Friday, February 09, 2007

UU Carnival: Prophetic Atheists

Since I'm planning to preach soon on the integrity of atheism, I was tickled to see that the UU Carnival topic this month was prophetic atheism, based on some remarks made by our great theologian, James Luther Adams:

We'd love it if you submitted your take on the subject.

Here, Ms. Kitty takes us through the permutations of her own rejection of the "old white guy in the sky-God" and her embrace of a more panentheistic, immanance-based faith:

And Matt over at Spirituality and Sunflowers, a "fundamentalist atheist" in his teen years, is making his mom happy by thinking he might be an agnostic after all:

[This just in...]
Jess kicks up a good fuss about not letting religious conservatives define our terms for us:

Let's hear from some more of you. When Unitarian Universalists are derided and scorned for having atheists in our pews, how do you articulate your support for the theological diversity that joins us as one people in the search for truth and meaning?

My own personal experience with mature atheists is that they are often the most theologically thoughtful people within the community, having carefully considered many angles of traditional religious traditions and having refused "shopworn creeds" (if I'm remembering my Emerson correctly).

We who worship in UU communities know that to be atheistic is not necessarily to be un-reverent or unfaithful. But does it insult the integrity of the atheistic position to agree with James Luther Adams that atheism "is the working of God in history, and judgement upon the pious"? If we are to fairly consider the value of having "out" atheists in the religious community, should we not do so according to a different framework?

It seems to me that applauding the contribution of atheists as "the working of God in history" is more than a bit of a backhanded compliment, and possibly patronizing. How might you say it?

Thanks for CK for the invitation to host this month's carnival.


Anonymous Jess said...

I wrote on this yesterday, too, but more from the point of view of how we as Unitarian Universalists (mis)use religious language and let others define god for us.

Anonymous Philocrites said...

I think it's important to keep in mind that Adams was making a theological assessment of atheism, which is to say that he was trying to identify the theological meaning of the conscientious rejection of traditional religiosity. He also picked up on Paul Tillich's observation that God might have withdrawn the power of his name for a period of time in order to help us rediscover that power. That, too, of course, is a theological way of interpreting the meaning of atheism.

Adams used words like "theology" and "theological" in ways that don't really match how most UUs speak today. We often use them in a broader, more casual way to describe pretty much all efforts to interpret our religious approaches. Adams, however, was speaking about the intellectual tradition of Christian theology, which he practiced as a liberal Unitarian Universalist.

It doesn't insult atheists to say that, from a Christian theological perspective, atheism teaches us something about God's intentions for the world. But if I were trying to say something about the social meaning of atheism in a UU context, I wouldn't use this passage by Adams. He was trying to say that Christians could find religious meaning in the phenomenon of atheism; he wasn't trying define the meaning of atheism for atheists -- or for Unitarian Universalism.

Blogger CK said...

Jess got excluded...her post is here, so check it out!

Blogger ms. kitty said...

Good morning, PB,
Just a minor quibble---I am a mature woman of almost-advanced years, not a young girl, and would ask you to use "Ms. Kitty", not Miss Kitty, as my moniker. There is another blog out there written by a Miss Kitty (Educated and Poor--a good read) and I don't want our zillions of readers to be confused.

I tried to send this yesterday but got cut off by technical stuff, so I'm not sure it got to you.

I'd appreciate your help with this.


Blogger PeaceBang said...

Done, Ms.Kitty! And my apologies.

Blogger CK said...

Just noting another entry by Earthbound Spirit, which points out the ways in which believers of earlier times were called atheists by groups that opposed their vision of god.

Blogger CK said...

And it looks like I need to give folks more time... Joel Monka has another entry. PB, if you have time, maybe you could do some quick'n'dirty summaries of these most recent ones?

Blogger PeaceBang said...

CK, I read Joel's entries but he doesn't refer to the Carnival in any of his recent ones, nor does he tag them in that category, so I'm just adding Earthbound Spirit's.

Blogger fausto said...

Great topic. Would love to add my $0.02. Unfortunately, the Muse/Holy Spirit/Goddess of Inspiration seems to have left me for a while, as she sometimes does -- which is also why my blog has been so quiet lately. (Is that itself a form of atheism?) I'll enjoy reading what everyone else has to say.

Blogger Paul said...

Seems to me that atheism covers a host of sins and virtues.

For example, there are plenty of atheists who spend their whole lives in a reactionary anti-religion mindset because of negative experiences with organized religion in early life.

Yet Buddhism, for example, is sometimes said not to be a "real" religion (ha'!) because they don't believe in God, at least not as He is so fully described, gendered, trifurcated, etc., in western theology.


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