the Dao of Atheism :jeffers' petroglyph, pre-dakota, minnesota : the Shaman Atheist 53/81


To travel the way is like
following a foot path
to your destination
you have nothing to fear
so long as you
stay on the path
and avoid turning.
Paths are safe and easy
but people like to stray

When government works at setting things right
farmers' fields lie fallow
the silos stay empty
people wear the latest fashion
carry weapons, go out to eat and drink a lot
buy more possessions than they can use
like thieves stocking up.

This is not the foot path.

Can an atheist be a christian? Yes.
Can a Christian be an atheist? Yes.
I use the term "Christian" here because most people in the West are, at least nominally, Christian. But substitute any other religious belief.
The trick is ho w you understand the inclusivity or exclusivity of religious terms and cultures. For probably the majority of traditional theists such as Jews, Christians and Muslims, religious identity is synonymous with theistic belief and practice. This is a traditiona l definition in the West: calling oneself a religious follower requires orthodox belief and practice. And, of course, all other uses of the word, especially to embrace atheists, is wrong.
There is, however, another other side to religion, that being the culture that religious belief creates and propagates, that its children imbibe and become, that its philosophers test and withdraw from.
Throughout history there have been many persons who have maintained their traditional cultural and religious identities as Jewish or Christian, but who had no belief in a god. Mordecai Kaplan, rabbi and founder of Reconstructive Judaism, and Ernst Bloch, Jewish German marxist philosopher who wrote Atheism in Christianity, were two such Jews. Miguel de Unamuno, Catholic Spanish existentialist, is one such Christian. Today there are many people who call themselves by traditionally Christian names, such as Unitarian, Universalist, and Quaker (Friends), who are very much atheist yet still within traditions that see themselves much more inclusively than the orthodox.
Religion creates culture, and as the religion's name becomes synonymous with the culture, the orthodox definition requiring belief falls to the wayside and is replaced by a heterodox definition that serves a dual purpose as does the national name and image.

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