I suppose you might say it started when my son died, and I begged, like I have never before and never will again – that he not die.
And he did.
That’s probably not the place to start. It started when we left our church. Over time we became more comfortable without the trappings of religion. My tentative jokes about the Sunday Morning church of CBC and the Holy Communion of bacon became less tentative and more honest. Last year at Christmas we met some friends who are pastors and I shrugged. I have no problem telling people I don’t attend church anymore. I’m not looking for a new church. I go to church for weddings and funerals and baptisms and that’s enough.
For a long time, I still read the daily office. It gave some structure to my days, a language that was comfortable and familiar.
Time passed and I began to let go of some of the tenants of my faith. The inerrancy of scripture, which I was never that big on, went first. My belief in the need for salvation ended with Rob Bell’s book Love Win’s, which suggests that all non believers might not go to hell. I started to substitute the word “universe” for God. I couldn’t tell you why, just that it felt more comfortable. I stopped reading the daily office because it didn’t bring me comfort. I started to meditate instead.
Then came my mother’s funeral. The words that had brought me so much comfort at my son’s funeral left me not cold, but certainly unmoved. They brought me neither comfort nor anger. There was no frustration at them. I believed in them no more than I would believe you if you told me that the world was flat. They were just words.
Last week, on facebook, I challenged a family member who tried to speak God’s truth about homosexuality (love the sinner, hate the sin) and I took a step back and pointed out that this logic *might* work if you believed that God’s law was true, but if you didn’t, you lost everyone at the notion that relationships we believe to be good and affirming and loving and true were inherently sinful. There was no point in continuing the conversation, because you lost us at your first argument.
On Instagram last week, when someone asked for prayers, I told them that I didn’t pray anymore, but asked how else I could help.
I did something last weekend that my faith told me was a sin. It’s not a capital sin – not the sort of thing that the courts would oppose, rather it was the sort of morality the Christian faith universally regulates. I waited on Sunday for guilt, to see if it would come. It simply hasn’t. The old language of my faith would say that I had hardened my heart, but I know my heart. It is no harder than it ever was. I carefully considered what I was about to do, considered how to do it ethically, in a way that harmed no one, and I went ahead and did it. For the record, it was a great experience.
Yesterday I almost started a conversation by saying “look, I’m not a Christian anymore. I remember when I used to be, these sorts of things mattered. I think you are being a jerk.”
I’ve been asking myself for almost 6 months now. Trying to find out what this means. My faith, which was once the bed rock of my life is gone. I’m not having a crisis of faith. There never was a crisis. I believed. I know that I did. I believed with all that is in me. Then, over time, I stopped believing in God.
It isn’t that I don’t believe in anything. I simply believe different things. I believe in beauty. I believe in kindness and mercy. I believe that everyone is fighting some kind of battle, that is wrong to be able to help someone and refuse to. I believe that light is stronger than darkness. I believe that we all need care and concern and support. I believe in ethics, in doing no harm, and where you must do harm, considering carefully your options to minimize it. I believe there are no right answers, but lots of valid ways to be human.
I ask myself, as I fall asleep, if I believe in God anymore. I know that I don’t believe in God the Santa Claus who answers the prayers of good boys and girls. I know that I don’t believe that the followers of Christ are any more righteous than anyone else.
I don’t know.
I’d like to ascribe the beauty that I often find in the world to something. I’d like to believe in something more than here and now, in something more powerful than I am.
I just don’t.