Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Thank God for Atheists!

I believe we need to imagine a world without God.

We then might take greater responsibility for our own lives and the circumstances of others, as well as life on this planet.  Our consciences would not be alleviated by the notion that suffering or poverty is God’s will.  There would be no “acts of God” that can toss a baby through a window, drown a family, suffocate the elderly, or destroy a coastline. There would just be tornadoes, tsunamis, heat waves, and hurricanes.

We wouldn’t wait for God to fix things, or save us, or take care of the world. We wouldn’t exclude anyone from basic human rights because God demands purity or orthodoxy or a particular form of religion or worship. We wouldn’t have those who do violence to themselves or others for the reward of various versions of an afterlife. We wouldn’t have American politicians who insist on saying “God bless America” rather than “God bless the world.”

Diseases, disabilities, and infirmities would not be blamed on God but on their true causes ascertained by science. Global warming and evolution would not be things of “belief” but challenges to human arrogance and pride. Sin would be viewed not as an offense against God but as an offense against ourselves, others, and the earth. Redemption would not be considered a supernatural event but a coming together of forgiveness, responsibility, mentoring, and community. Death would remind us of the unpostponable value of life.

Rather than prefer and await an invisible world, we might better value bodies, earth, the cosmos, and the moment.

So I am grateful for atheists and agnostics who remind me of my own “cloud of unknowing” when it comes to God’s definitions, actions, and desires.

Yet I still believe in God.

Letting go of the concepts above prompts me to believe still more that all we say and do and all we fail to say or do matters.


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  1. I'm trying to understand what difference a belief in God makes, given the above essay.

    1. Yes, I anticipated your question, though I may not have a good answer. Given the time of day and the day of the week, I may give a different answer. The line that now reads, "Yet I still believe in God," originally read, "Yet I still believe that my life and yours is not an accident" and then changed that to "have purpose." But I realized I don't think I am specifically "designed," and though "God may have a plan for my life" it's nonspecific in details. Love and life, purpose and mercy, I believe is the divine yearning for us all. The concepts I describe in the blog are about a God in control, and I believe in God rather as "shepherd"--persuading, leading, inspiring, and hoping. There is biblical precedent, of course, and I am also influenced by Process thought that understands a God who doesn't predetermine the outcome and one who is not completely in control. Process asks the question, who do you think more highly of, one who is all powerful or all loving? My answer is all loving, but since I first wrote about that in my first book, I have written in my second book that our human understanding of "power" is distorted to mean being "in control," when God's power is love--absolute, unconditional, gracious love. Thanks for asking!

  2. My belief in God inspires the idea that in working with God I am more - that furthering an agenda of Love (work given us to do), I have been given all I need to do my part. That I am not alone in that agenda (which certainly can seem overwhelming). To me atheism is an ocean of solo creatures connected by happenstance, who choose, when it serves them, human cooperation. My faith is an ocean of creatures, united by Loveself who choose - when it serves Love - even when inconvenient or unpleasant - to serve a higher agenda than self.

  3. I'm from a non-religious background and converted late in life. I was an Atheist-Agnostic for longer than I've been a Christian. I still find it quite strange when, if you're having a hard time, some Christians make it sound as if it's all part of God's plan and that you should be patient and pray more. I've tended to find that it feels diminishing, because when you're having a hard time what you want is empathy and practical help. Not a cookie cutter response for all occasions.

    1. Yes, absolutely diminishing! Empathy and compassion are the best responses to someone else's hard time. And frankly, a lot of things don't go according to God's plan!