I was at home last week, and I had to put up with a bunch of my family’s weird friends. I stayed silent the whole time, because I’ve never told them what I really believe, and I really wished I could speak out.
My brother was there—let’s call him “Bob”—along with his girlfriend, his other friends, and one of those friend’s fiancée. All of them, like my family, believe in a 6,000-year-old earth, that evolution is an assault against Christianity, and in speaking in tongues.
The fiancée talked about this great book she was reading—it’s an allegory where a man marries a prostitute and ‘saves’ her. He shows her her worth, rescues her from the sex trade, etc. It’s based on the book of Hosea. It really didn’t sound like the kind of story that would make sense in a modern context, especially when she said the man married the prostitute practically against her will.
Then the other friend kept talking in this over-spiritualized language, that made him sound incredibly fake. But I don’t think he was being fake. I think he’s just studied pastoring and spirituality at his college so much that he doesn’t know how else to talk.
He asked the other friend’s fiancée about how she “operates within the gift of prophecy.” The fiancée said she does in fact have the gift of prophecy. She doesn’t tell the future, though. Instead, prophecy is giving a message from God to God’s people. It can be a word of encouragement, a word of correction, anything like that.
This definition of prophet is actually pretty common in some evangelical circles. It has great advantages for the practitioners—it feels really good to believe God is speaking to you through prophecies, but you don’t have that pesky “check to see if the prophecies come true” requirement given in the Bible. (Deut. 18:22).
For this woman, prophecy means she’s not afraid to say the “hard truths” that need to be said. The example she gave was, she’s from an atheist family. When she was alone with her atheist uncle’s young kids, she started telling them all about how Jesus came to save them, how everyone lives in sin, how they’ll go to hell without Jesus and what hell means. She terrified those kids and they went back to their atheist dad scared of hell. And I didn’t say anything about this.
The fiancée has another friend who’s a prophet, and this prophet does in fact tell the future. Or rather, God reveals the future to her; she usually doesn’t say it until it’s the right time to reveal it. In other words, when something happens, she says ‘I knew this was going to happen, but I couldn’t tell you.’ Even the fiancée said this makes her incredulous, but apparently she trusts her friend.
The example she gave of it working was, this friend knew the fiancee’s boyfriend was going to propose. She called him up and asked if he had bought the ring yet, right as he was praying and wondering who he should take ring shopping with him. It’s a very cool coincidence, and I would have called it God at work when I was a Christian, but it seems awfully empty compared to the other claims being made here.
They talked about speaking in tongues. They know of some church where the pastor speaks in tongues and then ‘interprets’ what the Holy Spirit said through him. The fiancée was incredulous at first, but they encouraged her to believe that we don’t know how the Holy Spirit works, so that could be true.
My brother mentioned a story my dad tells about a pastor who did that same thing. Dad says the message turned out to be basically the same every time, centering on a few of his favorite themes. The people didn’t seem to think this had any repercussions for the other pastor who does it.
Some of those things would have made sense to me, back when I was a believer. But now as I look at them I’m a bit shocked. Was I really like that? Are believers really out of their minds? It seems like they shut down all critical thinking when it comes to anything with the word “God” attached to it.
I really wished I could speak up, and say anything. It feels unnatural to stay silent. When I was a Christian, I would have shared my own experiences with prophecy, or my own insights on gifts of the spirit. I would probably have questioned the self-interpreting pastor, and maybe questioned the retroactive prophet, even as a Christian. I may have cautioned the fiancée to be loving and respectful, even as she shares the truth. As a Christian, I could have spoken out without fear, knowing that we both still believed in Jesus so if we got in an argument, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Now as an atheist I feel I have to stay silent for fear they’ll figure me out.
And then afterwards, some of us went up to the church and jammed. We played those worship songs I grew up with and I still love. I love playing bass, but I never get the chance except in church, and playing with these guys was so high-energy. All my frustration at the rest of the evening just evaporated.
Why is playing music so wonderful? Where could I go to play music like that if I was an atheist? They wouldn’t invite me along to their worship sessions. I don’t currently have any non-believer friends, much less friends who would get together and just jam for a while. Plus, worship music still means so much to me.
I feel like I’ve lost a lot by becoming an atheist.
How do you guys react? Do you have places in your real life where you are able to argue respectfully with Christians? Do you ever have to sit through and shut up with your religious family?
RE: "I was not ready to debate" - I don't know how long ago that was, but as I've mentioned before, you have progressively learned to organize your thoughts (as opposed to your earlier expressing only your feelings), and I would suspect that now, you're in a good position to hold your own in any such debate, particularly with a Christian, who has had no recourse to any other information than that which can be found in the Bible.
@Belle - I've certainly been shown by your example and others, that Richard Dawkins and the other Horsemen can have great value in rescuing people from religion when they need it.
Pleasure's all ours
I live in the south and am surrounded by the religious even at work, and so I dont jeopardize my job, I stay utterly silent.
As for musical release, I bought a Tascam digital multi track recorder, so I dont have to have others to play with. Lay down all the different tracks and then jam out to them. There is a 24 track with cd burner that I want to get and it is less than $1000.
I highly recommend buying a multi track digital portable studio, they are amazing.
I absolutely agree. I've got a little Tascam US-144 MKII that came with Cubase for recording. I lay down a rhythm guitar track or a little percussion with my electric drum set and jam for an hour at a time. It's not the same as playing with a group of people, but sometimes it's fun to be able to jam on your own.
The little portable studios are fantastic and decently priced. If you do not have one already I highly recommend getting an electric synthesizer/keyboard.It adds an entirely new world of possibilities. I bought a Yamaha for $100. Love it!
I have a synth, but started using DAW software (FL Studios)
I write on an old acoustic piano, but for recording I just imagine the notes in my head and just pop them in the DAW piano roll and pull up wav file samples or Virtual Synths to try different voicing. You need a decent Dual or Quad core computer.
Working on this song right now for a female singer. I hope she likes it. Added some free wave sound FX-Already planning to redo the drums.
Very nice! If one has not already been created we may well have to start a new group for original compositions/musically inclined free thinkers.
good idea...we certainly don't need a god to inspire us to write music!
If we start one I vote to call it The Athei (pronounced eighth) Day. It is the day after the 7th, not when god rested but when we laid god to rest in peace and raised our voices in song.
Perfect, be fun to collaborate as well
I am working on a way to upload my own recorded noise.
Substandard equipment has kept me from doing so.
I may have to wait until I buy the Tascam 24 track.