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Archive for the ‘functional atheism’ Category


“If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.” – CS Lewis, (God in the Dock)

Six dolphins washed up on the Louisiana shore this week … Hundreds of egrets and pelicans had to be decontaminated, to prevent suffocation. The BP oil spill has reached the shores… The news has shown photographs of dragonflies trying to clean sticky tar from their wings.  For most of the animals, the environment has become toxic, closing off the ability to breathe. The oily film on the top of our Gulf Waters has become a coating on everything surfacing from the depths below; a coating that must be cleansed off for life to continue.

There is an element alive in the Western Church these days. Like the oil spill, it has filtered into the wetlands of our lives, contaminating every part of our culture.  It has soaked into those things in us that would fly, seeking to forever hinder our abilities to experience the Living God on a healthy level.

It is called functional atheism. I had never heard the term until today.  It marks a discovery for me.

As believers in Jesus Christ, none of us would ever admit to atheism.  Outside the circles of the church, those who do profess to be atheists, are those who refuse to believe in God; or admit God into their inner life workings.  And, many of those I know who do hold to atheism, do so because of injuries received through the hands of those who call themselves believers.  Those believers many times have been living in “functional atheism” themselves.

Simply put, functional atheism is the “unconscious, unexamined conviction that if anything decent is going to happen here on earth, we are the ones who must make it happen.” Sadly, it is pathology, if you will, that eventuates in burnout, depression, and despair.

It is a mindset that has been taught to us in the Western church from childhood.  It says we must work to make God happy.  It teaches that the bottom-line of what we do in our Christian walk, we do in order to gain favor, or recognition.  We must strive to make God happy… …as if God is unhappy with us from the beginning, and we must somehow convince Him to like us.

Functional atheism is a mindset that says “I must do it all for God” – rather than with God, through God, and in God. It is task orientation.  Somehow, I am earning my place… God will reward my efforts if I work hard enough, long enough, do things right, and don’t give up.  By reason of sheer will, I will be recognized.  I will earn significance, increase my value, and earn my spot.

And yet, the Scripture is clear that our sense of self, and our sense of adequacy must come within — from the Spirit of God, rather than from what we do.  Jesus taught that when we come to Him, we will never thirst again.  Something will happen inside of us that will become an everlasting spring of freshness, of vibrancy, of hope, of Life.  The Incarnation of His Life in us will cause change, work miracles, and affect growth in every level of our existence.

He desires to live His life in us.

But in our Western religious culture, because of our brokenness and task orientation, we have learned to leave God out of the equation.  Instead, we isolate first; and try to figure things out. Then, like a toddler’s scribbled crayon picture, we present our findings and our efforts to God.  “See what I did?” we say.  Inwardly, we expect Him to bless us.  If He doesn’t, we become disillusioned – our efforts were not good enough.  

Can any of us do things the way He would do them?  

We would never consciously call this atheism. 

But it is.

What we would never call it in words, we live out in function.

It is the act of leaving God out.

We trust ourselves first.

When serving Jesus is the center of our lives; when He is active in our core, we come to awareness that we cannot carry the whole load.  It was meant to be shared with others.

We come to the discovery that we were created for the purpose of relationship; not because we are supposed to perform a list of duties and tasks.  Our destiny is not about function.  It is about the Designer.

We learn we need community – not to work together (although that happens).  No, community occurs to help us to enjoy our lives.  Simply put, we need help with our growth and development – all of us do; no exceptions. Personally, I need help to grow out of my blind-spots. I need encouragement when I become task focused.  I need friends and family… and they need me.

And when a leader is healthy, they will lead differently. Leading programs and projects become part of getting the people done, rather than the other way around … (using people to get the projects done)…. The point of the exercise is to grow the people, equip the people, heal the people, rather than grow the structure, administrate the machine, or organize the program.

Growth in God becomes about sharing discoveries and growth points.  It also becomes fun.

Functional atheism destroys the concepts of having fun, enjoying God, or creative play.  It makes everything about work. “What am I doing for God?” becomes the daily theme… Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in work; (sometimes too much…) The point is that my life needs to flow from the Life-Source rather than from my own resources.

When things flow from my own resources, I leave God out. My daily function becomes devoid of His life, and full of my own.  You know what I mean, don’t you? We’ve all done it.  And, while I would never call myself an atheist, when I act and function that way – even in service for God – my functionality leaves Him out. 

My focus goes to my own design – rather than My Designer.

My strength is drawn from my own reservoir – rather than from The Well-spring.

My sense of purpose becomes centered in my tasks and achievements – rather than from just knowing Him, hearing Him, spending time.

In that task oriented place, I become the center of the orbit – it becomes about what I need, what I feel, what I think I need to do for God –

What makes us think we can earn this stuff? Or even begin pay it back? 

All that being said – it’s time we all let the Creator of Life help us with our personal oil spills….. What has exploded in your life and left it’s residue on your ability to fly?  Has anything washed up on the shore lately?

Are you enjoying your walk with God?

Blessings.

© 2010 dg/atg. Duplication without permission prohibited.  

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