Theological Observations After Midnight In November

Christianity’s greatest asset and greatest hurdle is humanity’s desire for God. For a long time, nearly a decade, I thought I was really something special. I thought I was the result of a long line of human achievement. I was the result of thousands of years of contemplation and experience which resulted in the superior conclusion that God did not exist. For various reasons and with various degrees of arrogance Christians have pointed to Psalm 14:1’s “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God,'” as evidence that it is foolish to be an atheist. Condemn me now, but I don’t need bible verses to admit that God exists. How many churches exist? How many temples? How many religious sites? How many places are there on this planet in which people gather to worship or discuss or contemplate God? Denying God’s existence would be like denying McDonalds. And yet many of you are going to tell me that God is a fiction and a human weakness, a figment of our imagination, a fairy tale created by Iraqis and former Egyptians bent on collecting ten percent of your hard-earned income so they don’t have to work. Yeah. Okay. You’re right.

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“The problem of evil” finds itself among the great controversies of Christian theology. If God is good, how is it possible that evil exists, the question goes. I know I’m only a first semester B-averaging seminary student, but for me the problem of evil is one of the main reasons I find Christianity appealing. God purposefully creates man with free will. Man uses the freedom to disobey. Dunsky. Next, man murders. The rest is history.

Whatdya got as another option? Man just decides to one day kill for pleasure? And did it give him pleasure? Do you actually derive pleasure from hurting people? From lying? From stealing? Is anyone reporting that they are happier because they acted unethically or immorally? Give me a break. Daily I behave in ways which I know aren’t right and I am not happier for it. I am confounded by it. I shared my insistence on not being bullied on the road the other day, and like most of you pointed out, I knew at the time that it was not the right thing to do (hopefully you don’t think I was bragging about my actions.) I know the better option was to not aggravate the asshole. But why was he being an asshole in the first place? Seriously, what am I missing? How do you account for evil or asshole-ery?

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Here’s a new one. Want to know why you aren’t satisfied with your job? Because as part of God’s redemptive plan after the Fall, He cursed work. He modified existence in a way which directed humans back to Him. All He wants is a relationship with you. Or so the argument goes. What do you think? I say we’re all meant to produce and consume. Name brands. And apps. And pills. And tablets. That’s it. That’s life. Oh. And try to be nice along the way. I almost forgot. We’re here to talk about food ingredients. Yes. If you can explain to me what you’re eating within the time it takes to share a meal with you, then you’ve figured out life. Hooray!

All I’m asking for is a softening. My heart is hard. Feels like it always has been.

I blame my mom. Whoops. Classic Freudian slip–when you say one thing and mean your mother.

But as I’m grown now, it feels like way too much energy is expended to keep it hard. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Or not. I’ll say this. I am not yet convinced that urgency does Christianity any good. But I am convinced that Christianity is worth exploring at your own pace.

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14 comments

  1. insanitybytes22

    Well said. I believe our natural desire is to have soft hearts, to love God and one another. A soft heart however, is painful, anti-survival, irrational. The only way I know of to do it is to lean into Christ, to let Him provide the safety and security that makes love possible. Without Him and that safety and soft heart, I’ve got no argument for why we shouldn’t be tearing people up in traffic. That is rational, logical, and they certainly deserve it, but that isn’t how we want to walk in the world and all that anger robs us of our peace and hardens our hearts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lucy Furr

    Having a scripture that says, “a fool says in his heart, There is no God” is not evidence that an atheist is a fool. It is merely one man’s opinion. Places of worship isn’t evidence of God, it’s evidence of human’s creation of a God and their desire to have an afterlife. C’mon Pete, you’re smarter than that.

    I find it so laughable that people assume that without God in our lives we’d commit horrendous crimes. I’m atheist and I have no interest in killing anyone. Nor do I want to hurt anyone. Mankind does not need God in their lives to make moral decisions. We choose to be kind because we want to be kind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pete Deakon

      Lucy, you’re own lack of desire to hurt people in relation to you atheism is anachronistic. It isn’t atheism that taught you the value of kindness over violence. I’d argue that your atheism is a luxury of a life spent among a culture which lives out (for the most part) a superior theology. And you’re not hearing or you’re mis-hearing my God/McDonald’s argument. People desire McDonalds. We can agree on that, right? But did McDonald’s exist before the desire or after the desire? I’m agreeing with you that an enlightened American doesn’t need to follow the psalmist blindly, going against their individualism and integrity, in order to observe that mankind believes in God (not necessarily the Christian God, but God or ultimate reality if you prefer.) Where you and I seem to be at odds is whether God (McDonald’s) existed before this belief (desire to believe) or after.

      Pete

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      • Lucy Furr

        You are mistaken. I do not desire McDonalds. I’m an atheist pescatarian now (a non-believer vegetarian who eats seafood).

        Pete, you were way more intersting before you became so deeply involved with theology. Just sayin.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Pete Deakon

          It is curious that you decided to describe food ingredients to me. Does this mean we’re not friends anymore?

          Believe me, Lucy, more than anything I want to make you lord of my life. I just would have to ignore too much of what I have seen and read about how quite a few people given the same skill sets as me make sense of life. Maybe the difference is perceived value? What if I pay you? Do you think that would add credibility to your arguments? Is this discussion really just about money?

