The faith of an atheist

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Avenue_bij_ArlesThe problem with the term “faith communities” meaning religious groups is that it implies that secular humanitarian groups like CND or Save the Children are faithless. Faith is not limited to the religious.

And disdain for faith, an anti-theist contempt conflating it with asserting unprovable things like the Flood or creation in six days, is new too, for our language is full of faith: “In good faith”; “a leap of faith”. That faith is something between irrational wishful thinking and something I know definitely from my personal experience. I do not know that everything will be alright, but have faith in myself, my world and other human beings. Faith is different from belief, but closer to “believe in” than “believe that”. I believe when I have proof, but I have faith when I trust.

This faith is practised and tested. I imagine how people will react, from my past experience, and new reactions form part of the evidence for the future. It is separate from dogma, because it is my understanding which I develop, partly from what others tell me, partly from my experience. The humanist might even use the word “God” to mean the traditional attributes of God: because human Love can be an overwhelming force. So God moves from literalism to symbolism and metaphor: mercy pity peace and love in action, the promptings of love and truth in our hearts which can come from an evolved human impulse as a social animal, rather than a personal God who numbers every hair on my head and prompts me and others to act well. God is a symbol of those values, not a supernatural entity which moves us unworthy souls to Good.

I have faith that my constructive actions will bear fruit, and the human society I rely upon will act well. This is belief in things unseen.

This is heavily reliant on David Boulton, whom I have seen speaking at a Sea of Faith conference and a Quaker meeting. It comes from his talk at the Quaker Council for Christian and Interfaith Relations. It seems special pleading to me, an attempt to take religious concepts without religion. But Ian quoted Charles Carter on Sunday, and Sabina happened to have his book from 1971, “On having a sense of all conditions”, so I am reading that. Carter distinguished religious assumptions, things one cannot know, such that God who inspires ministry is the all-powerful creator of the universe, from what he knows from his experience, such as that God is a source of strength urging him towards the Good- which he also knows because those words resonate with the experience of others. Carter had, in world war two, experience of the power of evil.

From this he seeks sensitivity to the condition of each other human being, to reach out with consolation in their distress, and find friendship and consolation from them.

7 thoughts on “The faith of an atheist

  1. ู‚ู„ ู‡ูˆุงู„ู„ู‡ ุงุญุฏ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุงู„ุตู…ุฏ ู„ู… ูŠู„ุฏ ูˆู„ู… ูŠูˆู„ุฏ ูˆู„ู… ูŠูƒู† ู„ู‡ูˆ ูƒููˆุงู† ุงุญุฏ


    • Welcome, and thank you for commenting.

      Oh, the joys of Google translate. It gives “Say Hoallah one God Samad begets not and was not a fun one Kovan” and suggests a correction to ู‚ู„ ู‡ูˆ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุงุญุฏ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุงู„ุตู…ุฏ ู„ู… ูŠู„ุฏ ูˆู„ู… ูŠูˆู„ุฏ ูˆู„ู… ูŠูƒู† ู„ู‡ูˆ ูƒููˆุงู† ุงุญุฏ
      translated as “Say God is one God…”.

      Samad- a name of God, meaning “Eternal”. Of course God begets: we are God’s children. This was the revelation of the Prophets of Islam, and Jesus God’s son, before Mohammed denied it. Mohammed denies Islam’s prophecy.


      • ุงู„ุณู„ุงู… ุนู„ูŠูƒู… ูˆุฑุญู…ุฉ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ูˆุจุฑูƒุงุชุฉ ูŠุง ุงู‡ู„ ุงู„ูƒุชุงุจ ุชุนุงู„ูˆ ุงู„ูŠ ูƒู„ู…ุฉ ุณูˆุงุก ุจูŠู†ู†ุง ูˆุจูŠู†ูƒู… ุงู„ุง ู†ุนุจุฏ ุงู„ุงุงู„ู„ู‡ ูˆุงู„ุงู†ุดุฑูƒ ุจุฉ ุดูŠุก ูุงู† ุชูˆู„ูŠุชูˆ ูุดู‡ุฏูˆ ุจุงู†ุง ู…ุณู„ู…ูˆู† ุงู„ู…ุณูŠุญ ุนู„ูŠุฉ ุงู„ุณู„ุงู… ุฑุณูˆู„ ุนุธูŠู… ู…ู† ุฑุณู„ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ูˆูู‚ูƒ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุงู„ุฎุงู„ู‚ ู„ู… ูŠุญุจ ูˆูŠุฑุถุง


        • Oh wow. Not a spammer. “Peace, mercy and blessings of God, O People of the Book ฤ˜รšร‡รกฤ‡ word to both you and us, but we worship and Alllah Alanscherk expe something the Tlito Vhhdo PANA Muslims Christ peace be upon him a great messenger of God’s messengers of God the Creator and enabled you did not like and Aarza”.

          What is your personal experience? That is the Quaker question: “What canst thou say?”

          I know you are not supposed to translate the Koran, but I do not speak Arabic. Google leads me to a translation of 3:64, which may be what you are getting at: O People of the Book (i.e., Jews and Christians)! Come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah.’ If then they turn back, say ye: ‘Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah’s Will).


          • Google translate now does better: Peace be upon you and the mercy of God and blessings of the people of the book to pay us a common word between us and you, but worship God and the entrenchment of something Tlito Vshado Banna Muslims Christ peace be upon him a great messenger of the messengers of God and God Almighty did not love and bless


  2. I was an atheist because I poured scorn on ‘doctrinal’ aspects of faith, esp. the need to adhere to creeds and dogmas that I found ridiculous. I am a christian because I discovered that there is a long liberal tradition within christianity which allows us to find our way to God in many different ways. I am more tolerant than I used to be, as an atheist, and yes, it is a pity that the term ‘faith communities’ is more or less reserved for religious grouds, but I hope that may be changing. After all, the expression, ‘faith community’ can mean what we would like it to mean.

    Bless you! xxx :-))


    • How could we know that the God we worship is our Creator? We could trust revelation and prophecy, but do not need to: we can get and give enough through Faith, Hope and Love- and, for me, Reverence- without too many doctrines.


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