The Lament Psalms and Emotional Atheism

In my post yesterday I mentioned how the lament psalms aren't for doubters but for lovers. That is to say, the emotional backdrop of the lament psalms is a love relationship with God. Some might prefer to describe it as a covenantal relationship.

Regardless, the lament psalms never express doubt or skepticism about God's existence. God's goodness, yes, but not God's existence.

And yet, a lot of doubting Christians are drawn to the lament psalms. What can account for this attraction?

One answer is provided by the psychologist Julie Exline, who has done research about a phenomenon she has described as "emotional atheism."

Emotional atheism is observed when atheists express anger at God, usually in relation to a past faith experience. These ex-believers display a dual relationship with God. Intellectually, these atheists deny the existence of God. But emotionally, these atheists report being angry with God. We can assume this anger emerged within the faith experience, and might have played a large part in the deconversion. For some atheists, those feelings of anger appear to linger in the season of unbelief, even if the emotions are incoherent. How can you be angry at something that doesn't exist? And yet people do.

All that to say, the lament psalms may be associated with doubt during a transition into emotional atheism: Not believing in God, while feeling angry at God.

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