A friend sent me this interesting article on non-believing clergy. It’s quite long, but well worth a read, touching on some profound subjects.
It expresses, better than I have done, how we have manipulated the concept of God over the years so we can still nominally stand under a theistic umbrella:
A spectrum of available conceptions of God can be put in rough order, with frank anthropomorphism at one extreme—a God existing in time and space with eyes and hands and love and anger—through deism, a somehow still personal God who cares but is nevertheless outside time and space and does not intervene, and the still more abstract Ground of all Being, from which (almost?) all anthropomorphic features have been removed, all the way to frank atheism: nothing at all is aptly called God. …
There is no agreement at all, then, about where to draw a line across this spectrum, with belief in God on one side and non-belief on the other…
One of the pastors is quoted as saying,
“The difference between me and an atheist is basically this: It’s not about the existence of God. It’s: do we believe that there is room for the use of the word ‘God’ in some context? And a thoroughly consistent atheist would say, ‘No. We just need to get over that word just like we need to get over concepts of race. We quit using that word, we’d be better off.’ Whereas I would say I agree with that in a great many cases, but I still think the word has some value in some contexts. So I think the word God can be used very expressively in some of my more meditative modes. I’ve thought of God as a kind of poetry that’s written by human beings. As a way of dealing with the fact that we’re finite; we’re vulnerable.”
He sounds like a Unitarian to me! Once again, despite myself, I find the word “hypocrisy” forming in my mind. At the same time, I admire and enjoy the inventiveness and subtlety of the various non-literal approaches to faith shown in these interviews. Religion is not a rigid, static thing, but an essentially evolving, fluid thing like any human creation, which I guess is why it holds much fascination for me.
The pastors interviewed here have (to me) incredibly well-balanced and compassionate meta-religious ideas, recognising both the harm religious beliefs can do and the benefits religion has to offer. Affirmation, comfort, wonder, meaning, support, and love are some of the plus points they cite. One of them is quoted as saying, “I never try to take away from somebody something they believe unless I can put something better in its place, as opposed to just attacking.”