Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Belief and unbelief

The current homepage article for Beliefnet provides very brief bios of the "leading" figures in atheism and secular humanism in the US. Some of the details of these people's lives and activities got me to thinking.

In the rhetoric of the "culture war", the us vs. them definitions keep shifting, or the voices who have been loudest in expressing those definitions periodically go silent as they ponder a shift in their targeting. While my personal scope has been admittedly limited, there seems to be two major targets: atheists/secular humanists, and non-Christians -- but more often as a catch-all phrase, pagans.

Upon much thought, remembering where my head as been over my adult-life journeys, it is accurate to say that I am both. I reside in both target groups.

That I am Pagan is easy to describe. Heck, I'm literally a card-carrying Pagan. It is less intuitive to see me as a secular humanist, but I avow that my attitudes fit the mold rather closely. It is counter-intuitive to think of a self-described, devoutly spiritual person such as myself as an atheist, but this, too, is accurate in a basic sense: I reject completely all the notions that derive from anthropomorphism, the symbolic and emotional representation of deity in human form. I think about deity in such terms and I sling the lingo with my deistic siblings-in-faith, but I don't believe in deity in those terms at all. Unlike most atheists, I do have a replacement in my faith for the concept of deity.

That's a point that I've come to think about alot in recent years, that an atheist is not definitionally without spiritual depth or belief. Profound thinking is not the sole realm of spirituality, not by a long shot, and while profundity is most often associated with religious expression, it's long past time to expand people's awareness.

Through the voices of the characters in his book Contact, Carl Sagan promoted the notion that if we are truly alone in the universe, it would be a collosal waste of space. One does not need to believe or disbelieve in a God to understand and embrace that notion. There are many more such notions floating around. Perhaps it's time to grab a few and think about them.

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