A Closeted Atheist Pastor to His Wife

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The following is written by a Clergy Project member. Since he’s still in the pulpit, he uses the name ‘John Jameson‘. 

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.”

Source: The Brick Testament

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:

  1. The only reason I don’t embezzle money from the church is because God said “Thou shalt not steal”?
  2. The only reason I don’t cheat on my taxes is because Jesus said “Give to Caesar…”?
  3. The only reason I don’t abuse our kids because Paul said “Father’s don’t exasperate you children.’?
  4. 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.

To read other stories from members of The Clergy Project, visit their website at: www.clergyproject.org

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Ian Macnaught
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It’s just another battle in the long war against God. But He has a plan and the war’s already won. The purpose of the delay is to discover who is ‘for’ and ‘against’ Him. Those who are ‘for’ will inherit eternal life in Paradise. Those against, which includes all of God’s enemies, will be removed from His presence to a place where there will be no God. At present, those still living and the yet to be born benefit from the Creator’s loving spirit. The meaning of life is to determine where you will spend the rest of your existence. Because God truly loves his Creation and refuses to force his will on mankind, he gives each one of us a choice. It’s not God’s will that any would be lost to him. He wishes you all to be ‘saved’, hence he sent his Son Jesus Christ into the World to show us the way. Christ died for everyone. Because we could never be free of unholiness, he took our punishment upon himself, by dying on a cross. Death was defeated when Christ rose again from the grave. By believing in Christ we receive eternal life. God’s enemies will do anything to prevent people from hearing this message, because they know that if a person becomes re-born, they are lost to the ‘rebellion’. You are participants in this Cosmic war.… Read more »

John Brain
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There you go again Ian, presupposing the existence of things unproven. Bad form. Are you trying to tell us your “all knowing” on such matters?

Dale Tonner
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There is no war on Christmas . There is a racist war on inclusion.

Edwin Deady
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Rock, you- joke!

David Smith
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As an atheist since the 1960s, I strongly resent the atheist propaganda machine revving up at Christmas. Leave Christmas the fuck alone.

Ian Macnaught
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He isn’t an atheist. It requires ‘belief’ to be an atheist. You have to have ‘faith’ to believe that there’s no God. There’s no proof for atheism. The evidence is all on God’s side. You’re here and you weren’t designed by a rock.

Edwin Deady
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In your case, possibly.

Ian Macnaught
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Edwin Deady Another brain who thinks, it was designed by a rock.

Ian Macnaught
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The Humanist Codex There’s no alternative possibility other than, that we are here as a result of Intelligent Design. Even Richard Dawkins states, if you search all the sciences you’ll find the fingerprints of a Creator. He’s no longer an atheist and admits that nobody knows how life started on Earth. The question now is, what kind of Creator are we dealing with ?

Edwin Deady
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Ian Macnaught Bilge, nonsense and no evidence. Dawkins, being rational says that there might be a god somewhere for which there is no evidence but he has never indicated any belief in intelligent design.

Ian Macnaught
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John Brain
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You have to have faith to believe that ghosts, genies and fairies do not exist either, the fact that nobody can prove their non-existence does not make their actual existence more likely. Thats the crux of all non-belief in supernatural beings. You go with the answer that is most logical and assumes the least.

John Brain
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I cannot prove the “teapot in space”, or ghosts, or genies, or leprechauns do not exist. It is not up to me to disprove the existence of everything that is said to exist; the onus is always on the person putting forward the proposition “a teapot floats in space” etc. to prove that the statement has merit, ideally by putting forward reasonable and repeatable evidence. One must not make the mistake of saying “if I can describe it then it makes it more likely to exist”; because this does not always bring you to the answer that assumes the least. Always start by going with the answer that assumes the least.

Edwin Deady
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Ian Macnaught Not at all. He is raising the question of prime mover and that the prime mover would have had to have come about by the sort of process he described. Not the same as initial Intelligent Design, whether on this planet or elsewhere. Please use that gunk between your ears.

Ian Macnaught
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John Brain Sure, but one would have to be a total idiot to spend almost your whole opposing genies or fairies, like Mr Dawkins. The difference between them and our Designer is, we’re here and can’t explain how we exist without Him. He’s told us that there’s life after our death and science cannot refute this. He sent his Son to die for us and by accepting him we can be spared what we really deserve. Then he gives our eternal destiny back into our own hands and will go against his own will, by honouring our wishes. Nobody will be unaware of the option open to them.

Ian Macnaught
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Edwin Deady My gunk has already been cleared, since I stepped into the light and saw the evolution myth for what it was, a lie. So Mr Dawkins cannot explain how Darwinism works on Earth, how life got started or how simple organisms get the massive amount to complex genetic design information to become more complex, but he transfers this farcical myth onto other planets and Superior Intelligent beings. Rarely has one seen such a demonstration of someone who is totally consumed with ‘blind faith’ in an desperate doctrine to try to deny what it blindingly obvious to any sane person, and that is that we are the product of Intelligence not a rock.

