Loving Radically Across the Atheist/Theist Divide

Even though I haven’t believed in a personal god since 1996 or so, I have hesitated to call myself an atheist. No doubt a good bit of that hesitation arises from my long period as a Pentecostal Christian. I have little problem using the term atheist to describe myself to other atheists. However, with Christians and other theists, I seek to use less polarizing terms, like nontheist or even agnostic. The main reason I don’t want theists to consider me to be an atheist is that as believers, my atheism would be perceived by them as a rejection of something they consider intensely important in their lives. I want to affirm that I am open to loving even that part of who they are.

Loving people is very important to me, it’s something that I learned from those years of being a Christian. I was taught that Jesus loved everyone in the whole world and gave his life sacrificially to save them. I took very literally – more than most Christians actually do – that we are supposed love even our enemies. Yes, I was a Christian pacifist, a somewhat rare position to take. To this day, attempting to love even very unlovable human beings is still an essential part of my way of being.

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