Monday, February 27, 2017

Can I Give Up Atheism for Lent for Lent?

I'll start off by saying this: yes, the title of this entry is a little confusing. But what is even more confusing is this program initiated by radical theologian Peter Rollins called Atheism for Lent. No, it's not about trying to overcome doubts that one might have in relation to God, which to me sounds pretty good, but it's about basking in the doubts of acclaimed atheist writers! Take a look at the blurb below.

Lent is a time that is traditionally reserved for a type of psychological purging that leads up to the Crucifixion. In light of this, Atheism for Lent seeks to use some of the most potent critiques of Christianity as a type of purifying fire that might help us appreciate and understand Christ’s cry of dereliction on the Cross in a new way. Just as Christ experienced the loss of God on the Cross, so Atheism for Lent invites participants into that desert space traditionally called the dark night of the soul.

What initially strikes me as strange is that "Christ experienced the loss of God on the Cross." If this is referring to Matthew 27:46, I highly doubt that Jesus doubted the existence of God. If Jesus did doubt God's existence, then why did he even cry out to him at all? To believe that God had forsaken him presupposes that God exists. Secondly, if you have an interest in the dark night of the soul, why not just read some Saint John of the Cross?

I can sympathize with this notion of trying to understand where an atheist is coming from, and of course coming to terms with one's doubts is healthy if they are already there. What I am not particularly amused by is this idea that doubting as much as possible is a good use of time. Nobody should have to feel obligated to turn their certainties into doubts just because some postmodernists say so.


  1. "The God the heart needs
    The mind only grieves"
    -Believer, What Is But Cannot Not Be

    Jesus' words on the cross were a reference to Psalm 22, which His audience would've known by heart, most likely. That He became an atheist on the cross because He's saying "man, I don't like this" is really reaching.

  2. That's a cool quote. I liked most of the song ... until some of those vocals came in!

    Good point on the cross reference (no pun intended). Based on an interview with Rollins at Calvin College, he has lots of interesting things to say, but this, I'm afraid to say, is nothing other than nonsense.

  3. Agree with both of you, and in reference to Psalm 22, I also love that the words he is speaking are those of his distant ancestor, which makes them even more poignant, and makes the human side of Christ even more relatable--as he dies for the sins of mankind, he feels an emotion strikingly similar to that of his grandfather 28 generations back--the root and offspring of David, pined for and prophesied by David, feels in that moment, as lonely and alienated as David did. Doubt of existence is clearly not a part of this--it's a feeling of abandonment.
    This would be more akin to "I doubt God cares about me," or "I doubt God's promises for me are true," than "I doubt God is real."

  4. @Nicholas Very eloquent words - thank you. I had overlooked the ancestral detail but that is very interesting.