It’s not about Theists vs. Atheists

I wrote this in December but never finished and published it. But it’s on my mind again because of a book review I heard on NPR last week — more about that in a couple days.

Andrew Greeley has a great little piece in the paper (in December, 2007). “We hope because we have to,” he wrote, or words to that effect. He was essentially staking out a Catholic position on hope vs. despair: Hope eventually leads to life & growth, despair to chaos & destruction. Without hope, he says, there is no hope.

He did a nice job of admitting that neither life’s purpose and goodness nor its ultimate absurdity has ever proven its validity completely, nor can. He aligns the best beliefs ideas about God with the positive: “To assert the existence of God is to express hope. To deny that there is an overwhelming presence at the root of things is to deny hope.”

But Greeley finishes by equating that “overwhelming presence” with God, and therefore equating atheism with despair, chaos & evil.

And that’s just not true.

Here’s what I know: humans have had vengeful, arbitrary gods too (Molech), & blind evil followers of religion. You can have faith in humanity (as in Shaul (Saul) Tchernikovsky’s poem/song “Sachki”), progress, or other things w/o personifying it as deity.  And that faith can be a hopeful faith.  You don’t need deity for hope, nor does deity necessarily equate with hope and positive growth.

But it can.  And for many people, it does.

The most radical statement of belief that I personally can make is that I believe that life & humanity matter. In the face of entropy.

And I have had that faith for many years.  I have had to — otherwise, I shriek and give up.  When I was in college, I went to Quaker Meeting a few times, after having wanted to do so for quite a few years.  The first time was the student meeting which met at Prof. Eleanor Zelliot’s house.

THE END OF THIS POST IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION — sorry, I published it too soon.

Faith- from Quaker Mtg @ Elinor’s- not “in” or “that” – just faith. Way of being? of believing? Can be shared by atheists & theists alike. Hope. Compassion.
So rel’n @ its best is what Greeley believes it is. But atheism, or humanism, at its best is just as good.

But I think rel’n is the way we’ve encoded the best for transmission to the next gen.