These days I've been in an email conversation with an old friend who is one of the most sensible and brightest people I know. He's also an atheist, and so we are able to have honest and intriguing talks about God and faith and practice. I wanted to share some of one of my emails:
The question of a/theism intrigues me these days, even more so after working as a parish priest for a few years. Some of my colleagues imagine that we are in a struggle with atheism, but for me I'm not so sure of this. My diagnosis is that many people, both religious and not, seem to have absorbed an image or idea of God which isn't credible, and sometimes isn't even attractive. So of course they become 'practical atheists,' because there is nothing compelling or lovely in the idea of God they think they are supposed to believe in.
To me the standard question of theism, 'Do you believe in God?' doesn't even seem to work anymore. Of course I believe God, in the sense that I believe what he has revealed about himself, but to believe in God seems too suggestive of God as some kind of object or some-thing that is sitting some-where waiting for me to assent to his existence. To me God is too immanent for all that. Indeed I think this is precisely the message of Christianity; that God has abandoned everything it ought to mean to be God on our human terms (i.e. honor, power, coercion, etc.), and has emptied and sacrificed himself into our humanity, in order to blaze for us a path out of the misery we insist upon for ourselves with our selfishness and violence. I guess this is part of why Christianity works for me and why I enjoy preaching it; it is a sustained critique and subversion of an idea of God created in our image, of what human beings tend to do and become when given absolute power over others. I'm still just a punk rock kid you know!