Response to a Letter from a Longtime Friend
I recently visited a slightly older couple whom I don’t see as often as I would like. I’ve known him all my life, and her since I was about 12. The visit was pleasant, but the husband and all able-bodied parties went upstairs for a few minutes to see his office. This left me alone with the wife, since we were the only ones unable to climb the stairs.
They are fundamentalist Independent Baptists, as I also was in my youth; so she asked me something about what I was “doing for the Lord.” I reminded her that I no longer believe in God. (She had known, but said she must have forgotten.) Since the conversation was cut short by the return of the others, she sent me a letter a few days later, continuing the questions.
Below is a slightly edited version of my response. As usual, I am not publishing her letter because I have no permission to do so. I have removed all names to protect the
innocent guilty whoever whomever NEVER MIND!
Here’s my letter.
I received your letter a few days ago. Your questions and comments deserve thoughtful, honest answers, and I’ll try to provide them. I apologize for not sending a handwritten letter, but my fingers don’t work well enough to handle a pen; so I asked (your husband) to print this for you.
You said that I “have no hope”, and that I “give none to others”; but that is not true. Superstition is false hope. As far as I can see, the only true hope is in this life, even though our lives are short. I have hope that our offspring and those with whom they share our planet will be better off than you and I. However, I admit I have more hope for the distant future than for the near future. There is no evidence of any life after death, and I will not try to spread false hope.
You said you read my email, but I don’t know which email you meant. The subjects of God or belief or unbelief come up frequently, and I have written many relevant emails. I usually don’t try to convince other people I’m right, although I’ve been accused of doing so. I do try to answer questions honestly, as I’m doing now. (For example, my most recent email about God was in answer to a question from ________.) I admit that I sometimes find myself “speaking out of turn”, but I try not to do that.
Of course, I also post my beliefs on my blog and elsewhere, so anybody who is interested can read them. Or not. It’s up to them.
You asked who am I “to say there is no God, devil, heaven, hell, Bible, etc.”, but I never said any of those things. You asked me what I believed, and I told you what I believe as briefly as possible. When I say I believe something, I try never to state dogmatically that I’m correct. I only answered your questions about what I believe. It’s my experience that dogma is far more common in belief than unbelief.
You asked what I have to show for the time between ages 6 and 30, while I was a Christian. I’m not sure why you ask that, since you believe salvation is by faith and not works. While I have never been as successful at “big” things as you and (your husband), I will say that I directed music for several churches during that time. I organized and sang bass with a gospel quartet (the Heavenly Way Quartet) for a while. Then I learned sign language and ministered to a group of deaf children at E. Berry St. Baptist church. Most important of all, my then wife and I raised two great children of our own.
I do not say now that I was saved. That would be inconsistent with what I now believe. I do say I believed in Jesus then and I believed then that He had saved me. I made my profession of faith at Loving Ave. Baptist church in Fort Worth when I was six years old and was baptized by Papaw at Jennings Avenue when I was nine. I never doubted I was saved until I was about 30, and was still a Christian until I was about 42. I do not say this to claim any good works for myself, but only because you asked.
No, I didn’t “just want to impress people by reading and quoting the Bible.” I am aghast that you would ask such a thing! Is that why you read and quote the Bible? (I think not.) I loved the God I then believed in, and losing my faith was a very traumatic thing for about 10 or 12 years.
However, it’s no longer traumatic. I am at peace with what I now believe. It puzzles me very much that you and (your husband) and some others claim to believe in the security of the believer — “once saved always saved” — and yet you seem convinced I’m going to hell when I die. This is completely inconsistent, since I was a believer for many years.
You said you don’t think I’m happy because you only saw me smile one time while I was at your house. In this, you are perceptive. It’s difficult for me to smile when I hurt; and I’ve suffered chronic pain since I was about 15. First were the migraine headaches—every day for about 20 years. Then came the debilitating lower back pain, and now the crippling psoriatic arthritis and peripheral neuropathy. I won’t claim to be happy most of the time; but, in spite of my constant pain, I am far more content than I was earlier in life.
I appreciate your concern for my salvation, but I simply don’t agree with you. There are many things I don’t understand; but I don’t think my lack of understanding of anything is evidence for the existence of God. Any god. And I feel absolutely certain that Jehovah is a myth and that Jesus, therefore, could not be his son. And the Bible, with its many contradictions and absurdities, as well as approval of atrocities like slavery, genocide, subservient wives, etc could hardly be the word of a loving God.
Of course, I want to live forever with loved ones in a place of peace, joy, prosperity, and perfect health. I want that as much as anyone does. I just don’t believe such a place exists. And there’s no evidence for hell, a devil, or demons either. If you want to know more about why I became an unbeliever, feel free to read “Saved In the Nick of Time,” under the Personal menu of my blog.
I meant to keep this letter short, but I wanted to answer all your questions fully. I apologize for being so wordy. I love you and (your husband) very much, and I wish you both a long life on earth, improved health, and continued prosperity.