I’ve been Director of Music at a small church for several year now, but for about the past 9 months, I have completely lost my faith. It’s not simply a case of having a few problems with Christian doctrine or being disillusioned with the reality of music ministry in the church. I don’t believe in God at all, and haven’t for some time. I call it doubt, because I’m uncomfortable stating absolute certainty in religious matters. But in all honesty, I’m a functional atheist.
Meanwhile, my job as Director of Music is to choose hymns, lead singing, direct choir and overall, to be responsible for providing music in worship of a god in whom I don’t believe. Still, I speak the language: I’ve been a church musician for over a decade, so I know what to say…and sing. I don’t think I’m “leading anyone astray,” or anything like that. As far as the congregation knows, I’m a devoted Christian who shares their belief system. I don’t think anyone has questioned my sincerity, even though I know that it’s not the genuine article.
I wonder, as I struggle with the double life I lead, how many other church leaders are simply speaking the words and singing the songs that are expected of them. How many pastors of churches are actually atheists? I’m fairly sure there’s been no accurate research into the issue. But there have to be other church leaders who do what they do because it’s what’s expected of them. There must at least be doubts about some of it. Because, let’s face it, in church we pray for the sick and they die, we talk about doing God’s will and do what works, we sing the songs and go about our lives. Much of the time, even among the relatively devout, there are meetings to organize, bills to pay, numbers to crunch, and deadlines to meet. The church is just like any other business in most respects.
There’s another thing that makes my situation a struggle: force of habit. I don’t really believe in god, but when you associate regularly with those who do believe, and your job is in an environment where god language is the norm, you sort of operate out of habit. I have a collection of over 200 bibles, and I keep meaning to get rid of them (or at least, most of them); but this is a collection that I’ve accumulated over several years, and it’s not an easy thing to simply chuck them all. I still find religion to be a fascinating phenomenon, regardless of my personal belief or lack thereof.
And so I continue to do what I have done for the past several years. I participate in church, I keep my bible collection, I speak the language, and I maintain the charade. On the inside, there’s sometimes a battle going on, but honestly, most of the time I’m quite content. Habitual living is comfortable, after all. The familiar–whether it be clothes, a comfy chair, or a job you’ve done for seven years–is comforting. So I live my life and use opportunities like this website as a confessional, a pressure valve of sorts.