Jim Burko's answer to atheists


Jim Burklo, pastor of Sausalito Presbyterian Church and a leading figure in the Center for Progressive Christianity, has written a wonderful blog entry titled "Answers to Atheists". I would like to post one part of the column that I particularly liked:

I've had plenty of encounters with people who are adamant that there is no God. I often ask them which God they don't believe in. Invariably, it's a God I don't believe in, either. So they don't find me to be a worthy partner for an argument. Proving or disproving the existence of God misses the heart of my faith. God is what happens when I am overcome with wonder and gratitude before the transcendent mystery of existence. Some atheists say they have this experience, too, but just don't call it God. Other atheists get peeved at me, saying that I'm not really religious at all. Since I don't believe in a supreme being in the the way they assume religious people are required to do, what I have to say doesn't count!

Within Christianity's long history, I'm hardly alone in my point of view. Christian mystics for two thousand years, and Jewish mystics before them, have described God in terms much different than the theistic, supernatural ones that modern atheists disavow. It's worth noting that the early Christians were considered atheists by many Romans. In the absence of images of their god, people presumed that Christians didn't have a god at all.

Most of the atheists I've met are against religion because they think it does a bad job of explaining reality. In their view, the book of Genesis does a bad job of explaining natural history, and the book of Job does a bad job of explaining the problem of evil, and so on. But I don't find Christianity to be an explanation of anything at all. I find the Bible primarily to be a diverse collection of poetic, metaphorical descriptions of the soul's journey through life. It would never occur to me to go looking for a biology or physics lesson in the Christian religion. Instead, I find in it a language for my heart and for sharing my heart with others. Christianity gives me a rich, ancient, nuanced, flexible, inspiring system of symbols, rituals, stories, music, practices, and images to express my spiritual experience.