Can being an atheist make you a better Christian?
How are people reacting to Atheist TV, which launched last Tuesday?
Find out in this week’s buzz.
“How Being an Atheist Made Me a Better Christian”
Last week, Relevant published a short article by Mike McHargue, which chronicled his theological journey.
At age 25, McHargue was a Deacon and Sunday School teacher in the Southern Baptist Convention. Then, after wrestling with his parent’s divorce and biblical authority, he became an atheist:
Their divorce sent me on a quest to know the Bible better so that I could share God’s position on divorce with authority. I read the Bible four times in one year looking for answers. All I found was more questions. . . . One day I said this during prayer: “God, I don’t know why I’m praying. You aren’t even real.” Just like that, I was an atheist, and I spent the next two years living a lie.
McHargue explained that even though he was done with God, God wasn’t done with him:
Even though I didn’t believe in any god, God reached out to me standing on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. In that moment, reality seemed like a veil that was stretched taught. I could make out the glory of God on the other side, and it moved me. I felt connected to God, and through God to all my fellow humanity. It was beautiful, and it changed my life forever.
Mike then highlighted three ways his experience as an atheist has improved his Christianity.
1. He developed a humbler approach to theological doctrine:
- “I have doctrinal beliefs, but I know some of them may be wrong. I just don’t know which ones. . . . Everyone has something to teach me—even atheists.”
2. He noticed many Christians’ preoccupation with the afterlife:
- “We’re so concerned with Heaven, Hell and who goes where that we forget about this life. Our Scriptures talk much more about this life than the next, but our focus often doesn’t reflect that.”
3. He knows that it’s more important to live the questions than have all the answers:
- “I no longer feel like I have to have answers to all the questions we face in life. . . . My faith is an act of simple trust now.”
- “Knowing Jesus is not an abstract set of information . . . Being a Christian comes down to the simple of act of dropping my nets when I hear the words, ‘Come, follow me.’ “
After some questioned whether McHargue was ever really an atheist, he issued a response:
I was a Southern Baptist. Really.
I was an atheist and humanist. Really.
I am a science-minded, mystical Christian now. My ideas about God are unconventional, but I really do believe again.
McHargue’s journey to a humbler and more Christ-centered faith is worth reading. I love his insistence that we can learn something from everyone.
I also like his realization about unanswered theological questions: they don’t have to cause a crisis of faith.
I’ve learned this lesson the hard way in my own walk. To this day, I have plenty of questions about Christianity. Having serious questions doesn’t require leaving the faith, though. If you’re thinking about leaving, what worldview would you adopt in its place? Even though I have some unanswered questions, I still think Christianity has much more explanatory power than any other worldview.
This explanatory power comes from Jesus, since I don’t find non-Christian explanations of him compelling. As Peter told Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68). I agree with Rowan Williams’s very brief description of the gospel: “Trust Jesus when he tells you what God is like.”
What do you think about McHargue’s story, or my analysis of it?
Do you resonate with any parts of his journey?
Atheist TV Launches to Mixed Reviews
Atheist TV launched last Tuesday. Sarah Jones wrote a great review of it on Chris Stedman’s blog:
If Tuesday’s launch is a fair indication of where the channel is headed, secular humanists, agnostics, or even atheists who don’t align with “New Atheism” might not be “atheist enough” for the new channel.
Dave Schilling attended the launch party and wrote about it for VICE. His review of the new television network was cutting:
Nothing would make me happier than for science and reason to guide our cultural and political development. Reason is a wonderful thing. For American Atheists, and Atheist TV though, their dream also includes just as much intolerance, unwanted “guidance,” and cult of personality as any religion I’ve ever seen.
It seems that Schilling views Atheist TV like Dennis Green viewed the Bears: “They are who we thought they were!”
Hemant Mehta, however, had a different take:
The hardest thing to do is taking that first step. There’s never a shortage of critics with strong opinions. What we don’t have are enough people with the vision and willingness to actually get things done. I love that AA took this chance, even if everything isn’t perfect.
If you want to check out Atheist TV for yourself, you can watch it live on American Atheists’s website.
What do you think about Atheist TV?
New Video: 5 Evolution Myths
Mashable released a brief video that refutes 5 popular myths about evolution:
- It’s Just a Theory
- Humans Are Not Currently Evolving
- Individual Organisms Can Evolve In A Single Lifetime
- Evolution Isn’t Science Because It’s Not Observable or Testable
- Humans Couldn’t Have Evolved From Monkeys Because Monkeys Still Exist
This video is short, informative, and worth watching. I also love that the music sounds like it belongs in a Steven Soderbergh film.
Did this video teach you anything new?
The Bible Project: Genesis 12-50
The Bible Project released a new video last week. Their mission is to create short animated videos that summarize biblical books and concepts. Check out their video for Genesis 12-50!
This series is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
3 thoughts on “Weekly Buzz: 8/4/14”
It is interesting that McHargue’s transitional experiences were juxtapose with emotional ones (i.e. his folk’s divorce, existential experiences invoked by the beauty of nature). I think both science and religion have a lot to say on how emotional experiences effect (and at times, circumvent) the logic one brings to the decision/belief-making process. Should knowing how our emotions effect our decision/belief-making process have any bearing when considering the validity or “Truth” of such decision/belief-making outcomes? This question touches a bit on Gilbert & Wilson’s study on “Miswanting.” It’s available in PDF form here.
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Great comment, Sean!
Thanks for the article. It was interesting reading about the complicated relationship between what we think we want and what we actually like.
In what way do you think the article is relevant to McHargue’s story?
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