A self-proclaimed “exvangelical” made a candid social media post questioning why people are surprised that atheism is such a big part of his self-identity. He said he was never asked why faith in God was an important part of his identity when he identified as Christian. He also wanted to know why Christians found it odd that he would talk about his disbelief so often. The answers to his questions depend on several things. Is atheism non-belief and nothing else? Is there a premise hidden in the “exvangelical’s” questions of which even he is unaware? Can one discuss his or her faith often without anyone asking questions?
There are atheists who simply have no belief; that is, to them, atheism is nothing beyond not being convinced that God exists. This group has no motivation to “prove” God’s non-existence; therefore, they have no position to defend or one they wish to prove wrong. The “exvangelical’s” question implies he is not among this group of atheists because opposition to belief in God would not an important part of their identity. There are other non-believers who proselytize for atheism. They make it a point to bring up the topic of disbelief often and even try to get others to abandon their faith. This group goes beyond saying, “I don’t know.” They take the position there is no God. Would it make sense to say I don’t know if God exists but I oppose belief in Him? The “exvangelical’s” question is based on the idea that non-belief is part of his identity and that he is part of this group.
God is part of a Christian’s identity by definition. Christians believe the scripture that says if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old one has gone. Christians accept The Great Commission; the command to tell others about Christ. It should not come as a surprise that someone who believes they are commanded to spread the Gospel would do so. Wouldn’t these things make being a Christian a bigger part of one’s identity than something about which the individual has no belief?
Consider, I don’t know if life exists anywhere but Earth. While it may exist, I have not seen evidence sufficient for me to form a belief on the matter. But my non-belief in extraterrestrials is not part of my identity. I don’t go out of my way to find people who believe in ET so I can debate the issue, and I don’t mock those who believe life is out there. I’ll wait for explorers to answer that question before I form a belief. The point I’m making is this: If a person has a strong belief, it is only natural for it to be a part of his or her identity. If a person has no position to defend, why would it be part of their identity any more than non-belief in exterritorial life?
The words on this page should not be taken as a slam of the “exvangelical.” He wrote a very frank description of his experience as an atheist. If anything, this is a warning to Christians to constantly turn to God for self-understanding. The “exvangelical” has no doubt that he was a committed Christian who has now abandoned his faith. But do you know any person who regularly talks about his or her faith who hasn’t been questioned about it? How often on social media have you seen someone reference their faith on a public post without an anti-theist chiming up? Yet the “exvangelical,” who believes he had strong self-identifying faith when he was a Christian says he was seldom questioned. Doesn’t this at least imply he was wrong about his own commitment to Christ?
The Bible tells us there are those who believe strongly in their own faith. They will tell God that they prophesied, drove out demons and even worked miracles in God’s name; yet they never had a relationship with God even though they had a very strong false self-image of someone firmly grounded in faith. The “exvangelical” obviously felt his own Christian faith was so strong others should have taken note, yet the questions he posted are grounded on his observation that no one gave his faith a second thought.
Isn’t this a good reason for Christians to ask God to help us understand our own motivations and open our eyes to any self-delusion we may have?