Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Are You an Atheist?


“Are you an Atheist?”
I’m often asked this question during lectures despite the fact that I use the word “God” regularly. My usual response is to take cover in cleverness: “My atheism depends on your theism. If you believe in Zeus or Apollo, then, yes, I’m an atheist. If you believe in a god who chooses one people over another and privileges one strip of real estate over another, then, yes I’m an atheist. If you believe in a god who has children, or who dictates books on mountaintops or in caves, or who saves some and damns others, then, yes, I’m an atheist. But if you believe in the God of Einstein and Spinoza, the God who is Reality itself—the seen and the unseen, the known and the unknown, then I’m not an atheist.”
Most of the time this works, but sometimes being clever just falls on deaf ears: “But, are you an atheist? Do you believe in a God we can pray to? YHVH, Allah, the First Person of the Trinity, or even Krishna? Yes or no?”
No. But….
“There is no ‘but’ here. It isn’t a difficult question. And you answered it honestly. No, you don’t believe in God, so, yes, you are an atheist.”
At this point someone usually comes to my defense and suggests I’m an agnostic, but I politely refuse this offer of help. While it is true that no one can prove or disprove the existence of God, I will state unequivocally that I don’t believe in the existence of Krishna, Allah, YHVH, the Trinity, or any other object of theological speculation.
So am I an atheist or not? And how about you? Are you an atheist?

6 comments:

Johnathan said...

Nicely put, Rabbi. As an atheist in the same vein, I find that faith in that known/unknown reality to be humbling - equally as much as faith in any of the above mentioned Gods.

I've been a silent follower since your appearance on CBC radio (Tapestry I think?). It was a pleasure to listen to. Cheers.

Maggid said...

A grappler with God, a SpiritWalker.
My Idea of God sounds like yours -
My idea includes the other idea faces-
I may not understand - 'cause the actuality is so much larger than i can grasp . . . So, I use the "And-And" philosophy . .

Like so many others - i am grateful for your work - grateful for YOU in the world.
-g-

Erick Reynolds said...

I prefer to use the term “omni-theist”. Every belief or interpretation of God is the individual grappling to understand the unknowable within the context of their own observations or “reality”.
It is like asking each person to look into one window of a busy billion-room hotel and define goes on in the hotel (God). How much agreement would there be?
But if you listen to what others “see”, in context with where they “are”, you might have a better understanding of the whole.

Adam Hinds said...

My favorite post of your's I've read so far.

Fraser said...

All those terms are boxes folks who like 'us and them' thinking like so they can know where they stand in their imaginary pecking order. The letting go of concepts is just that and leaves one in the uncomfortable position of not knowing. So you are neither an atheist nor a theist but one who is open to the ineffable. I think so much of that question and answer game is based on a check list that someone has in mind. Unless you tick all the boxes you are out of the club and destined for a fiery future in their reckoning.

Lauren Peck said...

The herd is on the move and it left me in the dust...
I never thought I was an atheist until my dad died last fall... :(