Hey, man! It was great to spend time with you in Houston last weekend. It was a real honor to be the keynote speaker at the annual fund-raiser for Texas Right to Life. They are a real class act and I thought they put together one spectacular event. It was really something else to be able to speak in front of my parents, my First Grade teacher, and my oldest friend in the universe (I mean oldest friendship as I donít mean to imply youíre old which would mean Iím old, too).
I must tell you, though, that our conversation after the banquet was the highlight of the whole trip. During the conversation I was most struck by three of your statements; namely, that you were learning to let go of your anger, that you were reading the Book of Luke, and that youíre now taking a Bible study class at the church your dad attended before his unexpected death. In other words, youíre doing what I did just a few years ago: Youíre growing up and out of atheism and embarking on an important intellectual journey.
You gave some indication Friday night that you have some remorse about how your past anger has hurt other people and interfered with your relationships. You seemed most concerned about how your unresolved religious issues may have caused you to lash out at others Ė mostly with the women youíve dated and even in your relationship with your current girlfriend. I have a few insights that I hope will help you feel a little better about this and will help you focus on doing the NRT. By that, I mean forgetting about the past and simply doing the Next Right Thing.
Any outbursts of anger you may have displayed during your prolonged battle with God probably pale in comparison with the ones I displayed during my days as a hardened and outspoken atheist. It didnít help that during that time I badly abused alcohol and used drugs that were intended to fill a gap in my life caused by my rejection of God.
Regardless, I am still having to apologize to people I hurt during that period of my life. But I donít dwell on it because I understand the origins of that anger. Itís all about separation from God. And once we have the courage to step away from atheism - or the intellectually weaker position of agnosticism - the anger just disappears. (Note that the agnostic is literally confessing, as I did for nine years, to be an ďignoramusĒ regarding the existence of God).
I think anger is one of the reasons people get trapped in atheism or agnosticism. The anger becomes so intense that they lose the ability to discuss religion with more intellectually centered believers. They often become so embittered that they wonít even read anything that challenges their views on theological matters.
I am now encountering that problem with an atheist professor at UNC-Wilmington. He has a pile of books on his desk by Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and other atheists who think like he thinks. He wonít attend lectures or read books I recommend that provide a different perspective. I have to approach the topic carefully in order to avoid stirring his fiery temper. I donít think itís a coincidence that the most outspoken atheist I know has less control over his emotions than anyone I know.
But I think most former atheists and former agnostics also find that there is another emotion, which sort of disappears once a solid, intellectually based belief in God takes hold in their lives. That emotion is fear.
The man who used to be my most outspoken atheist colleague (he is now retired) provides a good example of what Iím talking about. His decision to adopt atheism had nothing to do with honest intellectual reflection. He simply had a horrible relationship with his father and he took it out on God. The consequence of this was a level of emotional insecurity that made him simply impossibly to deal with. He was constantly plagued by indecisiveness and anxiety.