For what it is worth, ‘Britney Spears’ is an anagram for ‘Presbyterians’. Of more significance is her recent foray into the world of social media where she has declared that she no longer believes in God but is an atheist. She wrote that she had rejected religion as a result of ongoing tensions with her sons Preston (aged 16) and Jayden (aged 15), after her ceasing to be under the conservatorship of her father. From 2008 to 2021 she had been adjudged to have mental health issues, and unable to manage her own life. Now, she has supposedly recovered, but the sleaze remains.
Her Instagram cry was: ‘God would not have let this happen to me, if a God existed. I don’t believe in God anymore because of the way my children and my family have treated me. There is nothing to believe in anymore. I’m an atheist y’all.’ As an argument for atheism, it seems little better than Richard Dawkins’ claim that God must be cruel to allow wasp stings to paralyse their victims but not kill them in order that wasp larvae could then feed on fresh meals.
As an advocate for atheism, Ms Spears is not quite in the same league as John Stuart Mill. On first reading, I did think it was simply a celebrity joke, but apparently it is meant to be a serious argument. What do we make of it?
First, her concept of suffering is something only a pampered celebrity could maintain. Job lost everything except his bare physical being and his less than sympathetic wife. Ms Spears, in contrast, has two sons who are clearly embarrassed by her antics, and she bitterly resents that. I know next to nothing about her father, but she thinks he should be in jail for the rest of his life. On the scale of human suffering Ms Spears’ experience ranks fairly low. God does not exist to be at our beck and call. He does not need us; we need Him (Acts 17:25).
Secondly, she has no concept of personal responsibility. She sees herself as a singer, but she is more like a porn star. A thoroughly modern celebrity, she also views herself as a victim. Apparently there is nothing on her side that would warrant her two sons not wanting to have much to do with her. According to Scripture, ‘none is righteous, no, not one’ (Rom.3:10), but Ms Spears cannot see herself in that verse. The result is that terrible human condition where we think everybody around us has got it wrong and ganged up against us.
Thirdly, she considers that God exists – if He did exist – to pander to celebrities. Has she not heard of the cross of Christ? Or that discipleship consists in taking up one’s cross to follow the Saviour? Confronting Nazi tyranny, Bonhoeffer wrote in his Cost of Discipleship, published in 1937: ‘When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.’ Ms Spears must be reading of a different Christ.
Britney Spears has lost what she never had. To lose one’s false view of the Christian gospel is to lose nothing of any worth. She needs to go right back to the beginning, and work from there – to the law, to what sin means, to our sinfulness before God, to His sovereignty and holiness, to the cross where the penalty for sin was paid for, and to the call to live a life of humble and even broken hearted service for Christ.
Surely the unwritten law of God is present in the soul of Britney Spears, and it tells her that her Instagram post was a lie from beginning to end. Dostoevsky warned us: ‘Above all, do not lie to yourself. A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others.’ Come, Holy Spirit come, we are in great need of being born again.
– Peter Barnes