Flirting with Faith

Today is my one-month anniversary as a blogger.

Before all of you early-adopter types start giggling, you can rest assured
that I am well aware that I am behind the curve here. The impact of Web 2.0 on
communication and marketing was a hot topic in PR circles before the term Web
2.0 was coined in 2004, but it was only recently that I felt prompted to join the conversation.
If I put my old PR hat on, I could use this lead for a dozen different
articles; from the perspective of a “tip of the spear” Gen Xer on social
networking (I was born in 1966) to a light-hearted look at my online
relationship with my 18 and 19 year old kids.
Instead, a quick review of my blog stats for the month of July is driving
this post. As I assessed the pageviews and where they originated, I found that the bulk of the click-throughs to my WordPress blog came as a result of a piece titled I was Never a Real Atheist from people who had searched or followed a link to the word atheism tagged to the post.
Apparently atheism sells.
I followed the links backward and found myself in the land of Christian de-conversion.
Now de-conversion may be a hot topic in Bible-college circles, but I wasn’t
even sure if it was a real word. Webster’s online says that it’s not, but the folks that are contributing and commenting at use it frequently.
The site claims to provide “Resources for Skeptical, De-Converting and Former Christians” and is a social network/support group for confused, hurt and angry Christians who have either already “de-converted” or claim to be in the process of doing so.
The site claims to have logged 667,660 hits since March 2007 and, while they could be elevating those numbers, the volume of comments on the featured posts is such that I would not be surprised if it were true.
I am sure that there is much to be said theologically about whether or not “de-conversion” is possible if a person had a genuine experience with Jesus, and I am not remotely studied enough to go there, but as I read the posts of dozens of self-proclaimed “former believers” I saw a pattern emerge:
1. I grew up in the church and loved the Lord once.
2. I began to question and doubt.
3. My questions and doubts were either dismissed or ignored or responded to with platitudes that I could not accept.
4. When it was clear that I would not be satisfied with platitudes, I was told that I was defective, i.e. I wasn’t
really saved in the first place, I was looking for an excuse to sin, etc.
5. I am grateful to find this community of people who are also doubters and skeptics (and ultimately unbelievers) so that I do not have to walk this path away from the faith of my childhood on my own.
The unbelief proposed by whoever designs and moderates the site (I could not find evidence of a clear “owner”) portrays in the site description a kinder, gentler version of atheism that might appeal to a once-faithful doubter…

“For the most part, we believe the teachings of Judaism, Christianity, & Islam, based on the perceptions and myths of a nomadic ancient Middle Eastern tribe, should be viewed critically – as should the holy books of these religions. This blog attempts to critically, but respectfully, address issues with these religious ideologies, especially Christianity. If you are a skeptical, de-converting, or former Christian, you may find these discussions interesting.
We also believe that whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God
reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds -when there is a significant lack of evidence on who God is or if he/she even exists.
(, July 2008 )

That can’t be so bad, right?
And yet, many of the posts betray what I interpret to be sadness as a result of the perceived loss of faith. It may be wishful thinking on my part, but a number of the respondents still attend church and participate in ministry despite what they describe to be a sense of isolation and unbelief. It made me wonder who these people are and how their churches (and churches in general) tend to handle a person who is struggling with a perceived loss of faith?
Would love to hear thoughts on this…

That’s what the Geek Squad guy at Best Buy told me this morning, anyway.
I was at the counter with Martin’s laptop, hoping that his difficulty connecting to our wireless network might have an easy (read cheap) fix. I had a fighting chance, I thought, since the woman behind the counter and I go to the same church and I trusted her to give me it to me straight. A guy in his early 20s stopped and looking over my friend’s shoulder as I described the problem.
Here’s how she introduced us…
“This is Joan–she and I go to church together.” I smiled and reached out to shake his hand.
“And this is John (not his real name), he’s an atheist.”
This may have been the first time in my life I had ever been introduced in this way. It was a little strange and totally random but, since I had spent more of my life as an atheist than I have as a churchgoer, her outting John as an atheist didn’t phase me a bit.
“I was an atheist for many years,” I told him, hoping that a little small talk to take the edge off of the otherwise awkward exchange. I expected him to respond with an equally random bit of nothing and be on his way, but instead he said matter of factly, “Then you weren’t really an atheist.”
Have you ever had one of those moments that you were completely surprised by your own response to something? This was one of those moments for me. I wasn’t really an atheist? I thought. What do you mean I wasn’t really an atheist. Before I knew it, I found myself defending my former atheism. “Actually, I was an atheist,” I told Geek Squad guy pleasantly, yet indignantly. I even provided him a dramatic and somewhat personal example of something I’d done when I was a kid that proved my former atheism which he promptly pooh-poohed.
If I go to church now, he told me calmly but emphatically, then I wasn’t a “real” atheist then.
He walked away and I got back to Martin’s computer, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this exchange. At first I focused on what I perceived to be his faulty logic. Of course I could be an atheist then and a theist (Christian) now, I thought.
But then I realized that his logic (or lack thereof) was not the most interesting or relevant part of our short conversation.
Why did I care whether or not Geek Squad guy believed that I had been an atheist in my 20s?
As I pondered (and continue to ponder) the question, one thing is clear to me. No matter how deep my desire to put relationships over being right or how many times I commit and recommit myself to pursuing dialog over debate, it is still incredibly easy for me to fall into a tit-for-tat over anything. And I mean anything.
No topic is too small or unimportant for me to fall into the trap of self-importance if I am not intentional about how I interact with the people around me.
Thanks for the reminder Geek Squad atheist-guy. I appreciate it.

Today is the first day of a new project. I have felt for some time that I am supposed to be fluent in Spanish. It isn’t a huge stretch, really. My husband is from Uruguay and English is his second language. My in-laws speak English, but Spanish is far more comfortable for them. I studied the language for about 8 years in high-school and college.
I am poised to be able to do this.
And yet, while I have started time and time again, I’ve never really followed through to fluency. So, from morning to my head hitting the pillow on Wednesdays from today forward I plan to communicate solely in Spanish when speaking to Martin, my son Ian (who understands Spanish but does not speak it) and anyone else who will tolerate me.
I got through my shower (lluvia) and out the door this morning without a hitch, although as I tried to talk to Martin through the curtain I got a taste of what it is like to have many thoughts and a stiflingly small vocabulary with which to express them. As the morning continued and Martin and I went to pick up my car, I started to laugh out loud as I stuttered out — Miercoles en Enspanol esta bien para vos entonces yo no hablo nada. Translated–Spanish Wednesdays holds a surprise bonus for you Martin–less chatter from the passenger seat.
But then I realized that there may also be a surprise bonus for me.
Few words require a precision of thought and expression that I am not used to practicing. It will be interesting to see what I learn about communicating in my native English by requiring myself to communicate solely in Spanish.

Yo hable un poquito Espanol. Pero yo pienso que yo nessesito aprender hablar, leer y escribir fluida en Espanol. Mi esposo, Martin, naces in Uruguay y hablas Espanol, entonces es mas facil para nosotros hablar en Ingles en la casa. Es la reson hoy y todos los miercoles en la futuro nosotros hablare solamente en Espanol. En la casa, en la telephono, en text–todos. Y yo escribere una blog post (no se como dice blog post en Espanol). Los posts sere simple, para practicar. Yo appreciado ayuda de amigos que lee o comprende Espanol. Muchas gracias para sus paciencia y apoyo.