Further on from my little rant of a couple of days ago, I thought it interesting to share a thought from Peter Rollins’ book ‘How (Not) to Talk of God’. In the book, he describes how we are all atheists in one way or another, even those of us who follow Christ. If atheism is ‘against god’, or perhaps more specifically against a particular idea of god (e.g. an evangelical Christian presentation etc.), then all of us at some point are against a particular presentation of god. Some of the things I mentioned in my last post stand against an understanding of God others hold, particularly those with a secular, humanist or new-atheist worldview. Rollins explains that when he encounters an atheist he often asks what they are against, and often finds myself in agreement with them. This then provides him with an opportunity to explain the God that he believes in.
So, I’m also an atheist if we’re talking about a god who is vindictive and judgemental, a god who sits aloft from his creation, a god who favours one gender over another, a god who can only be understood using one set of doctrines over another. A god who favours the strong over the weak, the rich over the poor. I don’t believe in that god.
I do, however, believe in a God of love, of second (and third, and fourth and…) chances, of grace, of transformation. A God who gets his hands dirty in business of redeeming and recreating the mess of the world and expects his people to do likewise. A God of mystery, infinitely unknowable and yet at the same time intimately close and present. A God who impacts every decision, whether the big moral issues of our day or what I buy on my trip to the supermarket (should I even be shopping there in the first place?).
Again, the crucial thing is dialogue. Let’s find some ground on which we can talk like adults, without slinging labels around at each other – both within and without the faith conversation. Indeed. It’s important that those outside of the Christian community realise that our faith has always been full of disagreement and discussion, and that many of us welcome that debate and what it does to sharpen our understanding of God. We ‘argue’ precisely because we think it’s so important.
So, I’m an atheist. What about you? Which ‘atheism’ do you embrace?