John Brain
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Ian Macnaught You are presupposing the existence of a thing that has not been proven, just as the people who believe in ghosts and genies and other gods might do. It is incorrect to say “my god alone exists; I know that he exists by my strong faith, and you must believe in him too, or you will suffer the consequences”. Your argument is basically saying “my god exists, therefore he exists” which is of course nothing more than a wish statement. The best you can ever hope to say is: “I believe “my” god exists by my faith, and I hope someday you will believe in him as I do, instead of the god you believe in now”. It’s hard for thinking people to believe in the existence of an omnibenevolent Supreme Being that created evil – told his followers to burn witches – and then condoned slavery! Please don’t mistake your feelings for “fact” – I would say this to a person of any religion who uses the same argument. If something like a living complex god did not need to be designed or created then lesser things – like the universe – would not have needed a designer or creator either –that is logic. I suppose your god could draw a perfectly round square if he wanted too, or make a married bachelor? He is all powerful… Read more »

Ian Macnaught
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John Brain God did not create evil. There was a rebellion against God, and it is this which opposes his holiness with evil. The Universe, Earth and Man were created ‘perfect’ without evil. God promised if anyone ate of the fruit that he had forbidden, that death would come into the Universe. But man chose to believe that God was a liar and that the actual liar was telling the truth, so he followed him instead. Hence death and decay came into this World. But God is going to restore his perfect Creation with a new Heavens and Earth, where only those who truly love him will dwell with him. To acheive this he sent his Son Jesus Christ that we might believe in Him and be ‘saved’. You fail to understand what a real Christian is. As Jesus tells us twice “You must be born again”. Each of us is born with the spirit of Satan, we are born athesists not knowing God. Someone has to tell us about God. Then we have to decide whether we believe in Him. When a person is ‘born again’ the spirit of Satan is removed and replaced with God’s Holy Spirit. That person has been ‘converted’. Now God has provided all the evidence you require to make a decision ‘for’ Him. But leaves the choice to you. When Muslims come to the… Read more »

Edwin Deady
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Ian Macnaught He doesn’t transfer anything. Try very hard and attempt to understand the problem of the Prime Mover that must have a beginning. That he couldn’t explain everything is simply that science extends knowledge and that which was unexplained is being explained.You really do not hold to the farcical God of the Gaps idea still, do you?

Ian Macnaught
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The Humanist Codex Issiah 45:7 “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things”. But not the evil of sin, rather the evil of punishment.

Ian Macnaught
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The Humanist Codex You cannot believe or have faith in God in your present state. The spirit that has controlled you since birth won’t allow you too. It blinds people from the truth. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”. (Romans 3:23) So the only way to believe or have faith in Jesus is through God’s mercy. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Ian Macnaught
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Edwin Deady No, I believe in a six day literal Creation. Do you think you or any created being can explain or understand the mind of Supreme Designer of the Universe ? I’m not so arrogant to imagine that I have the intellectual capacity to comprehend even the design a single living cell.

John Brain
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The Humanist Codex regarding the existence of supernatural beings, I don’t see any evidence to suggest that any of the gods worshipped in our human history exist either. The same arguments (which are not proofs) for the Abrahamic god could be used for any of the other gods worshipped throughout earths history. “If” a god can exist then lesser supernatural beings in comparison could theoretically exist – could – not “do”. I cannot make an absolute statement that some proposed supernatural beings do not exist while others do – like Ian Macnaught. For lack of evidence I suspend judgment till sound evidence comes in. Unlike Ian Macnaught I do not presuppose the existence of things I am trying to prove. I do not believe that gods, ghosts, genies, devils, angels etc. exist either. But ask me for proof that they do not and I will not be able to give it to you. A tea pot in space could have come from one of our spacecrafts garbage chutes, or an alien space craft, preposterous of course – but theoretically possible; again, it is not up to me to disprove absurd propositions, it is the person bringing forward a so called “truth” that has the onus to show evidence that his statement is valid. I would say however that even an all powerful god could not draw a perfectly round square.… Read more »

John Brain
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Ian Macnaught Your statement “god did not create evil” is absurd. Playing the devil’s advocate I have to remind you that it is your proposition that god is “the creator of all things”, and since you obviously believe in the existence of evil (“evil exists”) then only god can be responsible for it; however, if evil exists – and god did not create it – then it begs the question “what else did god not create”?

It is illogical and absurd to say “god is the creator of all things, evil exists, but god did not create evil”. LMAO!

