Does an Afterlife Make This Life Meaningful?

Around this time last year, I buried my cousin. Ian was a vegan, atheist, and environmentalist so dedicated to the cause of caring for the earth that his principles extended even to his death. After a physicist gave a science lesson on what would happen to Ian’s body, and how he would nourish the tree that would be planted over him, we took shovels and buried what was left of Ian. He was wrapped in purple linen, and the cancer had reduced his frame to a frail shadow of his former fit, powerful, athletic self.

The ceremony was void of any spirit, symbol, or God. I was disquieted by the that, and yet I was moved. I was moved by Ian’s commitment to science, and his care for the earth. I was tempted to call the funeral hopeless, but realized that wasn’t right. The funeral was full of love, conviction, and hope, and didn’t need to say anything about an afterlife. That wasn’t the point of Ian’s life – Ian was about the here and now, the earth, the injustices that plagued the planet now. He didn’t believe in the afterlife, and that lack of belief thrust him headfirst into the present. Plus, it wasn’t my funeral. Who was I to cast judgement on Ian’s wishes? That would be tasteless.

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Nontheism and Anxiety

Night sky

I’ve been fairly vocal about my journey into nontheistic religion, and the response from fellow Christians has been a tremendous amount of anxiety. I’ve found myself in twitter disputes over faith, and I’ve had more awkward coffee dates with concerned Christians than I’d prefer.

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Religion as Language

My faith is evolving from a religion of revealed truth to a religion of language and symbol. The faith of my childhood and young adulthood – taking for granted that a personal God is real, that scripture is God breathed, and that there is an after life – is now effectively dead. I question all of that, now. I don’t know what happens after I die, but I think “nothing happens” is the most likely answer. My understanding of God has expanding into something so abstract and impersonal that I can hardly call it God at all, and the personal God of my old faith is long gone.

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In Defense of Satan

skull

It’s probably slipped out now that I’m a member of the Satanic Temple. When I first made the choice to join, I decided that it would be a very quiet, personal decision, which I would share only with my most intimate friends. I’m very bad at keeping secrets, however, and by now I’ve spoken about it with friends of the less intimate variety, on my podcast, and I’ve voiced my admiration for the temple on social media.

Because of this, it’s probably time I start explaining why I would make the choice to join such a notorious organization.

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You Better Be Right

I was recently having breakfast with a dear friend visiting from out of town. Like many of my old friends, we found ourselves in an awkward place: a great chasm opening between us. He is still firmly situated in evangelical Christianity, and I’m unmoored and drifting away from my old faith. We still love each other, but it’s difficult. The anxiety, on their part, is palpable, and I feel anxiety, too, because I recoil from conflict, and the fear of getting hurt.

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The False Binary Between Atheism and Religion

Church against a beautiful night sky

For the past year or so now, I’ve been caught in the strange, lonely, interstitial space of no longer believing in the existence of a personal God but still deeply valuing the role of religion in my life.

Looking back, I realize that I’ve been quietly grieving for my faith in a literal, personal God for most of my twenties, and that it was only in 2017 that I finally accepted the death of my personal God. It took a long time to grieve, to even to build up the courage to pull the covers back and peak into a world without God. God felt more fundamental than my skin, breath, and blood. To lose Him felt like the loss of everything.

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The Awakening of the Universe

2 silhouetted figured look into a starry expanse

In his brilliant introduction to artificial intelligence, Max Tegmark describes our existence as the universe waking up from a zombie slumber. As I’ve struggled to understand what I believe about God and the universe around me, I’ve found myself finding wonder and hope in the material universe itself.

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The Power of Curiosity

The Power of Curiosity

We live in frightening, polarizing times. Put more bluntly, we live in a horribly incurious time: we are incurious about the experience of others, the contents of their skulls, and what motivates them. This incuriosity is stoked from a thousand directions, from social media to bloggers to news outlets, all preying on our baser, animal instincts.

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Suffering and Sacrament: On Finding Connection as a Grocery Store Cashier

Every day, I go to work as a grocery store cashier at a family-owned business in a prosperous region of the more generally depressed Appalachian mountains. This work has transformed my life, not because it is the exciting, high-impact, high-power job so many of us dream about in our twenties and thirties, but because it brings me into direct contact with humanity.

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