christianity

Curiosities

Leaving Evangelicalism, Calling out Sam Harris, and Hail, Satan?


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This week’s curiosities: Steve Shives calls out Sam Harris, Melissa Wilson writes powerfully about leaving the Evangelical World, and Hail, Satan? documents the rise of The Satanic Temple.

On Walking Away From Evangelicalism

My dear friend Melissa Wilson wrote a moving article on why she left the Evangelical Christian world. She writes of her conversion to Evangelicalism:

I was 16, growing up in the height of the nineties near Los Angeles, and someone presented the evangelical “gospel” to me, “Admit that I was not always right, believe that Jesus had a better way, and commit to living my life in a beautiful and pure way”. My teenage mind found the message intoxicatingly counter-cultural and I followed with reckless abandonment. I went to Christian camp, enrolled in Christian college, and found a new life across the country in the heart of Billy Graham’s hometown. My life became wholly devoted to two primary aims– loving God and loving others. I messed up daily and was caught in my “sins” by a community that I thought loved me. I married at 21 and went to Church every Sunday. Our life was not simple or easy and our prayers felt rarely answered, but we loved so deeply that place and community in the mountains of Montreat, North Carolina.

And then it all fell apart. I had the honor of watching some of Melissa’s process, and she carried herself with inspiring integrity and truthfulness. She recounts how, after being asked to sign an affirmation of “biblical truth” as a professor at Montreat College (my alma mater), she started to question what was true. She writes, with gut wrenching honesty,

I loved my gay friends and I longed to go to their weddings. I sometimes wished that abortion was legal, because I had worked with hundreds of sexually abused foster kids that were never adopted by the Church. I had watched a colleague make fun of hispanics, women, and environmental concerns with no reprimand. I watched my former pastor addicted to opioids and alcohol go on missions trips to purchase more pills. I watched the elders of my Church mock women, environmentalists, hispanics, and gay people openly on Facebook with hundreds of likes streaming in. I heard an administrator state that he would not accept my Harvard University credits because he did not know that Harvard had a credible hybrid program. I listened to my girlfriends proclaim that Trump was the only answer, because Hillary was the anti-Christ. I cried as my closest friends ridiculed me and my adopted daughter in the Women’s March, because Franklin Graham had led Trump to Christ and endorsed him.

Please read the rest of the article. It is convicting, inspiring, and should incite all of us working against theocracy to further action.

Waking up to Sam Harris Not Making Sense

Atheist YouTube Steve Shives released a diatribe about how Sam Harris is a dangerous douchebag.

I was once an adoring acolyte of Sam Harris. He was instrumental in my religious deconstruction, and he has helped me immensely in thinking about God, consciousness, and spirituality. But then, in 2017, Sam Harris had professional racist Charles Murray on his show to promote the fallacious and racist notion that black people are genetically predisposed to have lower IQs than white people.

Sam Harris was my gateway drug to the alt-right. Just when I was about to fall off the alt-right cliff, he defended Charles Murray, and I woke from my trance. I then understood that he is an arrogant, frequently unkind, and thoughtless “public intellectual” who takes his presumed magisterial intelligence for granted. Watch Steve Shives’ video for all the details, and it’s a good explanation for why I broke up with Sam Harris.

Hail, Satan?

Last night I had an advance screening of the documentary Hail, Satan? which chronicles the meteoric rise of the Satanic Temple. I won’t spoil anything, and I plan on doing more shows and posts about the film, but for now I will simply say this: I was deeply and unexpectedly moved by the film. It is a beautiful, cleverly made film about societal underdogs asserting their rights. Stay tuned for more content about Hail, Satan? For now, my friend Jack Matirko over at For Infernal Use Only has written a review of the film:

I think for people in the larger secular and Atheist world who frequent the blogs here at Patheos there’s still a lot of misconceptions about what TST is and does that the film does a great job of clearing up. It also makes the point very clear that the organization isn’t going anywhere and that Satanism continues to be a growing component of the larger discussion on religious freedom, Church/State separation, and free-thought. It’s as in-depth as one can possibly pack into 90 minutes and gives TST the fair shake I think is long overdue.

Obligatory Cat Picture

Eli and Luna being adorable af:

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Atheism, Nontheism, Religion, Spirituality

When Doubt is Terminal


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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.

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Atheism, Religion

Terrible Things Christians Say When You Stop Believing in God


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I always assumed that atheists were assholes. Whenever Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchens would show up on my computer screen, I would internally snarl at them: so angry, I thought. So prone to bitterness and self-righteousness.

Now that I’ve undergone my own deconstruction of faith I have to say that, while not excusing their more egregious behavior, I get why atheists can be assholes. It can feel like the whole world is against you, putting words in your mouth, or making assumptions about your character. Ever since coming out as a nontheist, I’ve gotten a steady torrent of unpleasantness from theists. I’ve gotten unsolicited challenges to debate, condescending private messages, and annoying assumptions about my personal integrity hurled at me.

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Atheism, Nontheism

Meaning in a Godless Universe


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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?

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Homosexuality, Religion

The 4 Steps of Standing in Solidarity with LGBT People


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I regularly find myself in conversation with people who feel deeply conflicted about how to love and respond to LGBT people: conservative minsters whose hearts have softened towards LGBT people, but whose theology has not; college chaplains who are suddenly finding themselves flummoxed by trans, queer, and gay students sitting in their office, struggling with faith and sexuality; parents, friends, siblings of gay people who see the damage done by the church and don’t know how to stop perpetuating that damage.

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Religion

On Not Believing in God But Experiencing Him Anyway


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Last night before going to bed, I found myself praying the Evening Office from the Book of Common Prayer. I love the book of Common Prayer — I love the poetry and the guiding, inner choreography of the liturgy. As I prayed last night I felt that warmth, presence, and silent awe I’ve felt my whole life when I enter sacred spaces — many would call it the presence of God. Sometime, when praying, I find myself speaking in tongues, a torrent of syllables pouring from me unbidden. It feels warm in my mouth, and it feels like something outside of myself speaking through me. I also still attend church (when I can), and I experience the love and presence of an external, invisible force.

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Sacred Tension Podcast

Demon Possession


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When I was in college, I had a harrowing experience: a friend of mine became demon possessed, and subsequently went through an exorcism officiated by a local minister. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, and reinforced my lifelong Christian belief in the supernatural.

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Religion

This is What I mean When I Say I Don’t Believe in God


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I don’t believe in God.

Nothing sends off fireworks in the brain for religious people quite like an admission of atheism. It’s scary, in my beloved religious community, to admit that I don’t believe in God. I’ve had some unexpectedly unpleasant conversations with friends — conversations that suddenly dipped into ferocious defensiveness, in which they assumed a lot about what I believe and don’t believe.

So, allow me to explain what I mean when I say I don’t believe in God.

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