Religious “Atheism”: My Coming Out Party

The term “atheism” is intricate in its own accord — its origins are rooted in the Greek word “atheos” meaning “without god(s)”. Prior to the 18th century the word “atheist” was used as an insult (and still is in some circles) and it was then, in the 18th century, that the first individuals were self-identifying as atheists.

Broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities, and more specifically, it is the position of no deity; atheism is an absence of belief that any deity (and its counterpart) exist.

Absence of theism to some.

Irreligious to others.

By that definition, I’m not an atheist, nor do I self-identify with atheism, yet I feel like a religious atheist.

And maybe I’m using the word “religious atheist” in an erroneous manner,  yet it seems like the only two words that can aptly describe me at the moment (perhaps, the term ” anti-religious theist” is a better fit).

A religious atheist!?!

An anti-religious theist!?!

Yes, a religious atheist.

Yes, an anti-religious theist.

Welcome to my coming out party.

I’m a religious atheist (or anti-religious theist ) and upon acknowledging this personal truth, there has been a catalyst for freedom.

Anti-religious theism is not lack of belief in lightness or darkness.

Both religious atheism and anti-religious theism, in my own words, is defined by an unbelief in the secular church institution.

Tithing? Nope.

Baptism? Nope.

Confirmation? Nope.

Bible’s infallible word? Nope.

Atonement? Nope.

Christianity being the “one true religion”? Nope.

Religious hierarchy? Nope.

Happy, shiny people? Nope.

Intercessory prayer? Nope.

I’m an anti-religious theist through and through; it’s liberating.

Being someone who endured spiritual abuse, it’s not a matter of feeling vilified and wanting justification.

Or throwing a clenched fist in the air and screaming, “You’ll rue this day, God.”

Or projecting my discontent.

Or being a volatile theist.

I’m a religious atheist; I don’t believe in the religious institution anymore.

I hear empty words.

I feel hollow actions.

I observe disingenuous facade after disingenuous facade.

I taste the inauthentic musings of a superiority complex.

I trust my intuition.

I trust my brain.

I trust my soul.

I trust my truth.

I trust my worldview more than I trust a superficial, sanctimonious, and superiority riddled system that creates an image of “I’ll pray for you because it makes me feel good.”

Why I’m a anti-religious theist.

I can’t hold onto a system that hides perpetrators, but punishes victims.

Why I’m a religious atheist.

I can’t accept a system that tells people they are aren’t good enough.

Why I’m an anti-religious theist.

I can’t acknowledge a system that belittles women and the LGBTQI community.

Why I’m a religious atheist.

I just can’t wrap my pretty little head around a religious institution which puts man-written scripture ABOVE our natural ethics and passes it off with a nonchalant, “clearly the scripture says…”

I’m an anti-religious theist.

I know my words may seem disparaging and I’m sure I’ll be hit with, “You’re the enemy” line, but this is MY truth.

I think we, all of humanity, needs to honor our personal truths with one caveat: don’t put an unjust, bigoted, homophobic, violent, misogynistic deity above human ethics.

I’ve heard this multiple times over the past week, “But my church isn’t like that…”

Do you want a cookie? A reward for attending a church that doesn’t abuse its members (that you know of)? Even Mark Driscoll apologists will utter something similar.

Ultimately, until I hear (and read) more statements and stories of religious bodies (not just people) standing up and speaking out against spiritual abuse that is (and had been) occurring not just in our nation, but across a globe, I simply don’t care how your church is sooo different.

“But the church does so much good.”

If you are one to refute any criticism on the church with the above statement, I’d agree with you.

Broadly, the church does an amazing job at outreach for the homeless, poor, youth, at-risk population, etc (I leave out mentioning mission trips because, for me, many religious institutions barter shelter, food, and education for their “salvation”).

You’re right, the church does good, but depending on who is asked, the same could be said about Timothy McVeigh.

Abuse, neglect, and darkness should never, ever, ever be minimized, and from my experiences, that’s what I feel the religious institution does as a whole.

So where does that leave me?

Simply, it leaves me with endless freedom to experience the bliss my spirit can’t feel without the incessant pounding the hammer of fear, control, and power that religion institutions perpetuate.

