April 27, 2009


There's an interesting article in the New York Times this morning about atheists who are organizing themselves to find the support of community and to advance their agenda.

Whenever I read something like this, I'm always led into a reflection by how little I am offended as a committed theist and religionist. Why doesn't it bother me? Shouldn't committed atheists offend me? Why don't they?

First, it seems to me that the reasoned and thoughtful atheist is not the real atheistic enemy of faith and religion. The real atheistic danger to faith in God is the practical atheist; the person who may say they believe in God but for whom God makes no practical difference in their life. In fact, I think that the committed atheist is much closer to the theist than the person who may observe a religion on the surface but for whom God has no dynamic place in their heart and mind. The professed atheist is at least trying to be true to his conscience and the reasoning being God created him to be, while the practical atheist fails to truly face the searing and subtle question of God at all. In this they risk breaking the commandment that prohibits the vain use of God's name, and because they are "neither cold nor hot," they can expect to be "spit out." (Revelation 3:15-16)

Second, as I have said here many times, it's hard for me to blame people for not believing in God. This is because it is my experience that most people have been taught--or have somehow absorbed--a concept of God which isn't very believable for a thoughtful adult. The God they think someone wants them to believe in is closer to Santa Claus, Papa Smurf, or the Great Pumpkin than it is to the original Mystery whom we name as Unbegotten Source, Word, and Spirit.

Third, I have a sort of a practical connection with these professed atheists in their desire for the ruthless application of the separation of church and state. Perhaps they want it so that civil society can be protected from religion, while I want it the other way around: so that the faith can be protected from the world and from the numbing lowest common denominator of our American "civil religion."

Check out the article here.


Thesauros said...

Really good post! Thank you.

A Secular Franciscan said...

I've always found it easier to understand why someone could be an an athiest than why someone could be an agnostic. Genuine athiests I've met (as opposed to trndy athiests) actually think about what they believe, whereas many agnostics I've encountered seem to have lapsed into that stance instead of really trying to think.

I know, that's a broad generalization. There are probably many genuine agnostics who do think, and many athiests who do not.

A Bit of the Blarney said...

Your thoughts are eye-opening. Thank you! Cathy

Anonymous said...

This post really speaks to my heart as I am currently undergoing my own faith struggles and seem to waffle somewhere between agnostic and deist. Your practical atheist sounds alot like Lee's agnostic. Yes I believe in God but I have a hard time accepting the concept of a good and loving God when I ponder all the suffering in this world. God may not be the creator of evil, but He certainly allows evil and asks us to rejoice in it for the glory of His name. Sounds cruel to me. Hence the hot and cold and why an agnostic may "lapse" into it.

Brother Charles said...

Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. Suffering is our fault, not God's. His answer to the suffering we bring upon ourselves--the Cross--is one of solidarity, not a magical fix that absolves us of our responsibility in the ways he make each other suffer. And that's an response we are called to imitate.

ben in denver said...


The reality of evil and suffering in the world was fundamental to my personal comming to faith from atheism. Ultimately, where atheism failed me was in that it robbed from me the meaning of my own sufering. Without the foundation provided by God, neither good nor evil is ultimatley meaningful. The lack of the moral absolutes provided by religion left me at a loss to understand my own personal situation. Ultimately, I needed to be able to unequivocally condemn some of the things that I had done so that I could get on with my life--I could not get away from the reality of the wrongs I had committed

Atheism, instead of liberating me, imprisoned me because it deprived me of the possibility of even seeking pardon or forgiveness, because if nothing is every really wrong in the first place, then there is nothing to forgive. It was therefore completely unacceptable. I found that Christianity alone can reconcile the sinner, and reconciiation is the only means of truly being free. Reconciliation is more than just forgiveness though, it is the action of being returned to integrity--the action of being allowed to be oneself again. In atheism we lose out identity because we cannot of our own power restore the parts of ourselves we destroy through sin.