Living a fulfilled life without God
This is intended to be a pretty light-hearted post and I hope it’s received as such. This is not meant to say the Episcopal church is good or bad in totality, but rather to talk about a personal experience I had with an Episcopal church in Houston, Texas. I know there’s a debate among the atheist community related to liberal Christianity. Some argue that it’s a great thing and are happy to see it while others continue to criticize it as not progressive enough. It seems that some won’t be satisfied until everyone is an atheist. However, I want to illustrate why I continue to find hope in liberal forms of faith.
After several years of wandering through Assembly of God and Nondenominational congregations from the age of 17 – 30 or so, I continued to drop beliefs here and there and found myself really starting to doubt my faith. Around 2008 I attended an Episcopal church in Houston where I started feeling comfortable. I liked it because the people there focused on loving others and didn’t seem to take their beliefs as literal as others. I would hear of people questioning a literal resurrection, existence of hell, divinity of Jesus, Virgin birth, and referring to the bible as “myth” (from a literary standpoint), and they fully welcomed homosexuals. Although the liturgy was very traditional, it seemed like a pretty progressive place to be. I started feeling comfortable there and was happy to believe in a vague idea of “God” similar to nothing more than “the sacredness at the center of our lives”. It was nice. I was able to dismiss all of the dogma and just focus on loving people, reaching out to the poor, developing friendships, etc. There were also classes on Buddhist meditation led by one of the leaders there who promoted interfaith dialogue. It was interesting.
I know what you’re thinking: “How do you drop major tenants of the faith like the resurrection, divinity of Jesus, hell, etc. and still wear the Christian label?” I don’t really know how it works, but it happened for a couple of years. It wasn’t until someone brought this to my attention that I realized that maybe I wasn’t a Christian after all. I had been involved in a very liberal form of faith where reason and logic took precedence over faith, but I still enjoyed the traditions. I still prayed and hoped in God, but I wasn’t a nuisance to humanity. However, I still personally struggled with things as I wondered if I was right sometimes. I wondered if I was making a mistake due to years of feeling like anything could send me to hell. This intensified a bit when I started wondering how to teach my kids about these things. Ultimately it started to fall apart, but it’s just because all things were coming together.
It doesn’t happen this way for everyone. You can’t just walk away in some cases. There are spouses involved, other family and friends, etc . You have to be willing to take the social impact that leaving a faith takes. Some people just don’t have the energy for that. To me, I’m thankful for liberal forms of faith and vague ideas of God (something akin to mystery) because it allows people a place to still practice traditions that may be important to them for whatever reasons, but is a place where they don’t have to be a nuisance to the human existence. These liberal groups are often quick to speak up about fundamentalism these days because they’re embarrassed by that aspect of their faith.
So for me the liberal form of faith was a gateway of sorts. It was a safe place to explore my questions and doubts. It ultimately led to atheism, but I’m okay if it doesn’t lead everyone there. I’ve said before that it’s a dogmatic approach to religion that I’m against. I’m personally just fine with people hanging onto some kind of personal belief if it somehow makes them feel comfortable. I just hope they can keep it personal and not impose their beliefs on humanity in ways that threaten equality. I know not everyone will agree with me, but I think we could all agree that we would prefer this Episcopal church over Fred Phelps any day of the week. 🙂