Do you have early-onset Atheism?

"Early-Onset Atheism" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Early-Onset Atheism” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

When I was a boy I woke up in the night terrified by the thought of death. I went to my mom and dad to seek comfort. Nothing seemed to work.

Fifty years later and I can see my progression to this point where I now detect strands of believer and strands of atheist interwoven through my life.

I can see in that frightening event the roots of my inner believer and the roots of my inner atheist.

I’m at peace now. I mean peace of mind. Theologically. Spiritually. This doesn’t mean life is easy. But my mind, when it comes to these existential issues, is at peace. And I’m okay.

I encourage people to relax with themselves. There’s no need to determine a precise place to stand. There’s no need to choose one label. There’s no need to reject or accept one descriptor over another. You’re okay. The first step is accepting your complex self with all your inner diversity.

You are an ocean fed by many streams. Embrace that. That’s where you begin your peace. By loving yourself as you are.

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12 Replies to “Do you have early-onset Atheism?”

  1. Ya know, David. I think simplifying it to Believer vs. Atheist is not a helpful dichotomy. You have to discuss WHAT you don’t believe in.

    You, David, are a total atheist, if “theist” means a god who cares what you believe, cares what doctrines you hold, can be supplicated for prayer, answers prayers, works miracles. Cause from what you write, you don’t belief in that sort of Theist God. So you and I are both atheists. If you make “theist” a fuzzy cute thing in the universe that you sort of feel, inspires you to love and care for others and adds a bit to your sense of meaning, well, then maybe we are both theists.

    You see, it is all definitions.

    You have all have strands of belief and disbelief, we just got to talk about WHAT it is we belief. There is not simple believers vs atheists without defining terms. Those simple categories are the creation of doctrine-salvation religions. The sooner we throw off the jargon of beliefism religions, the easier it will be to really talk to each other.

  2. I don’t think I ever get to the point where I don’t believe God exists. I just have episodes where I don’t want to hear what God has to say… Or I don’t trust God enough to comfort me. I do have enough memories of Him that sustain me enough until I am willing to listen. Again.

  3. Yes, Sabio Lantz! You have stated exactly what I have thought for a long time. ALL of these words — theist, non-theist, atheist, agnostic, believer, etc. etc. — have so much BAGGAGE from their use and misuse. I remember having an epiphany of sorts when I was a young person starting to ask serious questions about God — maybe when I read John A. T. Robinson’s book “Honest to God” in 1963. I decided that rather than be boxed in by the dualistic question “Do I believe in God? (yes/no)”, a better question would be “What is God LIKE?” The answers can run the spectrum — from a personal interventionist God to a mysterious spirit, a creative force, or to the source of all that is. I’m not comfortable with using the word God freely, but I am OK with it as long as it’s used in a context where the mystery is acknowledged and affirmed. My understanding of “God” has changed over the decades (gotten more liberal!), but I have never been concerned with the cataclysmic issue of have I gone to the “dark side”! Further, the question “What is God like?” is a good starting point for a conversation with anyone, including those of very conservative bent. Rather than discuss the existence of God, let’s talk about whether God is violent or not. If He is Father God, why would He act in ways that no human father would act? Let’s promote conversation rather than trying to classify people.

  4. On this subject, I recommend the following book by Frank Schaeffer — “Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God”. The title itself pulls you right into the mystery!

  5. “I now detect strands of believer and strands of atheist interwoven through my life.”

    Isn’t that the human condition?

    So as Sabio says we are not simple atheists vs believers. If there is no god it takes faith to believe that. If God exists, it takes evidence to believe that. If we switch between atheist and believe in a black and white sense do we not have what might be called a spiritual schizophrenia?

    So where peace comes from whether be a belief in and loving yourself or from having a belief in a deity that loves perfectly and being connected to that love by loving self either is peace.

    So we can live together in peace, right? So then why if we can do that is it the case that often we don’t?

    Answers to questions result in more questions I find.

  6. Maybe it is a good thing.

    All I know is I don’t have all the answers to how we all might live in peace together. But it would be a good thing to have that and worth working towards and even fighting for I think.

    For what peace is there to be had without being prepared to engage in war?

  7. @ Bob Lundgren
    Yeah, when discussing “What is God like” we must consider the place to start is most likely: “God”is simply a word I give to my hopes, my fears and my signal to society that I am a good person. And depending on your constitution, it may be the voice in your head.” Then we’d be rightly embarrassed by our self-involved discussions of “God”. For surely we ourselves, our brains, are mysteries unto ourselves. We are barely conscious.

    BTW, I met Schaeffer at LÁbri — very weird group of over-intellectualizing while trying to keep the word “God”. He was an angry guy. His son now writes from a non-theist point of view, I think.

    @ Jack Russel: “Peace by war.” That is an idea that has already been tried a few times I think. Both US presidential candidates believe in it strongly too.

  8. @ Sabio Lantz: I visited L’Abri briefly in 1970. I was in my twenties then and Francis Schaeffer was the supreme evangelical icon. I was in that theological camp then. As time went on, I became more uncomfortable with his theology and eventually rejected it. Fast-forwarding to recent years, I met Frank Schaeffer at the Wild Goose Festival in 2013. I had opportunity to talk to Frank about his father, and he helped me put Francis in perspective. Frank unequivocally rejects the fundamentalist theology of his father, but said he was a man of his times. Frank also said that his father was progressive in many ways and most certainly would not approve of where the Christian Right has ended up today.

  9. Sabio hmm so you would deconstruct the idea of needing to train for war in order to have peace.

    So, more of a Neville Chamberlain approach than a Winston Churchill that you would favour.

    So you would virtue signal that you are a good guy. And that being part of what you give the word “God” to.

    So just other guys that are evil then with that worldview, right?

  10. David sounds like he is tending towards a deist worldview?

    As I understand it, deism is the belief that there is a Supreme Being but this Supreme Being is not interventionist and does not make himself known through revelation and miracles. There is no reliance on divine authority or theology.

    Deism provides a framework within which a Supreme Being might be understood to have created the universe and then left it to its own devices. The deist often identifies with the watchmaker analogy: once the watchmaker (God if you will) creates the watch and winds it up, it then starts running according to plan and does not require the watchmaker’s further intervention. Deism is the doctrine that God created the world and its natural laws but takes no further part in its functioning, he does not interfere in the day-to-day workings of the universe, he does not concern himself with humans and our affairs. There would be little/no point in praying to the deist god.

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