It’s been well over two years since I made any attempt at prayer or tried to “experience” God. And I don’t miss him one bit. I don’t feel any loss in my life. No hollow feeling inside. No sense of loss or loneliness. No fear and loathing. What does this mean?
I believe it can only mean one of three things. Either
- there is a God, but I never knew him;
- there is a God and I knew him, but now I don’t; or
- there is no God since I feel no different with or without him in my life.
If there is a God and I never knew him, then I don’t know what it takes to know him. At the age of 12, at a revival meeting, overwhelmed by emotion at a powerful altar call, I came forward, prayed with the evangelist, and accepted Jesus into my heart. For the next few years, I prayed regularly, read my Bible, and attended church and youth activities faithfully. I felt different. I was certain I felt God’s presence in my life. Later, I left the spiritual life behind for the most part but never stopped believing in God and continued to pray on occasion. I continued to feel that God was always “there.”
Then as a young adult with a family, I really began to feel what I thought was God tugging at my heartstrings. I accepted a friend’s invitation to visit his church and was overwhelmed as all the sights and sounds of church life came rushing back at me. Soon after that, I made a very emotional decision to “rededicate my life” to Jesus. From there, I spent about 20 years mostly being a faithful evangelical Christian. I served in youth ministry, led worship, taught Sunday School, was involved in men’s ministry, served on boards, and even preached a time or two. I was far from perfect spiritually — who isn’t — but all the while I was sincerely seeking to do what I thought was God’s will. I prayed, read the Bible, did most of the things I thought were important for a healthy spiritual life. Again, I was sure I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. I had spiritual experiences that at the time felt absolutely authentic and as real as anything.
I know that I was genuinely seeking God, so if he is real I should have been able to commune with him. This was further validated by many comments from fellow Christians along the way. Many times people would tell me they could sense the “anointing of the Holy Spirit” upon my life and ministry. (Of course, there are other explanations for that; my point is to illustrate that if they had something spiritually that I did not, certainly I wouldn’t be able to fool them all, along with myself.)
Well, maybe I did know God then — but now I don’t. Maybe Jesus has left the building, so to speak. If that is true, shouldn’t that be evident in some way? Shouldn’t I — or those closest to me — be able to detect something different, something missing? Well, I certainly can’t, and if anyone else can, they haven’t said so. In fact, maybe the sweetest thing anyone has said to me since I left the church behind was from a dear friend who happens to be a strong Christian, if a bit unconventional. After reading my thoughts about why I left Christianity, she said, “You may be more “christian” now than when I first met you, if you know what I mean…”
So if losing God has changed me, it hasn’t been for the worse, even from the point of view of at least one Christian. (Other Christians close to me, both family and friends, have implied similar feelings. None of them has shunned me or said anything to indicate that they think I have changed for the worse. There are a few on the periphery of my life — mostly “online only” friends — who don’t seem to want to be close to me anymore.)
That leaves only the final option — there is no God. I suppose there is also the possibility that there is a God, but he or she or it is completely disconnected from humanity like the deist god, which means no one can sense god in any way. To me, that’s pretty much the same thing as saying god does not exist.
Either way, he or she or it has no relevance to my life. Call me atheist or agnostic or heathen — I don’t particularly care. The bottom line is I now live my life as if there is no god.
And I’m not missing a thing.