Dear Closet Atheist,
I hope that this finds you well and that you have had time to think about what I have said in my previous response.
You wrote, saying,
That’s never something you like to hear, is it? So why would it be okay coming from your God?
I pointed out that you were simply in error given the condition of man, who is a rebel and a sinner, before a holy and just God. Since God cannot lie, and he has determined what we are to be as his image bearers, he can speak truly about our condition and status before him. As I said previously, these things may not have been explained to you as fully as they should have been, and I realize that because it has taken so many years for me to even begin to gain a meaningful understanding of their reality myself. The whole reason that I started this blog was to flesh out my own thoughts on the matter and demonstrate growth in the position. None of what you have said is controversial, unless you begin with unjustified assumptions.
One thing I despise about Christian teachings is the idea of total depravity: the only good is from God, and all we are capable of is sin, and we would never be worthy of his love.
As I’ve explained, even in human terms, no one is “worthy” of love unless they have been deemed worthy of that love. Total depravity refers to the extent of the corruption of sin in our nature. Nothing that we do is free from the corruption of sin, even the good that we do.
What surprises me is that the same Christians that believe in total depravity also tend to respectfully pity atheists and feel the need to remind us that without religion, our lives are not complete. They want me to agree that there is a holy loving Father looking down on me, and without religion, I am missing out on a beautiful and beneficial relationship.
I think that you are conflating a few things here. I, personally, would never make the argument that “without religion“–we would necessarily have to define what that is exactly–“our lives are not complete.” Sociologically speaking, we are religious beings, it’s part of our nature to identify something as “the sacred” and render service to it (this paper outlines a number of sociological studies to that end). Clearly you are religious, and I can say that because you have an entire blog dedicated to what you believe, that being atheism. Now, before you get all upset and protest about not being religious, you should realize something: you’re demonstrating that you are. Religions exist in a variety of forms from highly organized and systematic to free ranging. I could write an entire series demonstrating the truth of the assertion, but it suffices to say this: if it colors your outlook on life, then its a religious belief.
All that to say this: “religion” doesn’t complete your life, in fact it can destroy your life. I have seen people confuse religion with what completes life, that is that they’ve made their religion to be God (I think that Westboro Baptist is a prime example of this). In the 30-plus years that I have been a Christian, I have been in 3 different Christian religions. I have never let them define me, rather I have recognized that what completes me, that being Christ and his righteousness, is what corrects my religion. If “they” are making such an insistence that their particular religion, in its practice and particular defining beliefs, is what makes that relationship possible, then they’re sadly mistaken, and I can point to two instances in Scripture where that is simply not the the case.
Although his malevolent personality is not the reason why I don’t believe in God, it definitely contributes to the list of reasons why religion leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I love how you color God’s just wrath as being “malevolent”. I think that you simply do not understand the meaning of the word. God has clearly stated,
[…] I have no pleasure in the death of anyone… (Ezekiel 18:32, ESV)
and the Scriptures also say,
[…] God cannot be tempted with evil…(James 1:13, ESV)
so, by definition, God is incapable of being malevolent. So it seems as though you’re conflating “religion” with God, and they’re not the same thing, but some people make them identical.
Christians, I know that the reason why you tell me to “open my heart to God” is purely out of love and concern for my well-being, but the teachings of your religion make me feel concerned for your well-being as well.
I would never say anything so trite as “open your heart“, because it’s condescending, rather I would simply point out that you’re in error and that you need to repent. And when you speak of being “concerned” about the “teachings of our religion“–a point that definitely requires some clarification before one commits a fallacy of logic–because there’s not one singular Christian religion, and I say that with respect. Atheists like to dump all religions into one bucket, but then they get upset when they get dumped into one bucket with the atheists who murdered 100 million people in the 20th century. How about dealing with specifics, okay?
Christians, I want to tell you that you are capable of doing good. You are worthy of love. You should not feel guilty for not being perfect. You have the power to take control of your life. As a matter of fact, you ought to know that it isn’t bad to be proud of yourself.
I dealt with much of this in my earlier letter, but I think that you’re setting up something of a straw man here. No one is saying that we cannot do good, what Christians realize is twofold: 1) what is “good” cannot be defined apart from God and 2) the good that we do is incapable of saving us because we are fallen creatures. Christians also realize that because of our sin, we are wholly unloveable, but God extends his love in spite of it and we should love him. Lastly, guilt is a product of the reality of our situation in that we recognize that we are separated from God and it is up to him to reconcile us. Pride is the problem. If you think that you deserve to be loved, that’s pride. If you think that you are good, that’s pride. If you think that you should not feel guilt for anything, that’s pride, it’s also called self-righteousness. Christians should take pride in what we do, not because it does anything for us, but because it brings our God glory and honor, or at least it should.
It isn’t a bad thing to live autonomously. (Link removed)
Really? It isn’t? Then why do we put people in prison when they try live it out? Self-rule is a good thing when the law that one lives under is the law of God that gives freedom, but it definitely poses problems when it’s every man for himself, because the world descends into chaos.
Feelings of lust are completely natural, and they’re nothing to feel guilty about.
Desire is natural and good, lust is not. Lust, which is a strong desire, can cause people to do harm because it can overwhelm them. Lust, according to Scripture, caused Amnon to rape Tamar. Lust for power is what caused Stalin to murder 20 million of his own people.
Your life is worth more than constantly groveling or begging God for forgiveness or to get into heaven.
Yeah, that’s a straw man, because salvation is a gift.
I believe that religion is detrimental to your self-esteem, and that it is time to stop making yourself out to be less than you are worth. In addition to loving and respecting others, you ought to love and respect yourself.
What you believe is that every religion, but yours, is detrimental, and that’s special pleading. Self-esteem is the problem: you have set yourself up as the standard, and that’s self-righteousness. As an atheist, you believe that human beings are the end result of a mindless, unguided process. That all we are is an accidental conglomeration of stellar dust. On that basis there’s no reason to believe in love or to show respect others, which is an extension of love, much less yourself. As a Christian, I can justify those beliefs and account for them in the Triune nature of God. You’re still dependent upon your Christian upbringing to provide the necessary justification for your beliefs, even though you hate them and believe wrong things about them. You are having to steal from God to give you the terms needed to flesh out your own religious beliefs.
I’m not going to pretend to understand what it is that you’ve contrived to leverage yourself out of the truth. Maybe you desire to do something you can’t rightly do as a Christian. Maybe you’ve asked meaningful questions and were put off with “you just have to believe this”, which is intellectually lazy. As I’ve said, it’s taken me 20 years to get where I am today, wrestling with issues and seeking answers that sometimes didn’t agree with what I was assuming, but I didn’t let other people define the God that I believe in, I let God define himself.
I’m here if you ever want to talk, and I mean that, because I care about you and the thousands or more like you who have issues. Maybe I’ve been a little blunt, even rude, but I did so because I love you and I hope the best for you.