I Love Atheists

You may feel like this is a trick headline to draw you into the article – perhaps some sarcastic or self-righteous statement to make before I smack them down – but I assure you it’s quite literal.

At one time I was an atheist, as I’ve mentioned in past posts. The reason I distanced myself from religion was because some really bad things happened in my church when I was growing up. I was a teen and presented with two consecutive pastors who behaved in ways that even a teen was responsible enough to avoid. It wasn’t small potatoes. Marriages ended. Criminal charges pressed.

So, I not only removed myself from church, but criticized all the faults I saw with it. Ultimately I was left with no faith and tended to drift toward like-minded folk. Not surprisingly, I still have friends who are atheists or have other issues that range from a hatred of churches to issues accepting any supernatural power. They are good friends, some are the best of friends. We can talk about our beliefs without being critical or judgmental of each other. I don’t feel like I’m doing them any disservice by not trying to convert them nor do I feel dragged down because of their views on life. I love them.

But I also love a different kind of atheist. I love the wit of the late author Douglas Adams. I love the logic and talent of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. Recently I’ve come to love Jaclyn Glenn (jaclynglenn.com), who pulls no punches about her stance on almost anything, and very often rails on the egregious stupidity of Christians.

The reason I love Jaclyn so much is I dearly wish more churches were having the same kind of conversations she talks about. It might not be as seemingly noble as Bible study, but it engages our everyday lives. There are always salient points to talk about even if her subject is an easy target. Had video blogging been around back in my days as an atheist I may have beat her to the punch, though I undoubtedly wouldn’t have been so witty or spry.

When I watch her I can’t help but agree with almost everything she says. I think a lot of Christians could gain insight into their own practices by sitting through a few dozen of her videos. The things Jaclyn does best are:

She’s not afraid of the elephants in the room. Why are people quick to thank God for that rainbow but not the tornado? I know scores of Christians who ignore this kind of uncomfortable conversation. Nobody wants atrocities shoved their your face, but I feel too many Christians never reconcile the God they believe in with the world they live in. It’s easy pretend things don’t challenge Christians or to distance it with talk about “everything having a reason even if we don’t understand it.” Throughout history man has struggled to fathom the big questions. Countless books have been written about a whole host of subjects, yet I feel like the average Christian would rather separate their faith from real-world issues than to face the issues through their faith.

She finds strength in knowledge. Nobody wants to look like an idiot for questioning the Bible and that – all by itself – is a problem. Folks would rather keep their lips zipped than admit they have some serious problems believing someone lived in a fish for a few days or difficulty believing the Garden of Eden is literal or that the Great Flood actually happened or a host of other issues. How does not asking questions help your faith? Perhaps the real question is why does it feel like you’re threatening your faith to admit parts of the Bible seem really wacky?

She doesn’t sweep it under the carpet. She’s not afraid of intimate issues. Jaclyn isn’t afraid to talk about any subject – even if it’s her own shortcomings. Often she brings up extreme cases or radical stances to point out their absurd nature but it’s in an effort to illustrate their disparity from a productive, respectful society. If only more Christians weren’t afraid to admit protests or niche agendas pretending to be God’s will are often more harmful than beneficial to the communities in which they live. Think of what might happen if a church decided to use their members to feed and help the poor in their community for six months instead of dumping thousands of dollars into a political agenda, for example.

But at the end of the day I would love to see more people with Jaclyn’s energy and conviction working for the church. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect her for who she is, nor does it mean I feel like she ought to convert back to being a Christian, but it would be refreshing to me to see more youth in our society become so passionate about doing God’s work. And here I specifically mention youth because it’s that late-teen to mid-30s age group that are who I most often see as being completely disillusioned with any organized religion.

What could happen if every day we were talking with and helping our neighbors? What if we were better at embracing scripture as a way to measure our own lives? What if we found ourselves in the places Jesus was – among the poor, sick, outcast and oppressed? And what if we put the energy into all of it that Jaclyn seems to have?

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