A few weeks ago I started thinking, “what happens if my wife finds my blog?” So I decided to do a series of posts that would help her understand me as an atheist. This first post is a letter to my wife.
Honey, of course I have morals. I can only imagine what you are thinking as you’re processing my deconversion. Trust me, it wasn’t easy for me to process it either. As you begin thinking of me as an atheist, you may wonder how this new found lack of faith will effect me personally, and wonder what sort of “rules” will define my behavior since I’ve abandoned the Bible. That’s a fair thing to consider!
If I formerly used the bible, the 10 Commandments, and the 2 greatest commandments as my rule of life, does that mean I no longer find those rules…useful? If I don’t believe in the 10 Commandments, then am I suddenly okay with breaking them?
What may particularly stick out to you is Mark, who when he lost his faith he cheated on his wife. If I don’t believe God uttered the words “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, does adultery suddenly become an option for me? Will I become a liar? A thief? If the Bible once commanded me to love you as Christ loves the Church, will I now see sacrificial love as obsolete? If I was a better man because of the commandments of God, then what happens when I no longer have a god?
I can’t claim that my ideas won’t change, but I will maintain a sense of morality and I think you’ll like it. Because here’s the catch, you don’t need a god to be a moral person. As a matter of fact, I would argue that moral people are good not because of God, but aside from God. And for those who are only good because of God, they aren’t moral people at all.
Allow me to explain.
What if a guy hit on you last night, and then propositioned you to come over to his place. Let’s say you turn him down. When he asks why, what would you say?
“Because I’m married.”
But so what? Plenty of married people have sex outside their marriage! So, what would you say?
“Because of the 10 Commandments…because God said ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’…because it’s against my religion?”
I doubt it. Wouldn’t you say:
“Because I love my husband.”
Your relationship with me is your guiding principle in sexual morality, not your faith. Your faith may inform you as to the standards of morality, but it is not your love for God that inspires you to do good, it’s your love for me.
Let’s say, in a moment of weakness, you do sleep with a stranger. You chose the immoral act. If you regretted it, would you regret it because you broke God’s commandment or because you broke my heart? In this morality play, God has very little to do with your moral choices.
Let’s extrapolate this out further. Would I be a moral person if:
- The only reason I don’t embezzle money from the church is because God said “Thou shalt not steal”?
- The only reason I don’t cheat on my taxes is because Jesus said “Give to Caesar…”?
- The only reason I don’t abuse our kids because Paul said “Father’s don’t exasperate you children.’?
- The only reason I don’t hit you is because Peter says “Be gentle with your wife”?
And yet do we not know Christians who have committed these sins? Do we not know Christians who act immorally? If there are people who believe in God, and yet that belief doesn’t always inspire morality, is it possible that God isn’t always a necessary part in the morality equation?
I will admit that understanding right and wrong is difficult in a post-Christian life. Reorienting my moral compass, and figuring out why things are right and other things are wrong is tough at first. However, at the end of the day, life and love are the center of my morality. The golden rule still holds true, which is why it exists in multiple religions. Empathy is the guide to morality, and I think it always has been. The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and weigh needs versus wants, is what moral people have always done regardless of the their religion or lack thereof.
I may not always make the right choices, but you knew that was true while I was still a Christian. Nothing has changed in that regard. But if you want to understand my morality, how it has changed, and how it stays the same, look at how I love. I always make my decisions based on how I love you and our kids, which really isn’t much different than what I was doing before.
About John Jameson, in his own words:
“I didn’t become an atheist on purpose. I didn’t even want to become one. Yet here I am: Mid 30s, wife, young kids, mortgage, church, and no Jesus or Holy Spirit to guide me. I have no idea yet how to even live, let alone what I’m supposed to do for a living. An ex-pastor-turned-atheist told me the other day, “the meaning of life is to put your kids through college”. So I’m trudging along, doing my “job” until I can find another career.” You can find John on his blog, Pastor of No Faith.