The following text is from a message I received a few weeks ago. I’ve probably got a couple dozen emails in my inbox nearly identical to this one. I thought I’d address this message and hopefully satisfy some of the questions that some of you have for me.
I’d love it if you’d take a little time from your busy schedule to write me. I read your latest posts on your site and am confused.
I am neither condemning you, nor do I hate you from what you have written. In fact, I congratulate you on the use of critical thinking to achieve a well-thought out idea of how and why you feel the way you do about God.
It left me with questions though. I, as well as a few of my closest friends, look up to you fiercely as a Christian mentor.
What do you consider yourself now- full blown atheist, agnostic, Christian?
Do you think you are simply in a slump and have not actually left the belief in God, or is He gone for good (or never there at all)?
Every single day, I struggle and imagine that there is no God. I am rational. I think critically about everything. And I know how tiring it can be “trying to meet the expectations of a God I’ve never experienced”.
Thanks to you, and a few others such as Greg Boyd and Showbread, I have grown in my Christianity to the point that I nearly do not even need it anymore. I now identify myself as nothing more than a Lover. I do not care about rules, guidelines, expectations, or perceptions of right and wrong. I only care about loving others in a non-judgmental, whole-hearted manner. I only want to serve the least and therefore become the least. Is this the foundation of Christianity or just an insanely good way to live an agnostic/atheist life? Does it even matter? Does anything even matter?
Sorry to ramble, but I have a million thoughts of life and death, as I’m sure anyone who has seriously thought about either does, too. I am not even entirely sure the point of this message. I guess I just want you to tell me I’m not crazy and that love in fact is all that matters, no matter what label it is given.
Thanks for taking the time to write me, Andy. I really do appreciate your kind and affirming words. I also completely relate to your struggle in finding meaning and purpose in a world that seemingly does not make sense. First, I’d like to address your comment regarding your view of me as a Christian mentor.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been told by someone that they consider me to be a mentor of sorts. In fact, this is a regular occurrence. It’s always weighed on me and I’ve tried to rationalize it and cope in a variety of ways. Truthfully, part of the reason that I finally renounced my faith publicly is because I know that I am completely inadequate and undeserving of such an honor. Granted, I brought this on myself by publicly writing about my search for faith in religious orthodoxy, doctrine and thought. The pressure has been building for quite some time. I was scheduled to speak at several conferences and gatherings this year. I managed to cancel all of my engagements, including the three national tours I was scheduled to carry out with my band friends. I cannot in good conscience masquerade as some sort of authority or enlightened person.
In my life I’ve been a compulsive liar, a drunkard, a piss poor friend and sorry excuse for a family member. Despite my inflated ego I just don’t have it in me to go about pretending to be something I’m not. Sure, I’m studied in theology and philosophy. I have a working understanding of physics and world history. But I am nothing special. I am insecure and play stupid nearly every day.
It would also be dishonest of me to go about pretending to love people. I’m a piss poor lover. I am angry and self destructive to my core. I drink and smoke and wander around aimlessly nearly every night trying to understand life and the purpose of humanity. This is why I prefer the company of homeless people. It’s not because I’ve got some mystical super being living inside of me, filling me with love. It’s because I feel at home with them. They’re mostly always screwed up alcoholics and junkies, just like me. I like that community because almost everyone is intellectually honest and genuine all the time. No one is putting on rehearsed shows under stage lights with smoke machines. I don’t have to stand and endure some person preaching at me, telling me the nature of the universe based on their understanding of some ancient book written by human beings. I know human beings, we’re a bunch of assholes. Why would I take some magic book seriously? But I digress.
The label of a Christian mentor suggests that I adhere to some sort of orthodox thought or doctrine. Frankly, I don’t and I cannot accept the confine that such thought brings with it. I really just don’t want to deceive you or anyone else by prancing around like some kind of preacher man, no matter how badly I want to see lonely people become comforted and whole. I just don’t have the cure. I don’t have the answers and I can’t in good conscience lie and pretend that “this or that” kind of thinking is the answer to our problems. I don’t have the answers and I haven’t found a remedy for my loneliness, insecurity, and regret.
I think it’s true that love is the universal antidote to the terrible disease of loneliness and suffering. Sometimes, but not often, I perceive that to be “God” but I can’t pretend that I’ve ever experienced anything beyond emotional psychosomatic coping. I want to believe that those feelings are a loving creator but I cannot pretend to have that kind of faith. I’m at a place in my life where I’m perfectly content to love and receive love. It’s all I can hope in as I continue to work things out and search. It’s all anyone can do really. It’s the antidote to religious coercion and indoctrination. It’s the antidote to oppression and discrimination. Human beings have to choose to be the better part of themselves. We have to choose compassion and empathy because life doesn’t make sense and everyone is scrambling to find answers to questions that cannot be answered.
So in conclusion and in response to your question: I am a hopeful lover. I’m a confused man and I am not worthy of the title of mentor or role model. I’m deeply flawed and imperfect. I always will be and that’s why I’ll tell stories of compassion and heartache and loss and fear. I want to make people feel less alone in this mess. That’s all I have to give you and everyone else.