I just checked my go-to source on philosophy - Philip Stokes, Philosophy: The World’s Greatest Thinkers - and I’m sure I’m an Epicurean, now. The pursuit of happiness! What could be better?
You can put me down as epicurious.
(I just found this, and I’m seeing a warning about continuing an old conversation so feel free to delete this if its inappropriate.)
I was a mixture of 1) The Lifelong Atheist and 4) The Seeker. I grew up in a non-religious family which prided itself on having higher ethical standards than some local prominent Church goers. I was a total science geek, got microscopes and chemistry sets as a child, pockets full of interesting stones, my dad took me along to the local astronomical society meetings, I nearly blew up my parents kitchen making hydrogen gas, that kind of thing. But I definitely see parts of The Seeker in me. I love studying new things, all kinds of random things, I taught myself to read Mayan hieroglyphic numerals at school. I’ve always been interested in people and what makes them tick and I flirted with the idea of becoming a psychologist when I was at school, but I ended up getting a great job in Chemistry and never looked back. The chemicals got to me eventually so now I’m a teacher but it certainly all shaped me.
Even though I became a Christian I sometimes cause myself problems at churches by asking uncomfortable questions and disliking group-think. I have no patience for church-politics. I’ve learned to keep my beliefs to myself until I’ve got to know who are the safe people and who are the ones who will be horrified that I’m fine with evolution and other “hot topics”. I’m often more comfortable talking to atheists than church-goers and sometimes people get confused about “what side I’m on”. If we could define atheism as a religion (and my opinion is we can) then I left it as 6) Conscientious Objector. I understand the Atheistic impulse and am sympathetic to my Atheistic friends and family, but cannot, in good conscience, continue to label myself as something I no longer believe.
Me neither, which is dificult when you’re a church elder. “I love mankind - it’s people I can’t stand.” Unfortunately “politics” is what happens when real people come together, so even in churches politics remains the art of the possible.
Our backgrounds are very similar. I could be still a Cultural Catholic Atheist as I like some of the family traditions. My public atheism came as a way to go after the nonsense of the Ken Ham’s of the world. That’s it. I could very easily be an Agnostic None and live life happy.
I hear you. Its very awkward for me when non-Christians find out I’m a Christian and challenge me about people like Ken Ham, or the many abuses and mistakes by churches. I don’t want to defend them, I find them as abhorrent as anyone else. In fact when I lost my faith in metaphysical naturalism and became convinced of the truth of Biblical Christianity I asked if there was some other label I could identify myself with, because I felt “Christian” just had too many negative associations for me. But it seems that is the label I am stuck with. I’ve come to appreciate the irony of being abused for that label considering the abuse I dished out to people carrying that label in my time.
Yes, I’ve seen exactly the same petty behaviour in workplaces, football clubs, and martial arts clubs. But I find this humanness more irritating in a church environment for some reason. Maybe I feel that people meeting to celebrate a transcendent creator who is the embodiment of Truth and Love and Self-sacrifice should be different. Intellectually I know that is unreasonable of me; we meet to celebrate his nature, not to congratulate ourselves on our own natures. But still, emotionally it kicks me in the guts every time I see it.
I’ve been through phases where I’ve decided I just want to be a Christ-follower by myself and not have anything to do with churches and church-goers. During one of those phases I had the pleasure of meeting Alan Jamieson, author of “A Churchless Faith” and attending one of his post-church fellowship groups. In that supportive environment I was able to come to understand my pain and disappointment. Its so easy to assume the mantle of victimhood and blame others for life’s misfortunes instead of accepting responsibility for our own behaviour.
So I’ve found my way back to Church fellowship, but older, wiser, and more aware of how dangerous individuals with power and control issues can be, no matter what label they have or environment they may be in.
I went with a ‘follower of Christ’ for a while when I was teenager.
I ran from labels like ‘Christian’ and ‘religious’ like a devil from the cross.
Of course, I was never an atheist so our situations might be different.
Serbian saying, not sure if it’s used in English language.
The challenge is to model Christ within the world of real people, whether that means not seeking to be a chief when your an Indian, or not seeking to be a big chief when you’re a servant chief.
In both the churches where I’ve held leadership roles, modelling humility and unity within the leadership team has been the key to attitudes within the congregation. Easy, except when you’re not humble and disagree! But even the realization that manouevring to get your own way is a sign of leadership failure helps.
That’s great. Are you happier now than as an atheist? Is your life more meaningful now and purposeful now that you are a Christian? Could you have remained an atheist and still have that same happiness, purpose and meaning in your life? Also has your morals. ethics, and values changed?
