Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Christmas-Eve Atheist

My ever present doubt continues to keep me grasping for a palatable label. The term Atheist has always, and unfairly, conjured image of angry, modernist rationalist or it suggests some morose and angst-ridden existentialist unhappily polishing off his third semester while majoring in philosophy.

The unadulterated term 'Atheist' will not do.

While in seminary, I used to say I was the only Calvinist who didn't believe I was part of the elect. That's pretty funny, I guess. But, it didn't actually communicate the salient issue: my lack of faith. And, well, besides, reformed theology is not my denominational cup of tea.

When I started this blog, I thought the term Catholic Atheist was reasonable. It suggested both an affinity for the Church, while also, and ultimately, a profound inability to claim fidelity to it. Later, I found a funny definition for a Catholic Atheist: Someone who does not believe in God, and Mary is His mother.

However, I finally found a term that works. I am a Christmas-Eve Atheist.

See, recently my friend Jimmy Cooper was talking about the movie "Angels and Demons" (don't see it). He mentioned that Tom Hanks is asked, in the movie, if he believes in God. He responds, "Faith is a gift I have not yet received." Jimmy recounted that the phrase reminded him of my struggle – stubbornness – with Christian faith.

So, I am a Christmas-Eve Atheist as faith is a gift I have not yet received. I came up with the Christmas-Eve part, and it works on two levels. The first is more superficial in that Christmas-Eve is the time before receiving gifts. The second, of course, is more theological. Christmas-Eve is, in a very ecclesial sense, the time when everyone is without Christ. It is time of expectation. The whole Advent season is a time of hopeful waiting.

In thinking about this, I think this may also be a term that can be used pastorally. It may be a way for seekers to discuss their lack of belief, and fervent desire to be part of the Church and life of faith. It makes me wonder how I would have responded if someone, earlier in my life, had identified me as a "Christmas-Eve Atheist".

1 comment:

Jane Harvester said...

I guess I'm confused as well.
Do you believe in God or don't you?
That = atheism, "without God".

Are you unsure of a God, but allow that He MAY exist, whether or not we can truly know?
That = agnostic, "not known".

I find it odd that a potential athiest or agnostic would be offended by "liberal" theology (vs. conservative, or any, theology); if God doesn't exist or can't be found, any "religious" ritual would be considered null and void by someone who didn't believe. The fact that you have ideas about the correctness of various practices of faith leads me to believe you have some sort of theology...I just am confused as to whether or not it contains God.

I'm not trying to be a smart aleck, I'm just honestly confused on your position. I've read a couple of your posts and I can't put my finger on it.