Today I read Betrand Russell’s Why I am Not A Christian. Russell originally presented this as a lecture in London in 1927. It was later published in a pamphlet and in countless Philosophy anthologies. It has been an influential piece in humanistic circles. Russell attacks some of the classic rational arguments for the existence of God. He also attacks the character of Christ’s followers and the teachings of Christ. For example, he writes: You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.
Reading Russell’s article got me thinking of my own walk of faith. I was reminded of something I heard John Ortberg teach years ago — “You cannot do by trying, what you can do by training.” I have explored this in various sermons in the past and I have tried to live it out. But…oops…there it is — “tried,” trying has been my constant mistake. “Training” for Ortberg is another way of talking about spiritual disciplines. He writes: “(Training) means to arrange your life around certain exercises and experiences that will enable you to do eventually what you are not yet able to do even by trying hard.” (John Ortberg, Growth: training vs. trying, Zondervan: 2000.)
Russell is correct that Christians have often failed to live up to the standard of their Master. This is why I have quit trying to be a Christian. I have put together my ten reasons why I have quit:
Ten Reasons Why I Have Quit Trying to be a Christian
1) Trying leaves me frustrated, because I am continually unsuccessful in reaching my goal of becoming like Christ.
2) Trying leaves me shallow.
3) Trying causes me to focus more on my ability than God’s generosity.
4) Trying makes me feel guilty when I fail.
5) Trying causes me to confuse faith with good intentions.
6) Trying lacks hope because it has a built-in assumption that failure is possible
7) Trying makes me settle for mediocrity.
8) Trying is the result of man-made religion and the tradition.
9) Trying is futile, knowing that for all of my self-righteous attempts to reach God, I have fallen short of his glory.
10) Trying overlooks the fact that I have been chosen by God, called me, set me apart and that he is changing me, empowering me and developing me into a Christ-like person.
So I have quit. You can consider this my letter of resignation from any kind of religious system, Christian or other, that requires me to try. From now on, I will train. And training is something that you do or do not — there is no trying. Mr. Miyagi said it best: “Man walk on road. Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk down middle, sooner or later, get squished just like grape. Same here. You karate do ‘yes,’ or karate do ‘no.’ You karate do ‘guess so, just like grape. Understand?” (Mr. Miyagi, Karate Kid, 1984)