In last Sunday’s New York Times was an opinion piece titled “The Blessings of Atheism.” We number among ourselves atheists, agnostics, theists, and probably a dozen other variations on the theme. Central to our identity is freedom of belief, and the diversity of theologies within our congregation is evidence of that. When we hear so often in the public sphere “God Bless ….[fill in the blank]” and God seems everywhere, what place does atheism have?
Well, it depends on what you mean by the word “God.” Rev Forrest Church liked to say “God isn’t God’s name. It is the word we use to point to that which is greater than all and present in each.” I go back and forth. Sometimes the word has meaning for me, sometimes not, but mostly not. It isn’t that I don’t believe there is something “beyond” or transcendent, something spiritual in existence, it is that I don’t believe in the God I hear about in public. So, count me down as an atheist. For others, God is a real presence and I can only respect that – this is an individual matter.
The Buddha would say that theological questions were often those questions not tending to edification, often leading more to confusion and separation than clarity and togetherness. The question of God is just no longer an important question for me. What matters more is learning how to love this world and all that is in it, seeking understanding of how I might be part of healing the world, how I might help to lessen suffering.
Maybe there is a God or a Goddess or bunches of them – whatever that might mean – and maybe not. We each make up our minds. But I do know that we are responsible for our own lives, how we treat our own self and others, how we live on this planet. I do know we can be kind and seek justice. I do know we can delight in beauty and in the good. And I do know that we don’t know everything, but that we do know enough to live worthwhile lives.
Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson