Atheism for Lent

You’ve heard the story
You know how it goes
Once upon a garden
We were lovers with no clothes

Fresh from the soil
We were beautiful and true
In control of our emotions
‘Til we ate the poisoned fruit
And now it’s

[Chorus]
Hard to be
Hard to be
Hard to be
A decent human being

Wait just a minute
You expect me to believe
That all this misbehaving
Came from one enchanted tree?

And helpless to fight it
We should all be satisfied
With this magical explanation
For why the living die?

[Chorus]

Child birth is painful
We toil to grow our food
Ignorance has made us hungry
Information made us no good
Every burden misunderstood

I swung my tassel
To the left side of my cap
Knowing after graduation
There would be no going back

And no congratulations
From my faithful family
Some of who are already fasting
To intercede for me
Because it’s

Hard to be, hard to be, hard to be a decent human being.

-David Bazan, “Hard to Be”


It is Ash Wednesday, and like so many Christians around the world I am observing Lent this year. I thought it would be a good start to this blog by writing at the beginning of something.

Lent is meant to bring one into suffering alongside Christ. 40 days of suffering yield to joy on Easter. These days it seems that people use it like a restart to their New Year’s Resolutions. Give up chocolate, soda, or sex for 40 days. Suffer without it. Pat yourself on the back when you make it halfway. No offense to those people, but eh.

Lent is marking a renewal of sorts for me. I walked away from the Christian church in August 2015. I’m just now making my way back. I have never been turned off from the church by Jesus. Or by a believer in another faith. Or by an atheist. It’s always been a Christian that makes me want to walk away. I’m trying not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But it’s difficult. So I’m taking the opportunity of the Lenten season to do a few things to try and strengthen my faith in Jesus and his teachings.

  1. Atheism for Lent: the wonderful Peter Rollins offers a 40 day Lenten program to take Christians through the greatest critiques of Christianity and of God. Reading writings from atheists and critiquers of religion “not to judge them, but to let them judge us.” This year’s theme is about the love affair between atheism and theism. One doesn’t exist without the other. I’m really excited about this, because I’ve reclaimed a much more progressive Christianity that listens to other voices and doesn’t exist in a fundamentalist echo chamber.
  2. The Liturgists Lent meditations: I’ve followed the Liturgists for some time now. Finding them helped me to keep from totally unravelling. This year, they are releasing meditations daily for their Patreon subscribers. I became a patron just so I could get access to these liturgies. They take the form of Lectio Divinia, which is a standard and highly used practice for Christian meditation.
  3. Bye Facebook: I wasn’t going to do this until just about an hour ago. But I decided that Facebook is completely unhelpful to what I am attempting to do this Lenten season. It’s a time suck, it gets me riled up, and I find that fundamentalist Christians on the internet make me hate God. Especially Christians who voted for 45. There is such a disconnect between the love of Christ and that man. I do not understand it. And so, I will stop attempting to understand it, and will stay off Facebook for Lent mainly to focus on the first two things I’m doing: Atheism for Lent and daily meditation practice.

The above song lyrics are from David Bazan (of Pedro the Lion fame). His 2009 album Curse Your Branches has been my Lenten playlist today. It seems fitting, since he so eloquently and emotionally struggles with his doubts on this album. It’s worth taking a look at the sincere criticisms of Christianity and religion. That’s exactly what I intend to do for the next 40 days.

Are you observing Lent? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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6 thoughts on “Atheism for Lent

  1. I like that you’re taking part in “Atheism for Lent.” Learning why the other side believes what they do always helps lessen animosity between conflicting groups. Similarly, I always like to go out and find Christian apologetics and critiques of atheism so that I can better understand what I (don’t) believe and learn a little about who I am.

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    • Hey! Thanks for stopping by! I’m really enjoying the reflections so far. This week is an introduction and more contemplative. I think next week it is getting into more serious critiques.
      Rollins says that atheism and theism really have a love affair, that they intertwine and dance together in something beautiful. I believe that to be true! My theism is not something I am militant about. Some days I don’t even know. Embracing the doubt is something that I think more theists need to do.
      I am a history teacher, and I am very insistent on seeking out opposing viewpoints and stories. I try really hard to let my students know that you absolutely must look critically at any issue, because there are always multiple sides to it. In that same vein, I love that you do the same! What Christian theologians do you seek out and read? Also, random, but are there critiques of atheism from writers of other religions? I feel like Christianity is always the one that gets talked about but there are so many other belief systems!

      Thanks for following šŸ˜€

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  2. read this last night and this morning was actually reading through the words of Jesus to see how he interacted with different oeopke.. sinners, church goers, his own friends.. anyway Matthew 27. I read it and immediately thought of this blog. hope it bears value to your lent.

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      • gonna make me talk and stuff huh… well in particular the first 12 verseS stood out. you spoke about how Christians make you feel like leaving church, and it is probably the Christians that acts as the pharisee and scribes did in their time. the idea to do as they say but not as they do. I think what the church tells us to do often is right and what they do is often not what they said to do. it’s this idea that really there is one teacher, one instructor, one voice that we are all to really follow. I think it is a message of hope to those out off by the church and a message of rebuke to those who as Jesus so delicately put in verse “shut the kingdom of heaven in their faces.” this blog and goal you have is a challenge, but I have seen many fall away from the faith because of it. not because they lacked faith, but lacked community to push them in the right direction.
        struggle with faith, but always have someone in your corner reminding you of the greater purpose. the point is.. find your church through this and not in spite of it. many will tell you this is foolish and that is because they have a desire to remain stagnantly fat and happy in their comfortable place. sometimes my church is the people I see on Sunday morning and sometimes my church is the voice of descent and rebuke coming from a friend who has anot opposite opinion from me
        either way it I’d from the love of Jesus. find those who love Jesus and also find those who challenge your beliefs.
        good day and as always, I hope my incoherent rambling form some kind of point to help inspire or make you angry at me šŸ˜‰

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      • Yes, I’m going to make you talk. Now that is something I can reply to šŸ˜‰

        I totally get you on this! And thanks for clarifying that you meant my comments about being turned off from the Church by Christians. You’re absolutely right, they’d be the modern day Pharisees and Sadduccees. There is a lot of hypocrisy in the church at large (specifically referring to the American church on this) and there has been for a while. I can’t stand it. I can’t stand it when people would rather be bigoted than love their neighbor. I can’t stand it when Christians would vote for a man who dehumanizes minorities and denigrates women. And not only did they vote for him, but they have the balls to say that he’s “bringing God back to the White House.” There is a complete disconnect between Jesus, his teachings, and supporting a political leader like Trump. I have other thoughts I’m forming on the role of Christians in empire and politics, but that is a forthcoming blog post wherein I will address those!

        The lack of community I’ve had since leaving Antioch is something I’ve definitely noticed and have attempted to remedy several times. I have visited churches throughout my year and a half away. None of them have been the right place for pushing me to find the good, true, and beautiful, and to actually follow Jesus’ teaching. None of them, that is, until I found UBC in Waco. I’ve only been one time, but I think I have found the place that fits for me. It’s funny, because I refused to visit for a long time because it’s Baptist… I got my stereotypes on Baptists flip turned upside down a few weeks ago. And it was a wonderful decentering experience.

        With the recent events in this country, with wanting resist 45’s authoritarian regime and the very concerning alt-right movement, it has been made ever the more clear to me that it is REALLY hard to effect change and justice in the world if you’re going at it alone. So I do want to say that I’m in the process of addressing the concerns you’ve got by finding a church that fits me. UBC was a breath of fresh air, to be trite. Almost like the best of all worlds rolled into one. I’ve still only been once, but it’s the first church I have visited since leaving Antioch that hasn’t made me want to run for the hills.

        So no, you didn’t make me angry haha. Good thoughts, all.

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