Almost an Atheist

At the Revolution Conference Helen Mildenhall – who hosts the Off the Map blogs Ebay Atheist and Conversation at the Edge – was invited to share her journey from committed Christian to being ‘almost an atheist.’ Helen explained that she didn’t decide God is not there, just that she had to consider, “What if he is not? What if he doesn’t answer?” She shared five choices that she made –
1. To be KIND rather than right. Helen wasn’t sure that you could be sure what was right – for Christians, each reading the Bible, argue about what is right.
2. To choose what she knew was REAL rather than what may be made up. How could she know God’s will (even in the Bible), when He says ‘crazy’ things like his instruction to Abraham to kill his son?
3. To be CHILDLIKE rather than childish. Authority institutions (like the church) so often cause guilt and we blame ourselves (like children). Perhaps ‘God’ wants us to lighten up. Enjoy life and people.
4. To be FREE rather than burdened. As a committed Christian, Helen was burdened with trying to work out God’s will to please him. She now chooses the freedom to enjoy people and life.
5. To FOLLOW Jesus rather than figure out belief in Him. Helen said, “I am following Jesus when I am most me!”
“As a Christian I found myself judging people – thinking this is a nice person but it is a pity she is not a Christian,” explains Helen. “Now I enjoy letting conversations go where they want to go, rather than feeling I must push something.” Helen likes to see everything of value, rather than just that which she as a Christian had categorized as of eternal value. I couldn’t help but reflect, “Maybe Helen’s choices could shape a better Christian!” What do you think?

5 Comments Almost an Atheist

  1. Hobbes

    Mildenhall makes some interesting comments–I particularly appreciate her first. A focus on kindness rather than “rightness” (or righteousness/self-righteousness) is a wonderful goal-both personally & institutionally.
    Some of her other comments seem less well-focussed/contradictory however. I have particular problems with #4 where Mildenhall presents freedom versus being burdened in terms of “trying to work out God’s will”. Why is that burdensome and her other choices such as being kind, deciding what is real, being childlike, & following Jesus (all of which have the potential to be difficult choices involving change in one’s life) are not?
    Finally it seems odd that one can follow a figure–Jesus–in whom one does not believe! (Does she not believe in his existence? His relevance? His divinity? What?) It seems here she is trying to avoid thinking & certainly avoiding questions. Is this a case of sticking her head in the sand & hoping the hard questions will magically disappear?

  2. Helen

    Wow Peter – you took great notes! By the way, I just posted a detailed summary of my talk on my blog if anyone wants to read more of it:

    Almost an atheist

    It was wonderful to meet you on Friday. Thank you for coming all the way from Australia to attend our conference!

  3. Helen

    hobbes, thanks for your comments. If you’re interested you can read more of my talk – I posted the link in the comment above. It might answer some of your questions – or maybe not.

    I agree that being kind, etc can be difficult choices, as can whatever involves changing one’s life.

    I like many things Jesus did, as recorded in the gospels, and so I try to do them too. It’s that simple. Whether the stories are made up or not doesn’t change whether I think what he did was worth emulating.

    As for avoiding thinking and questions – I don’t think I’ve done that. I did have to stop thinking and questioning eventually because my thoughts only went around the same old circles, getting nowhere, and I’d heard all the answers to my questions and they didn’t work for me.

    So I have stopped now, maybe, but I did go through a very intense time of questioning and thinking prior to that.

  4. Ermira Kollarja

    I’m so glad for these choices. I feel exactly the same in every little detail, but (being a bit like Moses) haven’t been able to shape my thoughts in such clear and convincing words.

  5. peter

    Thanks Helen for sharing so openly. I appreciated meeting you at the Revolution Conference. Sorry I haven’t responded sooner. I have been so busy ‘moving’ the blog site etc. Yes, Ermira, I found these choices to be very profound.

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