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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Atheist's Religion

NPR recently ran a story about Teresa MacBain, a Methodist minister who "came out" as an atheist. 

Congratulations. Your life is now pointless. 

I have the feeling a lot more's going on in MacBain's heart than her waking up one day and saying, "You know, I don't think there's a God today," even though she tries to convey otherwise. The article describes her "eureka moment" (though, God forbid we call it an epiphany):  "I just kind of realized . . . I'm an atheist," she says. "I don't believe. And in the moment that I uttered that word, I stumbled and choked on that word — atheist. But it felt right." In one moment she reduced a complete shift in worldview to something comparable to trying on a pair of jeans. There are hints at the real problem, how she felt she served "a taskmaster of a God, whose standards she never quite met." I don't believe in that kind of God, either, which leads me to think she went from faith in one lie to faith in another. She never met the real deal.

When she spoke at the American Atheists convention, she opened like this:

"My name is Teresa. I'm a pastor currently serving a Methodist church — at least up to this point" — the audience laughs — "and I am an atheist." Hundreds of people jump to their feet. They hoot and clap for more than a minute. MacBain then apologizes to them for being, as she put it, a hater. "I was the one on the right track, and you were the ones that were going to burn in hell," she says. "And I'm happy to say as I stand before you right now, I'm going to burn with you."

Well, good luck with that. 

In Psalm 14, it's written, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God,'" and how foolish, to so glibly set aside the belief of billions with a laugh and a joke. I mean, for her sake, she better be right! It's Pascal's wager (not the best argument for God, but logically sound): if I'm wrong I'll never know it, as I'll be snuffed out into nothingness, but if she's wrong, she's got another thing coming. 

It's interesting to me that she admits as part of this new organization she, "never felt so appreciated and cared for . . . New member, just been born — that's what it feels like." It's as if she's going to a new church, which is exactly what it is, except this one believes that love is, to put it simply, the product of random chance. She wants love and acceptance as much as a pack animal wants acceptance in the herd. For what? Protection from predators? At least when Christians search for love, there's an actual source for it, a god who, the Bible says, is love. Whatever love she thinks she's found, it's a farce - a religion requiring as much "faith" as, if not more than, Christianity. 

Atheism (with a simple creed, some varying denominational differences, a community of believers, social activism, and a belief regarding the afterlife) is a religion of meaninglessness. This woman even suffered some form of persecution for her faith, ostracized by Christians (an unfortunate occurrence) and persecuted by those who disagree, and what does she get for all this? A conviction that life is the product of random mutation; that she's only the sum of a bunch of cells, a mass of flesh that has no real purpose other than to procreate; the problem of evil with no evident solution. And the one eternal reward that's offered for her atheism: being snuffed out. Utter nothingness. Is it freedom from the chains of morality that she so celebrates when she made her announcement? I wonder. Because if I ever truly became an atheist, I should weep for days on end at having lost the god whom I've come to know and love. If I ever became an atheist, I'd find Nietzsche to be a Saint and true visionary: Don't celebrate because there is no God, I'd say with him. Weep and moan! For you've lost the only hope we had left to escape this miserable world. 

When it's pointed out that she hasn't said whether or not she misses God, MacBain says, "No. I can't say that I do."

I'm not sure she ever had Him to begin with.


  1. Ultimately something will take the role of God in someone's life, whether its atheism, politics, environmentalism, or celebrity gossip. There will always be something that is the most important value to someone, something they find sacred. I think many atheists miss that point because they get too caught up in rejecting other people's values.

    1. An excellent point. It amazed me most how you could switch a couple words around in what was said and it could be a story about an atheist coming to faith in Christ. They take pride in being "freethinkers" but are still a part of the "system" that passes off people for gods,and personal ideas as scripture. They get so defensive, they don't stop to think how they're really defending their right to "believe" something just as unfounded as what they think Christians believe.

      And even if all they believe in is evolution and themselves as head honcho in their own Universe, they still have to admit that they're enslaved to their biology, the chemicals they were dealt by chance genetics, the biological predispositions that make them a certain way. It's the theory of "determinism" and it makes sense. How sad for them. They celebrate coming to realize they're all pre-determined biological entities heading for death. Hooray!

  2. Great post today - excellent food for thought. I think for many of these folks their Godlessness is their god. In light of the haters, I like to recall that the opposite of love is not hate but apathy. There's always hope for the haters...

  3. For an OPPOSING story - an account of going from atheism to Christianity, read the following article by Oxford Professor Alister McGrath (a great gentleman I had the privilege of meeting when I went to England!):