that poor mother?  Where was God that day?  Because he sure as shit was watching over her children.  Why did those children have to die?  Why did she have to have her little one rush in and tell mommy his brothers were dead?  What purpose is there?  What plan is there?  Why on earth would a God allow that to happen to that woman?  They were just kids.  They were just playing in a pond on a hot day.

Her: I don’t know.

She is patient with me. Listening.  Trying to have me keep eye contact with her.

My inner daddy kicks up into high gear and I start to get emotional.

Yep, angry and teary-eyed at the same time.

Me: Tell me what’s easier to believe: A loving God watched this happened and did nothing because of some fucking plan, or… or… that water is dangerous?  And there was no one to protect those kids.

This just pisses me off. I am so angry.

Since we’re on our front porch, in a somewhat dense neighborhood, I’m virtually whispering all of this at this point.

Me: And we were so happy that [child’s name] made it out of Children’s Hospital alive and well, but what about all the mommies and the daddies who’s babies don’t…don’t make it out of the hospital. Why the fuck not?  Why do we thank god for [child’s name], when all those parents will never hold their babies again?  Why does god ignore them, and not care about them.

Her: I’m sure he cares…

Me: Not enough to do anything about it.  Nothing at all.  Not one goddamn thing.  He does nothing.

Is it easier to beleive that there is a loving God who does absolutely nothing, or that there is no god?

What about those poor kids in Syria?  I saw pictures, the evidence, that the Syrian government was using chemical gas as a weapon. They were kids Joshua’s age [our oldest son who is 5].  They were Joshua’s age, and they were all dead.  Some looked like they were sleeping, others died with their eyes open.  Can you imagine walking upstairs to check up on Joshua, and his eyes are open, but he’s dead?  Can you imagine that?

Her: [Still desiring eye contact, still compassionate] No. No I can’t.

Me: Where is God for that?  Some of those kids were Christians and some were Muslims.  And their parents for the rest of their lives are never going to forget finding their children dead.  For this stupid war that we don’t even know why it’s happening.  Why doesn’t God look out for them?  Why doesn’t God protect them?

I still love the book of Ecclesiastes. “I saw the oppressed and power was on the hand of their oppressors, and there was no one to help the oppressed. And I determined that it is better for him who has died than for those who are alive, but better still is someone who has never been born than to see all the evil that is done under the sun”

And then we go to the Bible!  The flood of Noah.  How many babies and children?  How many Joshua’s died in that flood?

And what about the Biblical Joshua?  He and the Israelites conquered the promised land.  They were commanded, COMMANDED, by God to kill every man, woman, and child.  God commanded the Biblical Joshua to have the Isrealites kill children our kids ages.

How the fuck am I supposed to believe that?

Her: That’s just you being a good daddy.

Me: Yes that’s exactly what it is! But I shouldn’t care more about children I’ve never even met than God does.  Why do I have more compassion than God?  Why do I have more grace than God?  Why do I love my children more than God does?

It’s getting late.  We decided to pack up our stuff and head up to bed. The conversation doesn’t end, we talk here and there but the conversation is also peppered with other topics.  One of which I might make a separate blog post for.

As we’re laying bed she looks me in the eyes.

Her: John, I still have to believe. I believe in God.  With everything in my life, God has taken me this far.

Me: I know, honey.  I don’t want you to become an atheist. Shit, I don’t even want to be an atheist. But either God is real and the Bible is totally wrong about him, or he’s not real.  I just think it makes more sense to say he’s not real.

Her: Thank you.  Thank you for telling me today why it’s hard for you believe.  This is really what I wanted you to do; just talk to me.  I want you to talk to me, that’s all.

Me: I love you.

Her: I love you more.

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14 thoughts on “We Talked About the Why

  1. Awesome discussion with your wife John! I think that you both needed that very badly, even though you are afraid of shaking her faith. After reading this, I think it is more important that she understand, than that you shelter her. If she can do the mental gymnastics to continue to believe, great! But you have to give her that window into your heart and mind that she wants in order to understand just what is happening. You are a wonderful couple and, in the end, I think that you both want to be in love and a family – no matter what else happens.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Your argument reminded me of this speech by Sam Harris on the true horror of religion.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvlEr3P6zzM (3:45)

    And about this:
    “Her: John, I still have to believe. I believe in God. With everything in my life, God has taken me this far.”

    You should talk to her about how your change in perspective makes you see this in a new light, how you now see that trough all her struggles and sacrifices it is she with the help of her loved ones and the community that has helped her overcome whatever her situations or problems were, that the reason god only helps those who help themselves is because well, he is not there to help, how now she is the one thing you love above all others, and she can count on you for everything.

