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.
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.