Even on the internet I can be a bit cagey about the details of my beliefs. This isn’t only because I have friends and family actively reading this—loved ones who I want to think well of me. It’s because writing imparts a kind of corporeal reality to ideas. Thoughts are only brainwaves. Even if you say them aloud they can die in the air, or fade in memory. But when we write down our thoughts they become real, tangible, enduring; writing lives. For me, the time has come to give life to some of my more vulnerable thoughts.
It won’t come as a shock to most of you, but it is extremely hard for me to write, and almost as hard for me to say out loud: I am not a Christian.
Those five words feel like removing Kevlar in the middle of Detroit at midnight. The people I love the most originally handled my deviation from Adventism by taking comfort in my sustained Christianity. I don’t enjoy taking comfort away from people, and I don’t like giving people reasons to worry about me, but I respect the sincerity of religious belief too much to cheapen it by pretending.
The admission that I am not a Christian leads to my second, exponentially more frightening admission: I am a functional atheist. I say ‘functional’ because I live my life under the assumption that there are not necessarily any supernatural forces in the world. I do not embrace ideological atheism—the notion that there absolutely is not a god or any kind of immaterial reality. That’s too final, too certain for me, because ideologically (Do you feel a third confession coming on?) I am a weak agnostic who embraces the ignostic premise.
Being a functional atheist shouldn’t be particularly controversial. Seeing as nearly every religious person is also (partially) a functional atheist, and most Westerners live in a state of functional nihilism. (John Green explains this idea better, here.)
Every individual, regardless of their faith, necessarily rejects thousands of possible deities without a second thought. Zeus and the other Olympians, Thor and the Norse gods, all these are dismissed without question, without anxiety. Not to mention all the deities of the ‘modern’ religions.
Everyone, to some degree, is an atheist. But for some reason Christians get really touchy when others apply that same attitude to their god, not realizing that—in the words of Stephen F. Roberts—“When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” To be more personally precise: I remain unconvinced by the representations of the divine I’ve been offered thus far. Still, I’m remain open.
I write these words now because they are true now, and acknowledging truth is usually a healthy thing. Clinging to past truths, however, is not. So I hope I can remain open to whatever changes I experience in the future. And I hope you can remain open to the person I become.