Why Christians Claiming They Experience “Atheism” On Good Friday Are Wrong

People all over the world are entering Good Friday with darkness and grief, mourning their dead god. There will be sermons full of sadness, depictions of the crucifixion, bells tolling, extinguished candles, and the haunting echoes of a mallet nailing human flesh to a wooden cross, just to drive the point home. Meanwhile, here I am, having my daily coffee and writing a blog post.

This is a day that Christians grieve. Their god is dead, taken away from them. It’s a traumatic thing. Some people even pitch it as “experiencing atheism” for a weekend until the glorious Easter Sunday and the triumphant rise of the resurrected Christ. According to the blog The Evangelical Liberal:

So in that sense, in the [Good Friday] moment of God’s absence, we are atheists who believe in God. Our experience is that of atheism, that God is not there, not anywhere. Yet at the same time we believe in and need and long for and cry out to that one who is not there. And on the cross, it appears, God himself underwent the exact same experience.

Hmm. I call bullshit for several reasons:

1. Atheism is not the absence of God, it’s the absence of faith.

Just because a loved one who passed on is no longer with you, doesn’t mean you don’t believe they never existed. Claiming that you are an atheist for a day because “God is dead” still affirms one’s faith in the previous existence of said god (and in the case of Easter, the eventual return of that god).

Meanwhile, atheism makes no declaration about the actual existence (or nonexistence) of a god or gods. It just expresses personal lack of belief in these unlikely deities. If a Christian truly “experienced atheism” on Good Friday, they would find they didn’t have anything to mourn or grieve for. It would be just a regular start to a regular weekend.

2. The concept of Good Friday is still inherently based on religion, regardless of how much you are “giving up” said religion.

On the previously quoted blog, there is a second quote that goes like this:

Good Friday invites us — even requires us — to give up (at least for a moment) all our ideas and notions of God, to put our cherished theologies to death and watch them expire upon the cross. Good Friday empties God, strips him down to nothing… Good Friday is the death of religion, the end of theology.

The death of religion and the end of theology? I wish! Unfortunately, not only is this not the case, it’s also a huge ball of contradictions. It is your religion dictating that Good Friday is the day you “give up God,” it is your religion inspiring the gruesome imagery of “watching our cherished theologies expire upon the cross.”

The fact that you think you’ve given up your ideas and notions of your god while simultaneously discussing the Biblical accounts of the crucifixion as historical events betrays that you have not, in fact, given up very much. It’s an illusion of free thought. You get to go outside, but you can’t leave the block.

3. Your assumption of what a godless existence looks like is warped by your faith.

The fact that your god “ceasing to exist” during Good Friday is met with tears, shudders, or any other negative emotional expression is a testament not to how much you’ve let your faith go, but rather how much you are desperately cleaving to it. Of course you would think that’s what a godless world looks or feels like: that’s what your religion tells you to think!

How do you know that’s what a world without God would look like? What if it was better? (Spoiler alert: it is.) Of course, making a controlled experience of “freedom” feel both morally wrong and emotionally painful is exactly what an abuser would do to ensure you came running back to them.

4. The anguish of your “atheistic experience” is not reflective of the experiences of actual atheists.

The most detrimental assumption about this dabble in doubt is the connection between your anguish and some presumed atheistic existence. No wonder Christians think atheists are miserable, angry people without God, if this is their point of reference! 

Imagine you had a really horrible nightmare in which you lost an imaginary beloved friend. In the dream, you feel overcome with grief because this friend is no longer with you. When you wake up, you realize that not only was it just a dream, the imaginary friend your brain concocted wasn’t even real. You don’t feel grief for that nonexistent person, your life isn’t impacted by the dream death.

Atheists are not grieving. We aren’t angry, bitter, sad, guilty, or in mourning. In fact, we kind of wish you’d stop overreacting–losing your god isn’t as bad as all that. But I get it. If Good Friday is the only experience you’ve had with contemplating the nonexistence of your god, of course that’s the conclusion you’re going to draw. It’s understandable. I just want to make sure you realize it’s also very, very wrong.

By all means, celebrate your really creepy, dark, blood-thirsty holiday. Embark on an unnecessary roller coaster of detrimental emotions that eerily mimic the kind of manipulation psychological abusers use to keep their victims compliant. That’s your right. But please don’t think for a second that your sanctimonious, half-assed dabble into “freedom of thought” even distantly mirrors what actual freedom is.

And if you are interested in seeing what true atheism feels like, drop me a line. I’ll be happy to share the real good news!

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