I think an atheist might be closer to God, or G_d, or whatever you want to call it (I don’t think He’s a he), than most preachers. An atheist brings nothing to the table. Doesn’t even believe in the table, but more about that later. I threw it all away, and I mean to say, you have to have it before you can throw it away. I had it up to here. Born again, washed in the blood, Heavenly Highway Hymns, I was a conservative Young Republican that wound up on the road to Damascus, looked around and had no idea how I got there. I had the map, and I had studied it a great deal. Knew how to get from A to Z, never mind that it’s easier to do when your alphabet only contains half the letters.
I watched my best friend, I mean my very best childhood to adulthood friend-whom-I-nicknamed-Brother friend die a slow death at the hands of a cancer that was supposed to be treatable. I learned that nothing is treatable. You not only can die of everything and anything, you will. Life will do lots of things to you. It will make you laugh and make you cry, make you shake your head in wonder and your fist in anger, but, in the end, it will kill you. I threw out the roadmap and headed for the wilderness.
You have to give atheism a good hard look, try it on for size, at least acknowledge its presence in the room, or else you’ve blinded your own faith. That plucking out your eyes, lest something offend thee stuff, that’s where that kind of thinking leads you. I respect a cat like C.S. Lewis because he looked down into the well and didn’t see his reflection. Name me a contemporary Christian leader who brought up an empty bucket or two, I’ll show you someone I can at least look in the eye. That evangelist that smoked crack with gay prostitutes, I bet he can give some real life lessons. Jimmy Swaggart, his insides so tangled up with southern guilt, contradictions and lies, he couldn’t live with himself anymore. You gotta respect that. At least, you ought to.
I threw it all away, but, when you do that, what you find is, some of it comes back to you. And it did. Atheism was a nice guy, but I couldn’t hang with him. He drank me under the table and then claimed there was no table. I knew better. All the same, I also knew it was man made.
Man makes religion because he needs something to hold his fears. Because he needs something to hold on to. What he sometimes doesn’t see is that there’s already something there, something that’s been there all along. Something that was there on the night Christ was born, something that heard the shout “the Great God Pan is dead!” Something that Native Americans called the Spider Above, Ocasta the Stonecoat. Doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is that it calls you. It’s been calling poets and preachers, artists and alcoholics all along. People who see things that aren’t supposed to be there.
When I stopped calling myself a Christian, stopped believing the Bible was what they had always told me it was, I became “just” a spiritual person. There is a great freedom in saying, “I think there’s something there, but I don’t know what it is.” You suddenly realize, I’m not fooling myself, I’m not fooling anybody else. I’m walking in the truth. You think, everybody is an agnostic. Nobody has been there and come back to tell the tale. Maybe they’ve caught glimpses. But nobody knows. And if they do, they don’t know they know. Not yet.
Not knowing is something I can believe in with full heart and mind. That’s the true I AM. I AM. I don’t know what I AM, but I know that I AM. And that’s enough for now. That’s me telling you that I’m not telling you what to believe because all I know is that I don’t know. That’s what I believe. It’s what I know.
I’ve connected to something bigger than myself before. Thrown my line out there and got a hit from something deep and powerful, felt its energy shoot up the line and through me. Once you catch that, you can’t throw it back. You’re truly hooked. I learned to do it almost at will when I was on stage with my band. It’s just a matter of knowing it’s there and being open to it.
It doesn’t come in a can, not in a book, it isn’t dug up out of the dirt, it doesn’t come down from the clouds. It doesn’t separate people. No reason to fight for it or kill for it. No reason to stamp it and put a name or a flag on it.
Some of the things that come back to you might surprise you. Sometimes, right in the middle of the chaos, you’ll find a perfectly formed nugget, a glimpse into someone else’s song that rings true for you. The chorus of the old hymn, Farther Along, says this:
Farther along, we’ll know more about it,
Farther along, we’ll understand why
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.
I find nothing to argue with there. That’s gospel truth that a nonbeliever/unbeliever like me can believe in. There’s more to the picture. We’re more than the sum of our parts. I threw away the Book of Life, because I am living the Book of Life. I don’t know how it ends.