On Atheism

Hi Cynthia –

As our human consciousness evolves and we hopefully become better cosmic servants, living with objectless awareness, are we then a-theistic? What/who are we worshiping? I would love your help in articulating if progressive Christians, rooted in the Wisdom tradition, can call themselves atheists? What is theism!!!???? Are we theistic?

~ Robin Junker-Boyce

It comes down to how you define the word atheist, doesn’t it? If by “atheist” you mean simply a person who doesn’t believe in the anthropomorphic “big daddy in the sky” model of divine presence, then of course, atheism would be the normal maturation of the contemplative path as one gradually becomes less and less dependent on cognitive/dogmatic structures and more and more trusting of more subtle capacities for inner perception which allow one to perceive from the inside the coherence and compassion holding the whole shooting match together.

But many people use the word “atheist” to claim (while still firmly locked in their cognitive structures and their identification with these structures), that there is NO COHERENCE and NO COMPASSION: in other words, to justify a position of philosophical nihilism. And Wisdom would never assent to this interpretation, for it is a surefire sign that a person is still firmly stuck in the head. As soon as one descends into the cave of the heart, coherence and intimacy are immediately picked up. These qualities just can’t be picked up by the mind in isolation. So in that sense, no, you can’t be an atheist and a follower of the Wisdom path, for the wisdom path leads inevitably, through the heart, to the discovery of some fundamental, deep band of meaning (NOT explanation), in which we “live and move and have our being” because or in spite of ourselves…

“God is a person, God is a person,” Teilhard de Chardin used to repeat urgently toward the end of his life, to his younger Jesuit colleague Pierre LeRoy. By this he surely didn’t mean God is an old man in the sky. He meant that the universe is personal, intimate, flexible, responsive, relational, coherent, compassionate. This is what heart perception infallibly tells us once we get into it. And the job of Wisdom is to get us into it.

Hope this helps. Thank you for asking.

All best,