John Brain
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Ian Macnaught, your statement that there was a rebellion against god is absurd. This would imply that god’s creations – including man – have free-will. The problem is that free-will is incompatible with the will of an omniscient – all powerful – supreme being. God being infallibly omniscient means that all coming events in history are predestined to have only one outcome and no other. Ian, If god were to tell you personally that you were going to heaven, then there is nothing you could do to get yourself into hell, because if you did go to hell under those circumstances then you would have to come to the following conclusion, either god did not not actually know you were going to heaven (gods not omniscient) or god lied to you (he is not omnibenevolent). The only way for an omnipotent god to allow for the existence of free will would be for him to lessen his powers – which would mean you could never say that god was all powerful anymore. If you have an all powerful and all knowing god man cannot sin, because sin can only happen if free will is possible – and free will is incompatible with the will of an all powerful all knowing supreme being. Ian, it’s interesting that you know “your” god exists by your strong faith, and that you also know… Read more »

Ian Macnaught
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John Brain 1) “The only way for an omnipotent god to allow for the existence of free will would be for him to lessen his powers” This is exactly the God that I believe in, for God is not power, but love. God denies his own will to allow us ‘freewill’. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”. (2 Peter 3:9) So God’s will is that everyone will be saved. But we know that it’s only a remnant that will be saved, why? Because God loves us so, he gives us the ‘freewill” to choose to love Him in return. This is true love, not the power of a pre-determining designer. 2) How do I know that Jesus is God and the only God ? On the day I first seriously considered Christ, a realisation came over me of the enormity of the consequences- if Jesus really rose from the dead. It would mean that the Bible was true and I faced a choice between life and death. A thought came into my head “It could be true?” At that moment Jesus spoke to me, and said “It is true and I love you”. There followed an incredible warming in my whole body when I was spiritually… Read more »

Ian Macnaught
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John Brain ” Did God create evil” question. I’ll be very candid with you Brian, I struggle with this issue. I don’t know the answer, but I put my total faith and trust in God, who came to Earth and suffered and died on a cross so I wouldn’t go into Hell. I have a feeling that we’ll never know, this side of Heaven, the true purpose of all of life’s sufferings. Again, we are enormously important to God -far more than we ever imagine. So much so that “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)

John Brain
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Ian Macnaught, If god lessened his powers he would no longer be “all powerful” – an attribute that all the major Christian denominations say is part of gods eternal essence. God could never tell you that you were going to heaven either – if he/she was not all knowing, it would only be his hope that you would. A god that was not omniscient could never be quite sure of what was going to happen. So forecasting the future accurately would always be in doubt. The bible speaks of god predestining some for salvation, and some for hell, which would not be possible if god did not infallibly know the future – only an all powerful and omniscient god can predestine the fate of humans – something you do not believe in. He (god) either is – or isn’t – all powerful and all knowing. And any god that created evil could never be called omnibenevolent either, especially a god that told his followers to kill witches and to take slaves – this is not the act of pure beneficent love in any sense that I understand it. When it comes to having a “personal godly revelation” one must always take into account the frailty of the human mind and body, all kinds of people from different faiths – from the beginning of time – have said that gods have… Read more »

Ian Macnaught
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John Brain God is all powerful. He could end the Universe in the next second. But you overlook that God is love. We deserve death. When Adam sinned and God would have been just to end his life right there and then, but he didn’t. God could left us with no hope of salvation and not sent Jesus to save us. But he didn’t. It’s because God loves his Creation and is merciful that we can be saved. Your witches and slavery smear aren’t cutting any ice. Jesus never told us do such things. He gave us a new commandment that ‘we were to love one another’ as He loved us. It was Christians who fought against slavery and finally got it abolished both in the UK and US. Atheistic communism enslaved hundreds of millions resulting in the mass murder of a over hundred million people. This is true evil, the work of God’s enemies led by Satan. All other gods do not exist except in the mind of those who are perishing, for no other God wrote down the history of the World before it happened, got themselves killed on a cross then rose again from the dead.

John Brain
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Ian Macnaught. If god is all powerful and all knowing then free will is impossible, because only predestination could exist under such circumstances. An all knowing god would infallibly know the singular outcome of all future events – meaning free will cannot exist. And if free-will does not exist then man has no choice in performing his predestined actions. The only way that free will could exist is if god was not all knowing – which would make him/her not all powerful anymore. Your argument is illogical Ian. If god is all powerful and omniscient then free-will cannot exist. Adam and Eve had no choice but to follow the will of god, and gods omniscient essence would only allow for predestined acts, it is absurd to punish acts carried out under gods predestination. Without free will there can be no sin. God is love? God shows his love to innocents in odd ways then. When god flooded the world he essentially murdered millions of innocent men women and children to get his point across, it doesn’t help that many of those people had never even heard of the god of Abraham. This is an act of love? I don’t think so. When Jehovah told his followers to kill witches in Old Testament law it caused untold misery for thousands of innocents, and made the intellect of god look pretty pathetic.… Read more »

