This book broke my heart. It also really pissed me off.
I expect a true belief system to be able to fight into the world we see around us, not explain how it is still relevant and why it is true, regardless of what we see around us. I wanted an offensive assault on my heart and mind as to why Christianity is, when you get to the bottom of it, the answer to it all. Rather I was told that there isn’t any other belief system that explains things very well, Christianity gives hope to those who believe it, so you should probably ground your life in something hopeful, or at least hang your hat on the peg of Christianity and see how you get on.
I didn’t learn anything new by reading this book. But I did see a lot of familiar landscapes and hopeful imagery. Mrs McLaughlin casts hope and purpose to the reader page by page, claiming that Christianity actually grounds the things science and atheism cannot. She is addressing 12 hard questions and aiming to explain what these things actually are and how they are either none issues when fully understood (Hell or Suffering say), or how Christianity isn’t really to the central problem with them (for example: Slavery).
Science isn’t a belief system. Atheism isn’t a belief system. So, it strikes me as odd to try to put them on the same level as Christianity and then claim that Christianity is better because it grants humanity precisely the things it was made up to provide humanity in the first place. Just because something is nice and provides a possible answer doesn’t mean it is true.
My heart broke at the close to the book, because I realised I still want it to be true and I still want to believe it, but I flipping don’t and I am not sure I ever can again. Here is what she has to say towards the end – I will give a couple of quotes and break them down one at a time.
‘Every day I struggle to believe in Jesus’s world. I do not mean this in the sense of mental assent. For the reasons laid out in this book, I find the alternatives less compelling. But I struggle in the heart sense of living the truth: denying myself, taking up my cross, believing that Jesus is my life. And yet every day I find the fingerprints of this impossible man in my life, calling me into a story so much greater and more exhilarating than my own little life could ever be.’
You should not believe something because the alternatives are less compelling. Just because we don’t understand something or something is hard to grasp, or even impossible to reconcile in our mind and heart does not mean we should settle for the thing that ticks the boxes right now. We need to be realistic and shouldn’t just say, ‘right now I can’t ground morality, purpose and reason if Christianity isn’t real, therefore, I will believe Christianity is real’ – that isn’t a solution, it is avoiding any leg work or reading to see if you can ground something elsewhere.
Even if you can’t ground something, you need to be honest with that and hold off asserting answers because you want them to be true.
Every single day I pray. I plead to God that He is real. I want to see Him. I want to believe the hopeful narratives that I have been promised my whole life, that are scattered in this book. That I am important. That my children are special and protected. That I will see my loved ones again when I die. That things have a purpose and a reason. That I can have a relationship with God.
Where is God? Is He an emotional response or a mental state that gets reached? Why is it SO hard to believe or even feel Him and should it be this hard? Is it possible to get pulled back to Him after having the world I worshipped Him in is smashed to pieces upon the rocks of life?
We use stories because they are powerful, and they give us something outside of ourselves to engage with and hold on to.
Books, music, games, films, tv shows, theatre, poetry, conversations and relationships – these are just some of the forms and processes for sharing stories and narratives. Humanity has needed these to create purpose and found civilisation, to continue the spread of our genes and perpetuate the cycle of human existence one person at a time. We are conscious beings, and without the greater narratives and people to live those narratives out with we feel as if we have nothing at all.
Humanity is not meant to be isolated. It is meant to be wrapped together in a purpose and it seems a lot of evidence points towards evolution bringing us to this point. Could we believe that our children are special and more than just pointless humans, because without this belief we would have no reason to care for and protect them as they grow? Likewise, they need to feel love and affection, to be taught about the world and to get taught the same narratives that we believe, so that they can exist in a meaningful way and repeat the process.
‘Friend, if you are settling for deferred beliefs, hoping that the universe has a plan, believing human equality is self-evident but not knowing why, wondering if anyone who knew your secret thoughts could ever truly love you, come to Jesus’.
‘…come to X’ – you could enter any made-up character here, because the Jesus that actually existed could never be all the things the gospel narratives state that He is – they contradict each other. I can’t help but think that the Jesus proclaimed here by Mrs McLaughlin is a made-up dream, designed to give purpose and reason in a world where we long for just that, purpose and reason.
Do you realise, not a single person in the New Testament states that they saw Jesus in the first person.
I want Jesus to be real. But I don’t think He is, and it breaks my (I guess) unsaved and hell-bound heart.
_End of Blog Blurb_
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.
Podcast: If you like what you read then you could always check out the podcast ‘When Belief Dies’, it is available on all major podcasting platforms or you can listen via YouTube. Dave and I upload and publish via Anchor FM each Wednesday at 7 am.
Grammar, spelling, capitalisation and punctuation: I am massively dyslexic. It has taken me years to get to the level I am currently at with writing and I have done this mainly through reading. I want to be better and ask you, reader, to please forgive any errors in my writing. I hope you notice improvement upon improvement over the coming years.
Time Frame: This blog is roughly six to nine months behind where I currently am at in my journey out of religion. It’s important to remember that when reading and commenting.
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I’ll see you back here at the same time next week 🙂
When Belief Dies #67 – 'Psychedelics, History & Hope' with Pat Smith – When Belief Dies
- When Belief Dies #67 – 'Psychedelics, History & Hope' with Pat Smith
- When Belief Dies #66 – 'Social Contracts' with Kane B
- When Belief Dies #65 – 'History for Atheists' with Tim O'Neill
- When Belief Dies #64 – 'The morality of an Infidel' with Simon Blackburn
- When Belief Dies #63 – 'Dominion' with Tom Holland