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Portrait of a serious atheist

By Peter Sellick - posted Tuesday, 14 November 2017


The time is past for the Church to wield morality as its own justification. My serious atheist will keep his or her own counsel and live a moral life. If he is in moral danger it is often that he takes it too seriously because he is too responsible.

The Church, in its arrogance, thinks that it has something that everyone needs. But when we look at popular Christian piety or even the piety of the clergy, we often find a shallow thing. I came across this remarkable sentence in Miskotte that describes what needs to be given up by Christian believers:

That God does not have a Being which is analogous to our being, that the Word is not a mystical experience, that faith is not an experience and not even something that man is capable of, that God cannot be thought of as substance, that Gods' work cannot be conceived as causality, that holy history cannot be thought of as a process - all these gravely passionate negations are simply inherent in the fundamental structure of the bible.

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He goes on to say that anyone who cannot grasp and own this sentence cannot have any relationship with the given and that their "objective intellect is bottomlessly subjective." Here we find where my serious atheist come from, he lives in reaction to a faith that is incapable of grasping the real, a faith that is self-delusion, a faith whose end must be nihilism. He sees that stoicism is better and I am inclined to agree. Thus, a conversation between the serious atheist and church people who are insulated against the harsh realities of life cannot occur. This is where the evangelism of the Church grinds to a halt.

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I owe inspiration for this essay to Kornelis Miskotte's book "When the Gods are Silent" (1967).



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About the Author

Peter Sellick an Anglican deacon working in Perth with a background in the biological sciences. He has a website called Coondle Art Presentations.

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