Ian Macnaught
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John Brain 1) Your predestination argument falls, as God clearly states He wants everyone to be saved. But because of the freewill of man, they aren’t. God didn’t go to all the enormous effert to send Jesus down to die as some kind of joke. Jesus died for all, but only those who ‘choose’ to believe in Him are saved. Again God says “If anyone truly seeks Him they find find Him”. God wants people who truly love him, not some sort of robot. In your argument, where God knows everything beforehand, can God be surprised or ‘amazed’ ? No. But we have God’s Word which says “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel”. (Luke 7:9) 2) Adam had a choice or it wasn’t a true test. He could have refused the fruit and God would have privided a new Eve. Abraham faced a real test to kill Isaac. He knew that God can raise the dead and even though he killed his son, god would resurrect him. Jesus faced a true test when he was offered the World by Satan in the wilderness. Again he asked God to set-aside the cruxifiction, ‘but not my will but yours’. 3) Your miilions murdered ? Who made them… Read more »

John Brain
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If god is truly omniscient it wouldn’t matter what is said, because the state of omniscience and its repercussions takes precedence over all other states of being. All events in the presence of an omniscient being have a single predetermined outcome – there can be no choice. Being “all knowing” and “all powerful” has a specific meaning, and there are other states of being that cannot co-exist with it – and “free-will” is one of them. Again Ian you are presupposing the existence – and essence – of something for which you have shown no evidence. You are making up your own definitions of words to try and make your contradictory conclusions more acceptable – you have failed in this. You need to stop talking about what your unproven god can do and instead turn your attention to providing proof of his/her existence. Saying “my god exists therefore he exists” is not a proof – it is a failure of your argument. We know Ian, your god is the only god that exists, and you know this because you have had personal contact with him! Wow! And he must have instilled in you the knowledge that all other gods are false. Did he happen to say what his current views were on the killing of witches, or the taking of slaves? Isn’t it great that god speaks to you personally;… Read more »

John Brain
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Your argument in a nutshell Ian:

Ian Macnaught
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John Brain I don’t know why you’re firing all your doubts on me. I’m not an intellectual or theologian, nothing but a simple mechanic. But this I know, Jesus did speak to me and reveals Himself on a daily basis in my life to demomonstrate that He’s real and loves me. I can see you’re having a spiritual wrestling match with your maker, just as every believer in Christ has to go through. “You must be born again”. There’s an easy way for you to find out if Jesus is actually God and the only God. Ask Him yourself. If you genuinely seek Him, He will reveal Himself to you. But do you have control of your own willpower ? Only He can help you to overcome your unbelieving birth spirit.

John Brain
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I think I’ve made my case, have a great new year Ian.

Ian Macnaught
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John Brain Sure, you’ve made yous case, the jury is out on whether you’ve won. We both get to find out the result when we die.

Kn Nyland
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And yet…an Atheist who feels strongly committed to doing the”right”thing.That seems to me so rare these days that it should be commended.

Edwin Deady
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A coward as a well as a hypocrite. No faith, paid to have one? Do the honourable thing.

Bernard Doug Cook
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Thank you for posting Mr. Soutter! You are a highly principled & brave man….just watch your back! You never know who’s a nut job!!

Anestis Jordanoglou
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As the argument by the pastor is being made out of a scriptural context – I will respond in kind. Romans 2:14-15New International Version (NIV) “14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) ” Early Christianity understood and assumed that there is a noetic component, a sort of spiritual instinct, inherent in all people that allows them to lead virtuous lives with or without knowledge of Christ – a virtuous life is possible – but harder – Also morality isn’t something that’s static – a set of presuppositions or belief systems to live according to – it’s a way of life – fluid – meant to be lived into – as part of the “Kingdom of God” that Christ initiates through His Life Death and Resurrection – a state, hopefully, of love as that is the end of the Commandments – the two greatest ones which the pastor himself cites. There is the usual counterpoint made by many Christians – It’s easier to be moral when your focusing on incarnate goodness than when you’re… Read more »

N Lamar Soutter
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I don’t think Hitler was an atheist, and the others… Well, long story. Hitler, however, certainly was not an atheist.

N Lamar Soutter
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Anestis Jordanoglou
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Hitler saw the cross as a sign of weakness – he looked towards Nietzche as inspiration – an atheist who killed himself – you think he was a advocate of the beatitudes or something?

Anestis Jordanoglou
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i’ll get back to you on the rest

Anestis Jordanoglou
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can’t wait to read this one!