When my faith went it did not go down the way I imagined it. And yes, I used to imagine what losing my faith would look like. Years ago at the church, alone on a Friday, standing before the empty room, working out my sermon and I would wonder just how much of this does the preacher actually need to believe.

And I would imagine what I would do if I didn’t believe enough anymore. How would I leave my beloved little church? And I did love that church with all my heart.

I thought losing my faith would be like a seduction. That sexy voice from my shadowy depths would finally work her way to the surface. She would sweep into the room and make public her claim on my heart. She would run her fingertip along my jawline and look right into my eyes.

Now you don’t really believe any of that nonsense, do you?

I would fight her with my usual sophistry.

Well, that’s a hard question to answer. What does one mean by “believe” anyway? Fidelity to a spiritual tradition is more than intellectual assent to a set of propositions.

But she knows me the way a woman knows her man. She would laugh and lean in close. She would let her lips run along my cheek and breathe a whisper into my ear.

You don’t really believe any of that.

DO you.

My heart would pound and my face would get red. My breathing would grow ragged and loud. Then I would give in and whisper the word I both desired and feared.


She would clap her hands in triumph and send all the other voices into exile below. And that would be it. I would be on the other side. Isolated. Disoriented. A man shorn of his myth. A soul disconnected from the rich beauty of the God narrative he had nurtured within himself so passionately.

Of course that would mean my time with the Church was over. At least my time as a clergy-person anyway. And I imagined that would be a grievous wound. Because the Church is such a pretty opera and I such a hopelessly romantic fanboy. First in line for season tickets and the last to leave each performance, sobbing tears of joy from my private box.

So you can Imagine my surprise when the opposite happened.

I didn’t lose my faith in God. I’m still the same starry-eyed agnostic I ever was. Who the hell knows what’s going on out there on planes of existence we can’t imagine? The shiver of joy that uncertainty gives me is what keeps me in the game.

No, it is my faith in the Church that has left me.

And it departed not with a bang or a whimper but with a yawn. The opera grew stale, the back-stage machinations distasteful, and apathy withered my attention span to the point where I can hardly track the progress of a single churchy sentence.

My friend Larry told me that if I want to remain a Christian I will need to find a way to be in community with other Christians. Larry is both smart and wise. So I believe him.

But I don’t know where I’m going to find them.


  • MaryBeth Butler


  • apocalipstick

    You might as well be writing from inside my head. How does one find community when there is so little in common?

    • Bob in BG

      All my friends are at church, but sometimes that’s where I feel the most lonely.

  • scottpresnall

    I’m the other side of that coin, Gordon. I miss the fellowship, the good music, the community of friends. I haven’t missed god in several years.

  • Rivikah

    Your friend may be both smart and wise, but I am no longer convinced that he is correct. Call me cynical, but it seems to be the kind of thing churches say — when they are trying to encourage regular attendance.

    A community of Christians on the other hand…that’s something else. And if you have a friend Larry you already have one.

    • Gordon Atkinson

      He wasn’t suggesting that I have to be in a church. He said what you are saying, you need some kind of community of believers. I am currently wondering what that might look like. Feel like I may not be able to be a part of any traditional brick and mortar kind of church. We’ll see where this leads.

  • Bart Imaeus

    Leslie Weatherhead wrote The Christian Agnostic in 1965. Although it has been a long time since I’ve read it, I’m quite sure he didn’t view “Christian” and “agnostic” as being mutually exclusive. …So I’m curious to know how Larry would describe what it means to be a Christian. The core essentials only. I’m even more curious to know what Ronin would have to say about this.

    • Gordon Atkinson

      I owned a copy of that book years ago. Here is what Ronin says: All humans are agnostic. How could it be otherwise? Only the foolish or arrogant would deny it.

      • Bob in BG

        You remind me that I was instructed by the foolish and arrogant.

        • Gordon Atkinson

          I want to amend my statement. There is a linguistic issue with the word agnostic. Most of us have doubts about the existence of God. I think the strict definition of agnostic fits most if not all people. But most Christians use the word differently. It means someone who does not know if there is a God and is therefore not involved in a spiritual tradition. Claiming not to be agnostic with that specializedinsider use of the term is not arrogant or foolish. You know what I mean.

          • Bob in BG

            I’m with you. My comment simply meant that I was raised among those who would deny that they were agnostic by either definition. Lots of knowing and certainty.

  • Superfantastic

    I’m considering trying out my friend’s Unitarian congregation when we move back to DC. I do miss the community, but find any sort of certainty about the rightness of a particular theology too off-putting for most Christian churches. What I loved about Covenant was feeling like if I walked in and announced, “I doubt the very existence of God!” I’d be met with, “Us too. Here, have a donut.”

    • Gordon Atkinson

      Yeah. I loved that about Covenant too.

  • PaulNotTheApostle

    I’ve been part of a “house church” (for lack of a better word) for more than 10 years in which we disagree with each other about all sorts of things including what most would probably agree are major theological issues . We know that, and it’s fine. We love each other, pray for each other, give each other a place to thrash out doubts or new conclusions, etc. We all agree on one important thing: theology isn’t the most important thing in the world. This is so much more meaningful to me than traditional church was that I can’t believe I stayed there as long as I did; there isn’t one thing about it that I miss. I suspect that if you can just find a few like-minded folks, “what it looks like” will take care of itself over time.