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Mesa Musings: I too was once an atheist (or an agnostic)

April 23, 2012|By Jim Carnett

Atheists are getting to be as evangelistic as most evangelicals.

They seem hell-bent — forgive the awkward reference — to exhort fellow nonbelievers to "come out" and announce to the world their rejection of divinity.

Bruce Gleason, in his April 14 Daily Pilot "On Faith" column "Time to come out, come out" (which more aptly could have been called "On Un-Faith"), encourages atheists to "be yourself, let others know how you believe and make this a better world by promoting a rational, reason-based belief system."

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Nothing wrong with that.

Only, I wonder, why?

Once upon a time I was an atheist. There, I've said it. Guess that means I'm out.

Maybe I was really just an agnostic, but, as Gleason says, "if you call yourself an agnostic and don't pray, don't go to church except for the holiday culture experience, and don't tithe, then you are behaving as an atheist does."

That describes my 10-year sojourn to a T.

I didn't believe in God but, if he did happen to exist, well, I didn't need him.

One thing I do recall, however, is that I felt no compulsion to push my belief — or lack thereof — on anyone else. OK, so I don't believe in God. What of it? So you say you do believe in God? Good for you. Whatever floats your boat!

I knew what I didn't believe and I didn't care about what others believed. The only time I recall trumpeting my nonbeliefs was when "Bible-thumpers" ambushed me.

"Do you have a personal relationship with God," fresh-faced adherents would chirp as they approached me on a beach, or in a mall, or on a campus.

"I'm an atheist," I'd say.

That either put a damper on further conversation or stimulated lively debate.

Gleason, in his column, advises atheists to talk to "people of faith." I join him in urging that.

"You'll be surprised that many of them are moderate believers," he observes, "and have often thought about discarding their faith."

What believer hasn't thought that, or experienced a "dark night of the soul?"

I certainly have. Believers haven't been automatically inoculated against life's tribulations.

But it seems our atheistic cousins are being advised to confront Christians at traumatic moments, like when our faith is teetering at the brink.

Permit me a word of caution: Don't!

Take it from a Christian who has struggled with many a despairing moment. During times of deepest anguish, when even the lifeboats are sinking, God has a way of breaking through in unanticipated ways. Prayers of desperation frequently elicit responses.

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