Daddy, why don’t you come to church anymore?

I knew the question would come eventually. I have been kidding myself for ages that my daughter would accept the status quo and not question it until she was an argumentative teen. At that point we could discuss the issue properly. I don’t desire having a deep conversation with a pre-teen about how god is a lost concept and the combination of science and logic have reduced the chances of his existence to little more than highly improbable.

To be honest I have been afraid of this question. Afraid because I simply did not know how she would respond to the only answer I could give. That is, “Daddy doesn’t believe in god any more darling.”. I have pondered on what lies I could tell to divert the issue, but one thing that the limey daughter is good at (along with pretty much all children her age) is perpetually asking “why” until she gets the answer she is seeking. So the fear of being caught trying to lie my way out of that one has been there too.

So here I am, thinking back on the conversation we had had yesterday and my current situation. I am still out of work, life at home is occasionally stressful, the worry about how much longer we can manage before things get really serious is present and looming larger. The depression that I mentioned at the start of the year (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/good-riddance-2013/) is still lingering in the background ready to swallow me up at the slightest hint of trouble. If there is one thing I desire to avoid, it is to add the fate of my eternal soul to the imagination of my daughter, there are other more pressing matters that we face daily.

Until the point she asked the question, it had been a great day. We found a way to purchase a cheap Kinect for our XBOX 360 to replace the one that broke a mere 2 months outside of its warranty. This is a purchase guaranteed to add pleasure to the household; it also served to clear the unused Wii and Wii Fit Board from my office as they went in part exchange. In addition, daughter and daddy were on their way to a ski centre to have a ski lesson and toboggan session at a bargain offer price. These things need grasping when there simply isn’t the freedom to spend money on days out.

So, after a few seconds of utter panic, not helpful when driving, I answered with the truth, that I no longer believe in god. She asked why I don’t believe. I knew that would be the next question, I panicked for longer and said that I don’t think it makes sense for there to be a god. I could have gone on about how I think the science of evolution makes the god hypothesis impossible. I could have explained how I used to believe in a literal creation. I could have said lots, but I wanted a short conversation because the subject of the limey daughter’s own beliefs is still a subject that Mr and Mrs limey are processing. Making our daughter the battleground for our conflicting worldviews is not somewhere either of us wants to go.

The limey daughter does get evolution though, science is something she has great interest in and recently she has been hovering up the Horrible Science series of books in the school library. These are her bedtime reading of choice. It is not unknown for her to come out of her bedroom and call me from the top of the stairs so that she can share a science fact she has just read. I can get cross with her she does that at a time when she is supposed to be settling down to sleep. I want to encourage excitement in nature and the workings of the world around us. If I use her thirst for scientific knowledge to explain how my faith was undermined, who knows what the result will be? If only I could tell the future.

Daughter accepted my explanation and the conversation moved on, we continued to talk about the upcoming ski lesson. We had a wonderful two hours together, getting very hot and tired. Afterwards we came home and enjoyed some more XBOX time, using the new Kinect of course, since mummy limey had and evening at work. All in it was a great day we had together, but I am wondering what she thinks of my non-belief and when she will raise it again. I fully expect her to and more than anything, I want it to be something that she feels she can raise. The worst result will be if it is seen as a taboo subject.

As I type this on Sunday morning, a time normally reserved for me to have my alone time at home, to write, or study or read or whatever, daughter is in the living room playing. She decided this morning that she didn’t want to go to church. Mrs limey thinks it is because she is still tired from yesterday, that’s possible, but I can’t help wonder if there is another reason.
So, the question I have been fearing came, yet the world didn’t end and life has not changed. If only all my fears could turn out to be so harmless.

The Coming Out Begins

I’ve mentioned that a conversation on membership at our new church will be had soon (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/two-things-that-happened-last-sunday/). Well, its happened.

My wife mentioned that she’d spoken to the pastor about prospective membership and that he was due to come round and have a preliminary chat with us. Well I couldn’t hold it off any longer, there was only one thing I could do and that was indicate my concerns.

So we had a discussion about how I was having doubts in my faith. That my increased scientific understanding had led me to doubt significant biblical events to the point where I now questioned the reliability of the bible.

We talked around a few things and my wife mentioned that at least I hadn’t rejected it all completely and gone atheist on her. Ouch. I guess that was my cue to fess up completely, but I couldn’t do it. She did confirm that she had strongly suspected the situation for a while.

My justification for not going the full confession with her is that, the news is still new to her and that to go straight to the end point would be a bit much. I know its dishonest, but I think its better than full disclosure at the moment. My journey to atheism was not short and I think exposing it as a short journey might not be that helpful. So there is more to discuss.

Membership won’t happen for me

So upshot of the discussion is that my wife suggested that I don’t go for membership of the church, but that she still will.

There were other things she said too. She expressed a desire for us to continue to have conversations on religion. She also said she wanted us to continue to go to church as a family and it was important to her that I supported what she wants to do within the church, especially as I do know what it is like to be committed to the church as a Christian. This is all fine with me. I can’t expect support for my position if I can’t support hers.

The next day, the pastor came round to chat about membership and before he chatted to my wife, I went for a short walk with him to explain my position. He understood and took it on board, he thanked me for my honesty and explained that given that information there is no way he could accept me into membership. The conversation ended positively and we continue to build what I think is going to be a good friendship.

