Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Atheists and God

To the Editor of the NY Times/Opinon

In the Blessings of Atheism, Susan Jacoby makes a good case for non-believers. Atheists are organizing to make their ideas better known, seek community and find ways to express themselves at the important milestones of life, birth, marriage and death. They rightly resent not being respected in public services, which assume a common notion of God.

However, as a devout Christian of the Episcopalian persuasion, I bristle when Atheists lump together all notions of God into a simplistic definition in which most of us do not believe.

Thoughtful Christians and Jews have complex and varied views of the divine. Many of us see God as the “ground of all being” an idea set forth by the late Paul Tillich.  God is not a being, but being itself. The Hebrew Scriptures have a notion of God as the great I am.”

Now one cannot pray to the ground of all being. The late Joseph Campbell when asked if he believed in God, replied, “I know a good metaphor when I see it.” The words God, father or mother are metaphors for being itself, for the ground of all being. We pray knowing there are deeper ideas below the metaphors.

Prayer does not work on God, prayer works on us. When I pray for the children and families of the Newtown, CT. The prayers work on me to do something about gun control and mental health. In the corporate prayers of believers we strengthen those who mourn.

Many people, including Atheists, reject a childish and uninformed idea of God. Even us believers know that belief in God is not an idea etched in stone but an ongoing process.


Anonymous Fred Fenton said...

A "simplistic definition (of God) in which most of us do not believe" is however stated in the creeds and doctrines of all mainline churches including the Episcopal Church. With more and more of the ordained clergy retreating from, or going beyond, orthodox Christian teaching about God, one wonders whether we should "bristle" at the new atheists challenge to what we say in our public worship or take up the task of serious revision of our liturgy, hymns, and public prayers.

12:46 PM  

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