It’s been almost a year since I met my friends John and Marquis, almost exactly a year. As I think about where this 365 days has taken me, I have to be honest with myself and admit how much these two people and the consequential events that occurred due to my meeting them have sincerely altered my life and viewpoint, even though I am uncomfortable giving any current relationship that weight.
John is an kind, open-minded Church of Christ preacher. Marquis is a young atheist, and he’s not typical. He has read, wants to find a/the truth, and just can’t see what the appeal is of a god/God. I met them both at the church that John preaches at, where I happened into a Bible class facilitated by John, but where Marquis (and an agnostic friend) had the floor. While waiting for the class to begin I made polite conversation with old ladies trading homemade clothes for their grandchildren and then some awkward conversation with people my own age. After a few weeks of knowing me, John told me that he didn’t know whether I was an atheist or not at this first week. This is what’s great about John, he doesn’t assume that everyone falls into his box where he can make comments about “us” or “them”.
I have had a long religious road, it’s not been bumpy, but maybe faulty. It started when I began to question the validity in the Church of Christ’s claim that instrumental music is sin. I have always been open minded, in a moderate form at least. This discovery made my religious world crumble. It wasn’t because I built my foundation on the tenets of the CoC, but rather, the fact that I could defend this believe with scripture. It may seem odd, but I can give a scriptural reference for almost any practice of the CoC. My world spiraled out of control because I KNEW how to twist the Bible to say what I wanted it to say, and I had seen it done my entire life; so why couldn’t every other religion out there be doing the same time. See, that’s the problem with encouraging your children to question any religious doctrine given to them and then handing them a pamphlet explaining EVERY possible answer…what happens when that pinhole is pulled out?
I felt betrayed by my religion, my God, and oddly enough, my Bible (inanimate as it may be). I couldn’t even begin to pray to someone I wasn’t sure existed. Church began to make me angry. Not because I was angry with God or even angry with a possibility of a non-God, but I was livid at the Christians around me, that they would propel twisting the Bible, while saying they are reading straight from it. I could even open my Bible without my ears getting hot and my throat getting a lump in it. This is not a normal or a rational response to a book. I wanted to still believe, but couldn’t.
So, here I am, in church…again. Angry….again. I begin to observe this odd Bible class where an atheist and an agnostic basically told their ideas or problems with religion. Then the Christians gave their responses (surprisingly peaceful and respectfully). It was fascinating. There was no yelling, no anger, no “I’ll pray for your souls” (even though that phrase did poke it’s ugly head once or twice in the class). And so began my healing.
In the mere two-month span of that class, I went from not knowing if there was a god, to knowing that even though I couldn’t define what the meaning of God is, I still believed in deity, who I choose to call God. It was such a time of healing that I really don’t know where I would be a year later if those people hadn’t have come into my life.
Now, we still get together for what we call “The Conversation” on Thursday nights. If you live in the Nashville area and are open-minded religiously, you should come and see what it’s about. Our group has grown (and shrunk again), but it is great. We talk about god/gods/God, morality in religion, and sometimes Jesus. Some days I’m not sure which ‘side’ I’m on, I like to flipflop my support from the atheist to the Christian sides as needed. While I would certainly be the last one to say that I can pin down my beliefs, I know that this is what religion should be about.