I live in a strange, interstitial space between atheism and theism. While I no longer consider myself a Christian, I refuse to cut ties with the Christian world and my progressive Christian community. At the same time, I feel a great deal of kinship with the pagan and witchcraft communities, as well as the atheist and skeptical communities. My own religious home is The Satanic Temple, and I consider myself a practicing Satanist. I call myself a nontheist and reject unverified claims of the supernatural.
To many people, the question of God’s existence is simple: either there is a magical sky daddy or there isn’t. For me, however, this question is getting increasingly complicated. God is about more than just existence or nonexistence: it is also about definitions, worldview, and culture.
Unsurprisingly, Wallace can’t let go of his fantasy about how important he is and that an omnipotent being agrees with him. It doesn’t take much, just making up his god and his religion in his own image and ignoring the inconvenient parts.
Alright atheists, let’s talk. It’s time for a huddle. If the following rant doesn’t apply to you, then congrats. But if this rant does apply to you, then I hope it inspires some reflection.
Since my Christian deconstruction I’ve started to try on various labels for size. Among these labels have been: post-Christian, nontheistic Christian, esoteric Christian, nontheist, Satanist, and, of course, atheist.
(Some annoying hippie in the back will, at this point, ask “why do you have to have a label, man? Why can’t you just be yourself?” Suffice it to say, I like identities, and I am pro-label. That other people are less comfortable with that is fine.)
A few days ago, I realized that the intense feeling of religious and spiritual homelessness I’d felt for so long was gone. Since the beginning of my deconstruction, I’d begun to feel myself forced out of my Christianity, like a child being forced out of a womb. This left me with a profound feeling of existential homelessness — drifting away from my religious identity and family, and with little to cling onto as a home.
But, a few days ago, I realized that I no longer felt that homelessness — my home is now The Satanic Temple, my spiritual and religious identity is Satanist. (Does this surprise you? I recommend reading my articles on Satanism.)
In The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, Eastern Orthodox Theologian David Bentley Hart writes that he believes true atheism must be “nurtured by an infantile wish to live in a world proportionate to one’s own hopes or conceptual limitations.”
David Bentley Hart’s ponderous tome The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss has been regularly touted to me as the book every nontheist must read. I’m happy to oblige, and I’m about 30% of the way through (including footnotes.) While I find Hart pompous, bloviating, and even an occasional bully, I’m also enjoying his erudition and mastery of the English language. As he makes clear again and again, he is not so much trying to defend God, but rather to describe the classical view of God, which he feels modern atheists have sorely missed.
When I was deep in the Evangelical fold, doubt was sometimes discussed as a temporary and seasonal necessity. Doubt was talked about as a period of testing, in which we just had to lean in to prayer and trust, even in the face of an insurmountable void of evidence. Inevitably, they said, this season would come to an end, the winter would turn to spring, and you would know without a doubt that God is real. In other words, doubt was understood as a sort of spiritual flu — a seasonal disruption that builds our immune systems.
Last week, I had the pleasure of appearing on the podcast Church and Other Drugs. What I expected to be a conversation about Satanism turned into an enjoyable back and forth over the existence of God. Jed, who hosts Church and Other Drugs, is a theist, while I am a nontheist. Jed finally brought up a question he says he has yet to hear a satisfying answer to, and it’s one I hear perpetually:
If there is no afterlife, how can this life have any meaning?