    Good luck

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: A Sidebar Conversation (Let’s Talk About Sex) | Pastor No Faith

  4. Here’s a very fitting quote, allegedly said by Epicurus:

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

    Then of course there’s all sorts of contradictions about God’s character and actions in the bible as well that you’re probably already aware of, but in case you aren’t, take a look at this page: http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Biblical_contradictions for more contradictions, see the external links section of that page.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for your writing. I stumbled upon it this morning, and it has been such an encouragement to me. I’ve known for months (maybe years, though i wasn’t ready to admit to myself) that I’m an atheist. I grew up in the church, have been involved in church my whole life. My husband is a church elder, our kids are very involved. We were part of planting this church. I’m the freaking missions pastor. It’s really our whole community.

    I’m terrified to tell him. He will be devastated. But I have to. We can’t have a strong, healthy relationship with secrets like this. As I’ve read others deconversion and coming out stories, they’ve made me so afraid of the consequences. I don’t know what our relationship will look like after this. I don’t know what parenting looks like after this. I don’t know what my friendships will look like after this. But your stories are beautiful. They are giving me the courage I need to be honest and open. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You might qualify for the Clergy Project. Are you aware of the Clergy Project? It’s a support group for atheist pastors and ex-pastors. I think you have to be a professional pastor, but it’s worth a shot to talk with them.

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      • I just wanted you to know that I have continued to follow your story here and am so appreciative of your vulnerability.

        I told my husband this week that I do not believe anymore. You gave me the courage to be able to be honest with him. (Well, you and most of a bottle of wine.) It’s been hard. Initially he was completely and totally shocked. And reeling from trying to figure out the implications of what my loss of faith would mean. for us, for our family, for our roles at church.

        But we’ve had some really good conversations this week. And he’s listening and asking good questions. And we have a closeness that we haven’t felt in the past months, because I was being distant and keeping secrets. And we’re going to be okay.

        But we did have a moment when he made a bad decision about who to talk to about this. His best friend is the pastor at our church. While he didn’t go into it too much detail with him–he told him that I was having “serious doubts” (it was the day after I told him, and I think he had not been willing to accept himself that it was more than “serious doubts”). I was furious that he had a conversation with the pastor, since I had explicitly said that I wasn’t ready to talk to others about it yet.

        But overall, I’m feeling better about it. And very grateful that I had the courage to be honest. So thank you!

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Pastor No Faith,
    You seem overly concerned about the lives that were lost in this world. Can I remind you of what Jesus said regarding the body and the soul?

    Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matt 10:28-31

    Every one of us will eventually die in this world, whether it be young or old. God knew when each and every one of those children died prematurely and he allowed it to happen as a reminder that this world is doomed. This world is not our home. The crucial factor is whether you accept God’s grace or not. If you don’t want God’s grace, then you choose to suffer for your own sins. It’s your choice.

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    • Hi Phil, you must be new to my blog. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

      Phil, I feel you are completely missing the point in this post, but that may be because you haven’t read my other posts yet. Once you do, I think my perspective will make more sense.

      Yes everyone dies, that’s not really my problem. My problem is the pain, suffering, and torment everyone goes through is unjust. There is no reason for a Muslim or Christian mother to find her children gassed to death in Syria. We pray to God for safety, we pray for God to watch over our families, but it doesn’t seem to matter. What’s going to happen is going to happen. And so I pose this question to my wife:

      Tell me what’s easier to believe: A loving God watched this happened and did nothing because of some fucking plan, or… or… that water is dangerous? And there was no one to protect those kids.

      It’s actually easier and more simple to believe that the children drowned precisely because no one was watching over them, than to believe a loving God saw her children walk towards a pond but did nothing to protect them.

      The crucial factor for me is not whether I accept God’s grace, what’s crucial for me is is there even a god? I see no evidence to believe that God or any god is actually there. Furthermore, the Bible paints a picture of God that doesn’t seem just or loving. But you’ll get to that in my posts you have yet to read.

      Thanks again for dropping by.

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  7. Well, I think we need to go back to the purpose of Jesus’ death on the cross. Was it to prevent kids from being gassed to death or was it for something else? Jesus was in anguish of the cup of suffering that he was about to go through, even asking the Father if the cup could be taken away, and that cup of suffering was not referring to the floggings or the nail piercings on his body. His suffering was far more torturous than that.

    There is something much more poignant to God than people or kids suffering physical or mental pain. Those things are temporary. Perhaps God’s priority is on the eternal?

    Like

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