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  3. Brother Dave

    Is the use of profanity a required course of study in seminary? I don’t remember being compelled to use the word “asshole” in Bible College. I searched the Scriptures and could not find that word. It seems to be off the path that Jesus walked.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pete Deakon

      Hey Brother Dave,

      Here’s some more fodder, because I feel like I’m disappointing you on some level. First, I know this sounds silly, but if there is one overarching lesson all my reading (and there’s been a ton) for courses this semester has taught me it’s that across history and the world Christianity is barely unified in anything on any level. We’re talking about something that has in its history the crusades. And, I can’t remember which one (hence B’s) but I want to say Athanasius (or one of the other main early fathers) used to get into fist-fights over doctrine. I’d like to believe that you and I agree that God doesn’t speak English anyhow, and I’m comfortable with what he hears from my heart. Also, believe you me, swearing is the least thing I have to worry about regarding whether the pearly gates open.

      Second, today in class the professor randomly got talking about pride and the fact that some Christian theologians, despite all their contributions to the Kingdom, are still jerks. Sounds reasonable and likely. It also sounds PG. The world I’m in contains worse people than jerks.

      Third, the same class earlier today had a student share that a person at his church last weekend expressed total disbelief and disdain at the fact that he was reading bible commentaries for class. The lay-christian said, “All you need to read is the bible.” I can’t hardly find any hope in a world that has someone say that.

      My blog is my blog. It exists in the virtual world. I love conversation, but the blogosphere is nowhere close to reality. I write blog posts because I can’t stop writing, not to contribute to the Kingdom of God. I have no idea where my little journey through seminary will lead, but I do know this. If I were to ever be a pastor, it would be a small church, hardly a blip on the map. And it’d be my part-time gig. I’ll never sell God for cash. Point being, even if my flock and I are cursing up a storm, we’ll never make the news, so you have nothing to worry about. (It seems like you have some level of hope for me directing my talents for good and that my cursing lets you down. Don’t let it. They’re just words. Words are not the things they represent.)

      Pete

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  4. Lucy Furr

    Pete,

    Read your own post. My comment about McDonalds refers back to your original post. My only intention of spelling out ingredients was to inform you of what a pescatarian is since so few people are aware of them.

    Money? Where the fuck did you get that out of my last reply?

    Friends? Of course. I don’t need you to believe as I believe in order to be friends.

    Though all this talk about God–for an atheist–is rather boring. Your blog post about H_ were tremendously more entertaining than your posts about God.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pete Deakon

      Hey Lucy,

      The money comes from my conclusion that if religion didn’t ask for money, then atheists wouldn’t even consider them remarkable (worthy of remark). But religion is a huge part of the marketplace and if an atheist such as yourself deems it all based on a lie, then you have a vested interest to squash the lie–if only to foster a world where truth reigns supreme, a world that I want to be a part of too.

      As with your blog, my blog is mine. For me. Sometimes I want to write posts which may entertain, other times I write just to put something down so I can re-read it again in the future, and other times I just need to get it out there. I consider that you especially may read what I write and I value your opinion. I know some arguments between competing worldviews get old, but I still haven’t heard how you address my first point about the mcdonalds-ness of religion. I agree with you that religion is selling invisible products. What even is a “sacred place”? But we still disagree about the fact that you want to discount literally billions of peoples choices and affirmations and purchases because you disagree with them. I’m saying not so fast. And if you and I are in a discussion, and on opposite sides, and you simply stop answering, then in my mind you’ve either admitted loss or hardened your heart so much that you think I’m worthless to you. (I don’t mean to be melodramatic, I just mean to say that I believe there is tremendous value in discussions, and tremendous disrespect in unwillingness to discuss.)

      Christianity is not a set of facts. Atheism is not a religion. Everyday I drive down the street I feel like I’m bombarded by people trying to get me to do things. Mostly people want me to buy something. And then there’s Christianity. Christianity wants me to admit my place in the space-time universe and to help the weakest members of society and to recruit people to join me in these two tasks. I just don’t see what there is to be so angry about.

      Pete

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      • Lucy Furr

        “And if you and I are in a discussion, and on opposite sides, and you simply stop answering, then in my mind you’ve either admitted loss or hardened your heart so much that you think I’m worthless to you.”

        According to you, if I stop dialoging on this topic, I’m either admitting loss or have a hardened heart.

        Not fair conclusions Pete. Either way you positioned yourself as the clear winner.

        This is not about winning or losing. I’m just done with religion. Truly it bores the hell out of me. If you want to come to one of those conclusions, that’s up to you. But for the record, your argument isn’t worth my time.

        That said, I still value our friendship.

        Btw, I’m doing the nanowrimo–the 50,000 words in 30 days writing challenge–so that is where most of my focus is currently.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Pete Deakon

          “Either way you positioned yourself as the clear winner.”

          Now you’re getting it. That’ll be $400. Please remit payment by the end of the year. 😉

          Good luck with your challenge. Honestly, if you must know, part of my decision to go this route in life was the difficulty I encountered when writing a book purely to entertain. I couldn’t do it. Perhaps its all a bizarre case of vanity, but I’m proud that my first books contained more than entertainment. Hmm… In any case, never doubt that I’m having fun all the while–just like you it seems.

          Pete

          Liked by 1 person

  5. The Uhm

    I’ve contemplated seminary after my bachelors. I’ve received a minor in biblical studies. I’ve mishandled my responses sometimes to others who are rude for the sake of rudeness. These people need love the most. My friend, I don’t claim to know the whole situation, but in respect to Christ speaking to tax collectors, Samaritans, and even great Gentile leader Paul, we are called to love, which requires steadfastness as much the nerve and quick tongue. Once more, I might not know the entire situation, but from my own experience, atheists or many non-Christians have a “religious devotion” to their set of beliefs. Some times holding your tongue is as important as speaking.

    Liked by 1 person

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