7/07/2013 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Apostate Paul ~
Even though I no longer believe in the Bible, I still love and respect many of those who do, including several of my close friends and family from before I left the faith. The powerful effects of love are hard to shake, even when you abandon the religion that taught it to you.
But I'll be honest. That respect and love can be a little difficult at times, especially when we talk about hell and God's perverted version of justice -- at least, it's difficult until I take a glance at my dozens of old prayer journals and recall with humility and empathy that I wasn't all that different not long ago.
So, the other day, when my mom asked me if I would read a short book her church's pastor wrote called "Beyond Existence" with her and discuss the content, I went ahead and agreed, knowing full well that I wouldn't get much out of it.
And so I plowed through it. It seemed like pretty standard stuff you'd hear from behind the pulpit nowadays. The goal of the author was to speak to a Christian audience about really living, and not just existing. And how do you do that when you're a Christian?
You focus on the right stuff. Reading the Bible. Praying. Living focused on the Spirit and God's Will. Showing the grace that you've been given to others. Having faith in God's providence.
Needless to say, I didn't get a lot out of the book. Sure, I need to have grace and trust, but I don't need to build those virtues on a God-based belief system.
But when I got to the section where the author discussed Jesus' challenge to his followers to be salt and light to the world which is lost, I suddenly realized... Jesus was speaking to me.
Now, wait a second before you start writing your criticism. Let me clarify what I mean when I say that Jesus was speaking to me. I know that Jesus isn't alive anymore. Heck, I don't know if he ever was alive. But the Jesus of the Bible, the character in the story, had a bit of wisdom to pass on, and I suddenly realized that it didn't just apply to people that believed in his version of reality.
When we men and women have a handle on the truth (for instance, that Christianity is not right) should we hide it under a basket? Or should we set it on a hill?What is this "light" that Jesus wants people to spread? It's truth. Or, at least, what he believes is the truth. Despite his having been wrong about what the truth is, as we now know, doesn't that still apply? When we men and women have a handle on the truth (for instance, that Christianity is not right) should we hide it under a basket? Or should we set it on a hill? If that "light" can bring people out of the dark, why on earth wouldn't we want to shine it?
And then there is this "salt". Something that plenty of people, Christian and non-christian alike, are missing. It's wisdom, knowledge, and a perspective that gives life "flavor."
The Church says that this "salty" way of living is best passed along by example. And, you know? I think I agree. If you have salt, or wisdom and perspective that makes your life meaningful and joyful, just live it. And others will see it. And they will want it. And they'll ask about it. And then you get to share it.
I'm pretty sure using Jesus' metaphors and teaching points in this way made my mom very, very uncomfortable. But hey, that's what happens when you ask an ex-Christian to read the Bible with you.
It's kinda nice to know that, after spending several years deeply involved in the Christian community, I don't have to throw away everything I've learned. And that I don't have to stop seeking virtue, truth, and meaning when I stop seeking God.