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What Would Jesus Do? Good question!

WWJDOnce, long ago, I picked up the habit of wearing a wristband – they were quite fashionable at the time, in a nerdy God Squad kind of way – with WWJD written on it. It stood, of course, for “What Would Jesus Do?” The idea was to control for my normal human weakness and inability to live up to my ideals, but it ended up being just another reason for feeling guilty, a constant reminder of my failure even with a constant reminder of what to do.

I liked the sentiment – What Would Jesus Do? What, indeed? It seemed so simple, but so profound. If Jesus was truly God incarnate, where else would I go to find an example of how to behave? He was the ultimate man, and therefore the ideal to aspire to. Even though I struggled to apply it to my life, it seemed obvious that the principle was sound. Read More…

Preparing to come out

It all started with the best of intentions.

First, there were a lot of issues that were flying around my head. My previous beliefs were becoming ever less secure, but I’d been through this before. Most people find their beliefs wax and wane, so this wasn’t anything I was going to bring up out of nowhere to people who I wouldn’t normally be discussing my theological positions with. It was just business as usual.

Coming OutThen I started to drift away, losing my fear of unbelief and increasingly exploring those areas and imagining a life without religion. It was different, but possibly no more than increased empathy and openness to different arguments. I stayed put in the church, and nothing really changed. Still nothing that was worth specifically mentioning to anyone. Read More…

The Apostate Returns II – The Heathening

They say you should never go back, apparently. I don’t know who “they” are, or what the context is for this statement (I have a hazy impression that it ought to refer to revisiting past triumphs in the hope of recreating them), but people say it so often it’s become a cliché. It’s been running through my head recently, because I paid a visit to the old church this week.

Ray of LightI’d been thinking about going along for a while, for various reasons – pester power featuring quite strongly. The boys wanted me to come along, and seeing that there was a special service for Father’s Day (a vile Hallmark holiday that has no place in any calendar, let alone a liturgical one), I suppressed my multiple misgivings so that they could at least have Daddy around on that one day that had been decreed special by marketing and the church’s unexpected conformity to the dictates of popular culture. Read More…

Relative Normality – How my idea of normal changed completely

OrganWhat is normal? How do you know? Even identifying normality as a simple question of numbers is fraught with problems in practical terms, because we don’t know everyone and generally associate with people who are similar to us. For most people, normality is all about the people they spend most of their time with.

There was a time when I thought church was a boring, ritualised affair, carried out in a big stone building with horribly uncomfortable pews. To me, that seemed normal, because it was what I grew up with. It never occurred to me that there was anything strange about lots of people sitting on cold, hard benches, mumbling the same almost incomprehensible words week after week, before eating a tiny, dry wafer and having a small sip of nasty fortified wine. Read More…

A strange kind of anniversary

FarewellTomorrow will be a significant day for me. On 12th June it will be exactly one year since the Church of England issued an astonishingly and uncharacteristically direct statement against the government’s proposals for same-sex marriage, which left me in shock all day and ultimately turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I don’t want to revisit that right now, but you can read about it here or here if you’re interested.

What makes this anniversary so strange is not knowing how to deal with it. As it was a decisive moment in reaching my current position (which I naturally think is a good one to hold, at least for now), you might think I’d see it as an event that ought to be celebrated in some way. That’s not how I feel about it, though. And not just because the starting point was an illiberal and regressive territory-marking effort. Read More…

Theological certainty is less comforting than you’d think

One of the strangest things about looking back at the past is noticing how certain I was about everything. It’s hard to explain, and people often have a hard time understanding it, but during the period when I really, truly believed, I was absolutely certain that I was never going to change my mind. I felt that I’d finally found the truth, and that could never be undone.

Prayer 3It wasn’t as if I was moving in line with a different worldview, more as if I’d discovered a new fact. People can change their opinions, but why would I ever think that France wasn’t a country, now that I knew it was? I didn’t usually talk of knowing, but that’s what it comes down to – I had special knowledge, and I couldn’t imagine that ever changing. Read More…

Guest post on the day glurge changed my life

I’ve just had a guest post published on the Ramblings of Sheldon blog. Please head on over there and have a look, leave some comments, and spend a while browsing around the other great stuff Sheldon writes on a regular basis. He’s followed a similar faith trajectory to mine, and always has interesting things to say.

In which I provoke a domestic disagreement about magic

I do my best to be honest and straightforward with my boys, and also to respect their ability to answer question for themselves. In religion, as in most things, it’s more important to me that they think, evaluate the evidence and reach their own considered conclusions than that they reach the same answer as me.

Magic Wand

No, you can’t have my miracle wand

So when my elder son wanted to know what a miracle was, I tried to give him a fair and balanced explanation that a six-year-old would be able to understand. A brief run through some basic details, claims and understandings wasn’t too bad, but when he asked how it worked, I briefly hesitated and then said it was a bit like magic.

This was a mistake. Read More…

The pain of a returning heathen

Christmas is over, I’m back home and I’m also back to bunking off while the rest of the family go off on Sunday mornings. It was a very strange experience to be back in church after quite a few months – I want to say “bittersweet”, but I’m not sure which bit would be bitter and which sweet.

It was nice to be with my family on an important occasion, and it was nice to be able to join in with the celebration, but it was improved for me by the knowledge that it was a temporary choice to be there, not a wearing, frustrating obligation. Maybe it’s just a psychological trick, but that sense of control made a huge difference.

I particularly appreciated the sense of community within the church, which is possibly the thing I miss most of all. A startling number of people said how lovely it was to see me, and how much I’d been missed. That was quite nice to hear, but also rather sad. I’m not really part of that community anymore, and I don’t think I can be. However friendly the people are, I just don’t believe what they do. Unfortunately, it seems I’m going to carry on longing for that community, and they’re going to carry on missing me. Read More…

Daddy, why aren’t you coming?

It’s a few months now since I walked away from the church, and it’s generally been quite an easy time. I’ve found that I’m more relaxed at weekends, because I’m not dreading Sunday mornings, and we’ve settled into a routine that works pretty well. But my boys aren’t prepared to make it all that easy.

Initially, they didn’t seem to be bothered that I was staying at home when they went to church, and for quite a while, they were surprisingly unquestioning of it. That suited me, as I wasn’t really sure how I wanted to explain it to them. That changed recently. First it was “Daddy, are you coming to church this week?” Then it was “You never come with us any more!” Finally, it was “Please come with us, please!” I couldn’t put it off any longer. Read More…

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