I have been reflecting recently on a conversion of a friend from Christianity to atheism. Not that it is all that surprising that he has given up his Christian faith in the present context. I’m convinced there isn’t all that much to give up. The Christian church today reminds me of the story, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.” Christianity has been gutted of its distinctives including its founder, Jesus Christ. If you ask the average church goer today about Jesus, they can’t tell you much about who he is or what he did except that he has come to make your life better somehow. The christian message today is nothing more than a monopoly card suggesting we can get out of hell free if we simply believe in Jesus and apologize for our sins. The trouble is we don’t believe nor are we all that sorry about our sins because stats show our behavior doesn’t change after “accepting” Jesus. Another problem is that “believe in Jesus + apologize for your sins = go to heaven,” isn’t actually what Jesus taught at all, but I digress.
I’ve been musing about the rejection of Christianity in favor of atheism and have come up with the following list on how to become an atheist.
1) Attend church (earlier the better)
2) Get “born again” (again the earlier the better but preferably around 5 to 10 years of age)
3) Attend Sunday School (be sure to saturate these years with focusing on developing good Christian character)
4) Go to youth group (begin the process of amusing yourself to death)
5) Switch churches (preferably the biggest church in town with a smoke machine, free coffee, and super comfy seats)
6) Stay your course (Dallas Willard suggests in Renovation of the Heart: “To be forever lost you need only do nothing. Just stay your course”)
7) Read Blue Like Jazz (and experience it as profound… especially the part that suggests we not think too much about our faith because “who can know anything anyway?”
8} Stay your course… continue to attend church (jumbo screens are not optional)
9) Go on a mission trip that exposes you to real terrible issues in our world (starvation/slavery/etc.)
10) Come back with lots of questions and get angry about the present complacency in our comfy, coffee soaked worship environments. (Because it is about everyone else, you are exceptional)
11) Read Love Wins (and question everything that you don’t know a thing about because “who can know anything anyway.” Become jello and mysterious all at the same time)
12) Become a bullshitter (“Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his/her knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic.” Harry Franfurt)
13) Reject our present ignorant Christian expression and become agnostic.
14) Discover that agnosticism is you simply being mysterious and ridiculously profound.
15) Become an ignorant and angry atheist. (Begin making lots of “profound” observations about brain washing, cite stats about religion and war, call all people that believe in God ignorant, begin to believe that you are smarter than everyone else, etc. )
16) Continue to freeload on Christian morality while divorcing morality from its foundation in the judeo-Christian worldview… especially if you live in the west.
17) Read lots of books on self-improvement, self-love, and quasi-scientific bullshit trying to ground ethics in natural order.
And there you have it, seventeen steps on how to become an atheist. If you are an atheist and happen to read this post, please don’t be a stereotype or cliche. Take your “faith” in no god seriously and discover serious authors in this worldview (not angry scientists with psuedo-scientific axes to ground). As a general rule, read the fathers and mothers of your movement. Most of them are dead. Try not to read too much by people actually alive today because they often pedal sincerity for lack of substance. This is the quintessential bullshitter technique.
Friedrich Nietzsche, the guy with the wicked moustache, is my favorite writer as it relates to atheism. In fact, if I were to give up my faith in Christ, which I have no plans of doing, I would pursue Nietzsche’s vision of life without God for better and for worse. As the “father” of the god is dead movement, he writes brilliantly about the type of world we live in if god doesn’t exist. He paints vivid pictures with words and recognizes that true atheism begins in the heart of the “believer” in god who mentally assents to truth about Him but lives as if He doesn’t exist. We call this practical atheism, which would be many in the Christian ranks who profess to believe in Jesus (without following him) and live without any thought of Him apart from their Sunday ritual. It’s not a big jump for any of these individuals to become atheists because they are practically atheists already. Nietzsche’s greatest contribution to atheism as a way of life is his understanding of internal consistency. He encourages his reader to move beyond the inherited foundational Christian ethics of our culture and begin to envision life “Beyond good and evil.” In other words stop freeloading on Christian morality. Rise above the herd mentality and “Will to Power.” Become the Ubermansch or overman. Paraphrasing Dostoevsky’s A Brothers Karamazov, “If god is dead, everything is permissible.” There is no final judgment of right and wrong simply social construction of reality. Nietzsche envisioned this world and welcomed it with all of its potential for the overcomers and horrors for the herd.