Monday, September 2, 2013

More musings from church-going atheists

These from an atheist Quaker:
If you are really going to be part of a community, just showing up for the main meal is not enough: you need to help cook and clean up. So it has been with me and the Quakers: I’m concerned with how my community works, and so I’ve served on committees (Quakerism is all about committees). There’s pastoral care to accomplish, a building to maintain, First-Day School (Quakerese for Sunday School) to organise. And there’s the matter of how we as a religious community will bring our witness into the world. Perhaps this language sounds odd coming from a non-theist, but as I hope I’ve shown, I’m not a non-theist first. I’ve been involved in prison visiting, and have been struck at the variety of religious attitudes among volunteers: some for whom the visiting is in itself ministry, and others for whom it’s simply social action towards justice (the programme grew out of visiting conscientious objectors in the Vietnam era). The point is: theological differences are not necessarily an issue when there’s work to be done.
This goes back to our recurring theme on this blog of the place of the non-believers amongst those who believe.

The writer goes on,
I love facts and theories, the stuff of the world.....We don’t need to tell lies about the real world in order to make it magical. But we do still need impossible magic for our own irrational selves. At any rate, I do. 
Because I don’t feel stuff-and-logic-based explanations deep down in my toes. There are no miracle stories of flying children there, or brothers reborn into the land where the sagas come from. The language of ‘stuff is all there is’ tells me that I can — even ought to — be rational and sensible, but it doesn’t make me want to be. ‘Atheism’ tells me what I am not, and I yearn to know what I am. .... 
Maybe there is no god but God... or maybe there just is no God. And maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe we just tell stories that ring true to us and say up-front that we know they are fiction. We can let people love these stories or hate them. Maybe imagining impossible things — such as flying, the land where sagas come from, God — is what is needed. Maybe we don’t need the gods to be real. Maybe all we need is to trust more leaps of the imagination.

1 comment:

JCF said...

I like.

But, it should be noted, among some streams of Quakerism, non-theism is VERY common. The "maybe it doesn't matter" wisdom prevails among many kinds of Quakers (though by no means all. When I lived in Oregon in the 80s, organizing for a Democratic Congressman, I expected to find a lot of support at the local Quaker college. I was warned, these were "Evangelical Quakers" who would only see me as working for the "baby-killer". Ack.)