Yes, I am a Christian atheist. Why a Christian atheist? It’s pretty much the only atheism I’ve had a chance to practice.
I started out as a loose Christian of sorts. Or as loose as you can if you’re born into the Bible belt, a belt that felt any thing but loose from early on.
I want to tell you the story of a boy we’ll call Jim.
Before he ever got to kindergarten, Jimmy found out people could die. It was that prayer he said every night that had the line, ‘if I should die before I wake,’ that gave him the idea.
“Mommy, how would I die?”
“It won’t be for a long time, Jimmy. Not ‘til you’re very old,” his mommy said. She pulled him to her chest, but he pulled his head away to see her face.
Jimmy’s brow wrinkled. “What’s it like if you die?”
“You become very quiet. You don’t breathe or talk anymore.”
Jimmy’s mouth gaped like a fish starving for air at the water’s surface.
“But why would I die?” Jimmy gasped for all the breath he could take in. How would death suffocate him? And no more talking! …how could he communicate with his mother then, with anyone? The chance to talk would be over with for ever.
His mother tried to keep her eyes from tearing. “Everybody dies,” she said.
Jimmy was inconsolable. He cried himself to sleep every night after his prayer. His mother didn’t know what to do. She didn’t think it was right to tell him to stop saying the prayer.
As time wore on, it wasn’t so much that Jimmy worked through his dread of death as he just wore himself out with it. Death remained a great monolith in Jimmy’s mind as the suffocating, stifling End. A school age Jimmy would draw from all this that if he had anything important to say he’d better say it. In order to keep his fear of death at bay, Jimmy vowed to determine what was important and true. This would be the standard he would bear.
Jimmy started his search for ultimate answers that would lead him to study science, philosophy, and even religion. And to try to develop a voice with which to say to those who came after, You’re not alone.
Entry filed under: freethought. Tags: bible belt, christian atheism, christian atheist, determining what is important and true, disheartening prayer, if i should die before i wake, prayer teaches about death.