Wow, interesting questions. It would be nice to report that the moment I became a Christian it was as if somebody waved a magic wand and all my problems vanished. However that would be very far from the truth. Instead I’d say that as an atheist I wasn’t a particularly happy person. I’m an introvert who avoided most problems by retreating into books. I was guarded and my favourite songs were “I am a rock” by Simon and Garfunkel and “don’t let it show” by the Alan Parsons Project.
I don’t think my morals and ethics have changed much at all, but now I see them applying internally as well as externally. My values certainly changed, from seeing people as an evolutionary accident to something precious. I started letting people get closer to me, stopped hiding from my feelings and bottling up my pain. In some ways that made me even more unhappy than when I was an atheist, but gradually through what I shall call a sequence of improbable events I got to re-evaluate my choices, and people I trusted to help me with that journey and my life came out of the shadows. I’m still an introvert, but it doesn’t control me like it used to. I’m married with two great kids. I don’t listen to those particular songs anymore. If I had to choose a song to describe this part of my life I’d choose “The Rose”.
Now could I have done that while remaining an atheist? I don’t know, maybe? But I’d say my life looked like it was spiralling inwards and downwards. Now it feels the opposite, upwards and outwards. I don’t recall anyone describing me as a happy person, but I do get told I seem a calm and peaceful person.
It would have taken a major crisis or intervention to change me round like that, and I don’t know what would have got me through that first stretch.
I could walk away from my local church tomorrow, but to deny God’s existence would mean denying so much that its hard to imagine. When I look back there’s a sense of disconnect, as if it wasn’t really me but a different person. I can’t imagine me being not-me. I’m not sure if you know the song Blasphemous Rumours by Depeche Mode, but I enjoyed it as an Atheist, it seemed to me to encapsulate the absurdity of believing in any sort of God. The funny thing is I still enjoy it, but now it seems to encapsulate God’s mercy and providence, and sadness that the singer couldn’t see that.
I just find this funny for some reason.
Don’t worry, no judgement here. I love Bon Jovi’s ‘Hey God’.
How did i miss this thread… i was an athiest for some part of my life (approx early childhood to my teens). If you want to categorise. at that time i would identify as type 1 or type 4. (Type 1 because my Dad and brother were atheists, type 4 because i was looking for answers).
Strangely enough, my biology classes in high school changed me from an athiest to a theist… I saw the hand of a designer in life.It was a couple of years after i became a theist, that i decided to search for God…
Interestingly enough, i did not expect to find God in any organised religion. The people didn’t seem to really believe in God.So i made plans to seek God seriously as soon as i completed my engineering degree (maybe leave everything and go on a journey of discovery like Hindu Sanyasis did)… never had to do it though… A series of providential events led me to read the bible and find Jesus.
@Patrick: I have always pegged you as a seeker. I don’t see any other reason for you to hang around and ask the kind of questions you do,…
Thank you for expressing this. It seems that a belief in your God’s existence does make you happier, give more purpose to you life and makes your life more meaningful. That is really all that matters. Live long and prosper. Wishing you all the best in life.
Yes I am a seeker. I want things to make sense to me. Some men see things as they are and say ‘why’, I dreamed things that never were and say ‘why not’.
Just keep away from motorcades.
I don’t seem to be a very good fit for any of those archetypes. I grew up in the UCC and later the United Presbyterian Church, but I would not say my parents were highly religious. I stop wanting to go at age 14 (following my first brush with hypocrisy), and was mostly a Christmas and Easter attendee for long after. I continued to call myself Presbyterian.
Fast forward about 20 years (~2005) I first heard about something called “Intelligent Design”, which seemed like a nice way to accommodate faith with an acceptance of science. That is, until I learned that ID was a false front for teaching Creationism in public schools. It was at that point I began to consider WHY I believe the things I do, and came to understand that faith and reason are different qualities. I spent a few years coming to terms with what to call myself, finally settling on Agnostic as the closest fit. Sometimes I feel as though I haven’t changed my beliefs at all, just come to a new understand of what it is I have believed all along.
So in a certain sense am am just as Christian now as I ever was*; that’s where I learned my basic values of Do Unto Others and Turn the Other Cheek. I do not regret a single thing I learn from that experience. Looking back I was questioning if God was real as a teenager. I try to allow the possibility of a God because that seems like the right thing to do. It’s a feeling, not a reason, but it is important to me that I try*. I think about this a lot, practically daily, but I have never had the sense that I am on the wrong path. If there is a God, then God has made me to be agnostic. Hello.
* And if anyone wishes to say I was never a good Christian or I am doing a lousy job of allowing for a God, then I accept the criticism. I try the best I can.