I have been in dialogue with a lot of believers recently. Talking about faith, what holds them to their beliefs and what pulled me from mine. It’s been a really interesting experience, trying to work out why I no longer believe in God, even though if I am honest – I really want to.
A lot of exvangelicals (funny term) reject, despise and rage against religion/faith/theology/spirituality. I found myself in that camp for a short while, as I came to terms with the reality that I didn’t believe in God, what this meant for my life and how I was going to move forwards without this bedrock belief that had dictated most facets of my life up to that point.
But I soon moved on, realising that finding frustration to focus on won’t solve my pain. I had to stand up and walk forwards – which took a lot of work.
Why do people believe? This question has captured me like a conspiracy theory junkie researching the J.F.K assassination or the death of Elvis. As I mentioned at the start, I have been talking to a lot of people about why they believe in God. Why they believe that Jesus was everything the Bible claims he was. Why they believe that somehow, their prayers make a difference within this world. It’s interesting to hear their responses and also interesting to see where people move the conversation to in regard to me and my beliefs (or lack thereof).
Morality and Reason are the two topics brought up the most. How do I claim these without a God? It seems that those who have thought through their own personal faith against the claims of the New Testament have come away wondering how someone can justify these two things without God.
This isn’t the time for me to go into these, but needless to say, I have touched on them before and I am sure I will be talking about them in the near future. For now, I want to focus on hope, the hope that Christianity gives people, and why it is viewed by some as a beautiful thing.
In all of my conversations, the certainty that this life isn’t all there is, that justice will be dealt and that we have somewhere we go when we pass away until Jesus returns and raises us with Him, are things I used to look to with excitement, wonder and awe.
I saw a small child on my Instagram feed this morning. He has been participating in the Joe Wick’s PE program for the last 13 weeks with the rest of the UK as we have been in lockdown.
He just died from a brain tumour.
Every day, in hospital, through treatment, pain and suffering, he has worked out because he enjoyed it. I find this beautiful, and at the same time, it seems to rip a hole deep within me.
I want this beautiful young boy to have lived. I want him to have danced and laughed with his parents for longer than his 10 years’ time limit gave him. Something within me screams this isn’t fair, that this isn’t right, that this can’t be all there is for this life.
I walked up the stairs this morning holding the hand of my two-year-old. He focused on every step, giggling as we made our way to his bedroom so we could change his smelly bum. Then I thought about James Patrick Bulger, a young boy the same age as my youngest is right now. James was led away by two older boys holding his hand and then cruelly murdered without anyone to tell him that he was and is SO VERY LOVED.
It feels like something inside of me snapped. I knew at that moment, watching the little legs of my youngest wobble as he made his way up the stairs, that I could kill anyone who laid a hand on him with any intent to harm. All I wanted to do was hold my little boy, tell him that Daddy loves him so very much and that wherever he finds himself, for the rest of his life, this FACT will never change.
I want justice for James Patrick Bulger, but not just the justice against those who did him harm. I want James to have a childhood of laughter and excitement. I want him to grow up, and to find a stranger who becomes a lover. To experience heartbreak, school exam anxiety, new job butterflies, driving alone for the first time, eating a freshly picked strawberry, mowing and smelling the grass, enjoying summer with a lover. I want James to experience the life I want my boys to experience. But he never did.
It makes me furious that it took place. I know that so much has taken place that fills me with horror, dread and a desperate desire for ultimate justice – I wouldn’t do the justice needed to attempt to summarise all the horror that has taken place in this world, so much of it unknown, so I won’t even attempt to try.
By ‘ultimate justice’, I mean the justice of an all-loving father to deliver the reprimand and healing required for all individuals involved to bring about a conclusion. I used to have a hope that this would take place, even though I didn’t know how it could possibly happen. That all the wrongs and all the pain would be undone and that everyone, every single person would stand in the fullness of themselves with all the shit and the hurt and the horror washed away.
We desire justice, and we need love. I used to have hope in justice, but what is hope? A desire for something to either be true or to become true because I want it to be true or happen.
I was linked an article by a good friend a few days ago; you can read it here. It tells the story of A N Wilson, who stepped down from a faith in a ‘born again’ way. Only to find himself drawn back into a belief in God because he could not find the answers to the questions he held. It sparked something in me.
The article made me sit up and realise I still hold desires, hopes and questions that don’t get anywhere near being dealt with in any real way in the worldview I currently hold. Justice for those in history isn’t possible. I can’t restore James to 1993, to the arms of his parents, full of life, dreams, excitement and purpose. But I fucking want to.
Maybe at this point you are expecting me to bring in some answers. Some written response and explanation of the deepest heart cry I seem to ever have roared out from within. But I don’t have one.
What arose in my heart was a reflex for justice – full justice. Hope in justice has stirred, and before I rationalise it away, I want it to sit. I want to allow the subconscious roar that echoed into the conscious to have its voice, so I will sit with this for a little while longer.
_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.
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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.
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When Belief Dies #84 – 'Paddling Pools & Oceans' with Roger Bretherton – When Belief Dies
- When Belief Dies #84 – 'Paddling Pools & Oceans' with Roger Bretherton
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- When Belief Dies #82- 'Diving Boards & Arm Bands' with Benjamin Watkins
- When Belief Dies #81 – 'Faith, Religion & Stoicism' with William B Irvine
- When Belief Dies #80 – 'The Ehrman Challenge' with Roger Bretherton