The pastor has lent me a book called, “Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?” I think its clear from the title that the conclusion will be acceptance of evolution, likely to be guided with a divine hand. I have started reading it and the opening chapter makes it clear that its primarily aimed at Christians who wish to answer further questions on evolution. Maybe this isn’t the right sort of book for me, but I’m going to read it anyway and see where it goes.

Where next?

Given the open and honest conversations we’ve had, I am positive for the future for my wife and I. I had built up a lot of fear in myself on how I could tell her and what would happen. It turns out that fear was unfounded.

Two Things that Happened last Sunday

There are two things that happened in church last Sunday that I would never have expected to happen in our last church and I think are a credit to our new church and the Pastor in residence.

Leavers being blessed

The first thing was during the service the Pastor mentioned by name a couple who had felt that they wanted to try another church in the town. The pastor mentioned this and said they’d been at tenders for about 7 years and that while he was sure they church would miss them, he wished them well and wanted to make it clear that they were welcome back any time they wished.

I think it is a good thing that a couple have a respect for their Pastor to the point that they can have that conversation with him and it shows grace that the Pastor points it out in church and the sensitive way he did and makes it clear that while he does not want them to leave he wishes them all the best.

This is something that I simply can’t imagine happening in our last church. I have seen many people leave the church in the past few years and they all disappeared silently.

An open atheist being made welcome

During coffee after the service my wife and I got talking to a couple of ladies of similar age to us. They both have children, some of which are similar in age to our daughter. One of the ladies is a Christian and had just come back from a Christian weekend away and was positively buzzing with enthusiasm as a result. The other lady was from a distinctly non-Christian household, her story of involvement with the church is that some of her children started coming to the Friday evening youth club at the church and eventually two of her daughters expressed a desire to attend church on Sundays. She and her husband agreed they would let them make their own decision and so she brings them to church on a Sunday morning but she sits in the church foyer and does not attend the service herself.

She admitted that at first it was awkward but the church lets her do that and is fine with it. She was quite happy and unembarrassed to profess her lack of faith and her Christian friend didn’t appear to let it affect the friendship that has obviously developed, although there was mention of some conversion attempts but I got the distinct impression it was not overt and was not a big issue.

I admire both the church’s stance in making this possible and in the lady in questions honesty in being in that situation. There was a level of acceptance and integrity there that I simply could not imagine occurring in my last church. There are definitely people at my last church that are capable of enabling this sort of situation to happen, however I just can’t see the church leadership making it a comfortable situation.

At one point in the conversation I told the lady that she was being more honest by expressing her position and sitting outside the service than someone who attended the service and pretended. It was meant as a compliment to her, but I was fully aware of the hypocrisy within myself as I was saying it. It was a challenge to me to be more honest about my state of faith, especially with those I love.

So what next for me?

Well, I don’t know yet. All I know is that at some point I’m going to have to stop avoiding the inevitable. Yet, I still can’t bring myself to say it straight because I am afraid of the hurt and upset that will result. I would feel immensely guilty about being the cause of that.

Sometime soon there is going to be a conversation about becoming members of the church. I know that when this church writes to our last church that there will be a glowing reference of us as a couple and a family. However, I don’t think its fair or right for me to make the same profession of faith that I did when we became members of our last church. To do so would be to lie and be dishonest.

I think what I will do is tell my wife that I am not sure I can make that same declaration and see what the conversation leads to. She knows I am having doubts as we have touched on the subject before (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/you-have-my-permission-to-be-controversial/).

Can a Christian Lose their Faith?

Well obviously yes, since I now call myself an atheist, having been a Christian for many years. Yet the answer is not at all that cut and dried.

I once had a discussion with a close friend of mine about this very question and we disagreed very strongly with no common ground at all.

I argued, that yes, one could lose their faith. One could come to the conclusion, for various reasons that they didn’t want to be a Christian any more and actively reject their old Christian life. Or one could ‘backslide’ as we called it in those days, and eventually fall away from faith.

My friend argued the opposite; that a Christian could not lose their faith. His argument was that the action of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian would be an active block against desertion of faith.

His point rang bells with me, because I had once held that view too.

As a young child at boarding school inZambia, I distinctly remember having discussions with school friends along the lines of ‘Once you are a Christian and God has you in the care of His hands, then He will never let go and you will always be a child of His’. I’m paraphrasing there, but the basic synopsis is that once you are a Christian, then its just not possible for you to unconvert. It’s a once only irreversible decision. I’m not sure where the original idea came from, but it was reinforced by the conversations that children have between each other on the playground.

Years later, here I am having this discussion again, but from a very different perspective. I wonder what had changed.

At the time we were both very definitely Christians. He is now a vicar and I am now this anonymous internet blogger spouting my stuff as if its important. He probably reaches more people weekly than I do.

What if I do it?

Anyway, during the conversation I posed the hypothetical suggestion that at some point in the future I would abandon my faith. Of course I knew it would never happen, but lets ignore that and just pretend it does, oh the irony!

My friend’s retort was that if that were to happen he’d question if I was a proper Christian to start with. Ouch!

But of course that would never happen because he knew I was a proper Christian.

I wonder how the conversation will go when (if?) he finds out about my change of heart. I guess for the moment I’ll just have to ponder, but eventually he’ll find out and I am a little bit curious as to how the conversation will go.