I’m just a anti-religious theist who is flirting and giving butterfly kisses to the Divine.

Yes, I believe in the Divine.

In the Universe.

I believe in something bigger than myself.

I believe in something that yearns for us to spread more light than darkness.

Whatever pronoun that’s utilized, I believe in It in the very air I inhale from the slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

I believe in Her that shows up in extraordinary colors rippling from a Colorado sunset.

I believe in Him that cradles my head between His hands as I soothe my own tensions.

I believe in something that exhibits itself on the dew of a baby pink rose petal as a new day is ushered in or the flushed cherub cheeks of a young child laughing from a farting noise or the humility from a homeless man as he crawls to ask for fifty cents to purchase a cup of hot coffee to warm his bitterly cold hands.

This is something I believe in.

What about fellowship? Camaraderie?

This is where I become an odd disaster. I do volunteer twice a month at a fundamentalist church to help in the nursery. I know it’s odd, but it’s more than worth it to feel the warmth of the Universe in my hands in its purest form.

Maybe, I just can’t let go completely or maybe I know where to directly go to receive It.

Being an anti-religious theist can be tough because an assumption is made that I abhor everything in the religious institution, including a deity that religious zealots place a monopoly on when the contrary is true.

Perhaps, it’s my old soul or my poetic vision of the Divine, that I hold the religious institution to an impeccable standard.

In any event, finding a community that is both healing and empathetic to not just my beliefs, but to all worldviews, I thought was near impossible. The first thought that creeps into my mind is, “I wonder who is gonna try to fucking save me first.”

I should clarify it WAS impossible until I found (and attended) HFASS (House For All Sinners and Saints) which features a true gift to every worldview in Nadia Bolz-Weber.

Funny and quirky; sincere and trustworthy; empathetic and progressive.

If I could package all the good qualities of the religious institution and humanity, it would rest in Nadia and HFASS.

I don’t believe in over 75% of the theology, but how I knew I could take at least one positive point home every Sunday was by this qualifier:

When she spoke, I didn’t want to do either of these things: projectile vomit and/or punch her in the face.

Yup, that’s the metric I use when I visit a religious institution; if you make me hurl or throw punches, I’m fleeing like convict.

Every single time, I’ve visited HFASS, I’ve parted with a reflection (yes, even when using scripture) that makes me feel a bit more trusting…at least in this place.

I’m a anti-religious theist, yet in this place I feel peace.

I feel inexplicable warmth.

I feel unrelenting brightness.

I feel innocent joy.

I feel profound depth.

I feel the crashing waves of life come to a silent still.

I feel my hands open up to receive myself.

I feel my truth.

I feel like an adolescent German Shepherd seeing its master for the first time.

Glee. Exuberance. Vivaciousness.

I feel fucking awesome in this community that covers a wide array of beliefs.

I’m an anti-religious theist, yet my heritage has a slight hold on me as I enjoy eucharist.

Yes, I still take eucharist. Well, at least, when I attend HFASS.

It just seems … right.

It just seems right.

This just seems right.

One of the most recent visits at this haven, I was meditating and had this imagery of rabbinical Jesus receiving a tattoo with me. We were both being tatted on our wrists the phrase “the truth will set us free” and with every rattle of the tattoo gun, we shed tears simultaneously. Not because of the stinging pain, but because shedding religion was freeing.

Jesus with his matted hair and leathered skin from the scorching sun comforted my self-realizations with his mighty compassion. With his callous-riddled left hand, he covered my right hand and whispered, “Eff the church, love your truth.”

“Fuck the church, love your truth.”

Even if it was just an imaginary Jesus, he had the right idea.

Fuck the religious institution.

Fuck the abusive leaders hiding behind a deity.

Fuck the repetitive praise and worship music.

Fuck the sanctimonious bullshit.

Fuck the “you need religion to be moral” mentality.

Fuck the oppression.

Fuck the misogyny.

Fuck the cowardice.

Fuck the fear.

Fuck the power.

I’m an (anti)religious (a)theist.

Thanks for attending my coming out party.

Drop your proselytizing material in the waste receptacle before you exit.

 

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