Atheism for Lent?

2013-03-09T04:00:00Z Atheism for Lent?Mary Garrigan Journal staff Rapid City Journal
March 09, 2013 4:00 am  • 

Giving up God for Lent is not quite as odd as it may sound, Pastor Erin Schendzielos says.

Over at The Well, a Rapid City church that welcomes agnostics, atheists and spiritual seekers of all kinds, Schendzielos and her husband, Pastor Ryan Schendzielos, are hosting a weekly Atheism for Lent discussion group that uses daily email devotionals from the website to get Christians thinking and talking about thoughtful criticisms of Christianity.

"Atheism for Lent has brought us to wrestle with some of the most well-reasoned critiques of Christianity. Out of this has come an environment of honest and open discussion about the times we have felt the deep absence of God in our lives and what that means to our faith," said Ryan Schendzielos.

Erin Schendzielos says the concept of exploring atheism during Lent may alarm some, but it fits with The Wells' mission to be "a different sort of Christian presence here in Rapid, one where ... we openly admit that we don't have it all figured out, and where we step into learning how to make space for one another each time we meet, instead of stomping out our differences."

For her, it mirrors the 40 days that Christ spent wrestling with temptation, doubt and fear in the desert. 

That's the idea that the website's creators, the religious organizations ikonNYC and Pyrotheology, based their Lenten devotion on. "Lent is a time that is traditionally reserved for a type of psychological purging that leads up to the Crucifixion. In light of this, Atheism for Lent seeks to use some of the most potent critiques of Christianity as a type of purifying fire that might help us appreciate and understand Christ’s cry of dereliction on the Cross in a new way. Just as Christ experienced the loss of God on the Cross, so Atheism for Lent invites participants into that desert space traditionally called the dark night of the soul." 

During the six-week exercise, the Rapid City gathering has invited members of the local Free Thinkers group to join the Friday evening conversation "in a hope that they'd bring this often unheard voice within Christianity to the table," Schendzielos said.

Group member Angie Thorson finds the daily readings and comments interesting but said many people are bewildered by the idea. "People do not understand how one could give up God for Lent, let alone for a lifetime," she said.

Michaelia Kendall said Atheism for Lent helps her transform a "defensive attitude toward Christianity" left over from her youth when she tried to justify her faith to others "in hopes that they might come around to my way of faith."

"In sort, I believed God needed defending, an idea I now think is nothing but ego. Atheism for Lent, to me, is a way to take in those critiques of Christianity, allowing them to transform my life without defense," she said.

Contact Mary Garrigan at 394-8424 or

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. West River
    Report Abuse
    West River - March 09, 2013 12:11 pm

    There are thousands of people who just blindly accepted family inheritance of their faith & Church for the one person who by personal study & knowledge of religion and conviction came to their acceptance of their faith & Church.
    Simply put, had they been born under another faith or Church they would likely just as blindly follow it while never doubting the believers of another faith or Church were destined for “heck”.
    All religions share four things in common:
    1. A belief in a higher power.
    2. Some form of ritual.
    3. Some form of scripture to follow.
    4. A belief that other religions are a misguided created story.
    What this tells me is:
    #1. That other religion's including Atheists all agree with #4 in regards to my religion.
    #2.Then if one throws in the theological differences within a particular religion likely few agree with my version.
    #3. Thus, since my version is the only way to heaven, the final conclusion must be ----
    #4. There is quite a few of you “infidels” that are going to "heck".
    Thus maybe questioning and studying one’s faith and religion might be better than blind acceptance.
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