Thursday, February 23, 2006


A couple weeks ago, Allison had an inadvertent visitor to her blog who commented that she certainly read the Bible a lot. When I saw his comment, I visited his blog. Almost all the links were to atheist, agnostic, humanist, etc. sites and blogs. In several places on the blog, he states that he is “unencumbered by religion”. I find this fascinating.

While I would admit that I am often encumbered by religious people, I am certainly not encumbered by religion. I find great freedom and rest in my beliefs and in practicing Christian apprenticeship.

For example, what if I were to state that I am unencumbered by Islam, and yet, find it necessary to point this out to you often. To continually tell you that I am not encumbered by Islam, to tell you how it doesn’t affect me, to constantly be in contact with websites that talk about not being encumbered by Islam, would probably lead you to wonder what is my hang-up with Islam. On the other hand, if I were truly unencumbered with something that I do not believe, it would probably not occur to me to think about my religious encumbrance. It seems to me that spending much of my energy convincing others that I am unencumbered by religion, is definitely an encumbrance.
I feel much this way about people whose life mission seems to be to make it illegal for anyone to mention God or belief in God around anyone else. We mustn’t offend anyone. But I don’t understand how one can be offended by something they don’t believe exists. I’m not so sure that this behavior is not just a power-hungry, controlling personality. I am free not to believe, but you are NOT free to believe.

It has never made sense to me to argue the non-existence of something in which I don’t believe. I find it easy to argue in defense of something I believe, or have experienced, but to argue something that I claim has no affect on me seems very odd. It seems like arguing with an imaginary friend about whether or not he exists. Then to insist that I’m offended by someone else talking about something I don’t believe seems odder still.

Recently, Penn Jillette submitted an essay to NPR’s “this I believe series. The rule for these essays is that you may not write an essay about what you don’t believe. Penn cleverly skirted that issue, with a title that said, “This I believe, there is no God.” Now there is a true atheist. Penn’s essay dealt with his observations that to him proved there is not a God. Honestly, he had drawn a picture of a god that should be about specific things, and since those things obviously aren’t being divinely controlled, there can’t be a god. True that his god doesn’t exist.
But most self-proclaimed atheists I’ve met aren’t thinking like that. Most don’t point out the fallen world around them as evidence that there is no higher power. Most of them aren’t led to this belief by starving children, or the AIDS epidemic, or the holocaust. They are led to this belief by looking inward, being extremely insular; because god makes them feel bad. God is equated with morality. There are too many rules to follow. One can’t have fun if he believes in God. Many seem more like guilty, troubled, oppressed skeptics. They have an equally messed up view of a different god than Penn’s non-existent one. A very common factor among those who TRY not to believe is morality, desires and urges.
This seems to me to be very encumbered by religion. Penn doesn’t seem to be encumbered because his disbelief is actually a belief that God doesn’t exist. In fact, his evidence is a confused, non-selfish concern for others. He seems encumbered by the same things that trouble my God. Sickness, sin, starvation, wars, neglect, etc., and in that, he’s worrying about the things that trouble God. He could be closer to finding God than those who believe, or wonder, and pretend not to while they are angst ridden by feeling that if he does exist, they, themselves, are fried. On the other hand, Jillette who earns his living on the Las Vegas strip, seems not to be encumbered by moral issues. He claims not to gamble and never to have tasted alcohol.
I have so much more respect for those who seem to have it made, but who look outside themselves at the suffering and pain in others and arrive at the belief that this injustice could not exist if there was a God. So much more than those who seem to have it made and look at their own desires for more, urges and selfishness, and decide that they don’t want to there to be a God because God would be disappointed in them. This is not a disbelief, this is a belief that worries the conscience. It is a conscious acting that is contrary to a belief system that disallows what one wishes to do. This is conviction, and there is a great gulf between conviction and disbelief.