by Bil Aulenbach

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An A-Theist Goes to Church?

Some folks might find it strange that an A-Theist even bothers to go to church where there is a great deal of talk about an UpThere God who isn’t UpThere—as far as he’s concerned. Wouldn’t it be easier just to stay home and do something more interesting? It seems so hypocritical to waste  time hearing about God, Jesus, the Trinity, and all that other dogma and doctrine when you don’t believe any of it.

As many of you know, I call myself an A-Theist, but I still go to church every Sunday. There are myriad reasons why I go, but first let me clarify what I mean by hyphenating this word. In my mind, A-Theist has a very different meaning than the word atheist. I am not against the idea of there being a Higher Power, or as Paul Tillich—one of the great theologians in the twentieth century—defines it, “the ground of all being.” I call that force Creation primarily because Creation

  • has no gender
  • occurs all over the universe
  • is happening 24/7
  • includes every living thing

That’s the furthest I’ll go in defining the idea of God. The rest is all conjecture. In my own wishful thinking, I’d love for Creation to be about love, especially the agape kind, but no one could ever prove God is love.

For me, the A in A-Theist means against because I am adamantly opposed to or against the idea, any idea, that the world is a flat three- or four-tiered place ruled over by some old man with a white beard, white skin, and white flowing garments who “lives” UpThere—a Master Puppeteer who makes everything happen. Even though the UpThere God was rendered dead eons ago, I am amazed so many folks still buy into that concept.

My finding, as a believer in science, space exploration, and reality, is that heaven and hell are figments of people’s imaginations. There is not one iota of proof for a place above the sky where a god and his son live, nor is there a place way down below where the bad guys go. So much of the church’s dogma and doctrine revolve around these erroneous ideas. In the 1500s, Copernicus proved that the sun, not earth, is in the center of our planetary system, thus rendering God homeless. The church’s response: ignore Copernicus and keep building dogma and doctrine built on false premises. This is part of the reason why I am an A-Theist.

So, why do I go to church? Here are my most important reasons:

  • I love participating in this community of intelligent, communicative, open-to-new-ideas folks who are extremely sensitive to the needs of the hurting world and willing to go out and do something about it.
  • We have an outstanding music program with a choir of more than fifty-five plus voices directed by a man who is extremely talented.
  • Our pastor is an excellent preacher.
  • One of the foundation stones of the congregation is to be open and affirming to all; no matter where they are on life’s journey, they are warmly welcomed.
  • We have outstanding educational opportunities for children and adults, bringing in world-renowned speakers.

There are more reasons, but those are enough to get me out of bed on a Sunday morning.

For me, the way we define a Higher Power is not nearly as important as the fact that this community knows where it’s going and how it is going to get there. I see in this church a prototype of the church of the future.

Do you think the institutional church has a future?

 

Image courtesy of John Beagle. CC by 2.0

10 Responses to An A-Theist Goes to Church?

  • You make me laugh. The Minister is church camp, 50 years ago when I was 12, never gave me a satisfactory answer to where heaven was. Subject changed. Changed my beliefs about clergy.

  • I think the institutional church is dying and not slowly either. It is home to people whose minds have generally been closed to reality in order to preserve the old belief systems from their childhood. Unfortunately the church as a whole encourages that. Anyone who tries to bring reality into the church experience is soon moved or if a member…excommunicated.

    The exception is my church. Although it still embraces it’s old myth, it is open to letting folks think for themselves. It’s called “faithful disagreement”. I am grateful for that or I could not go to church. Out church rotates the preaching responsibilities among their Elders. We have no paid pastors. But our church is one of the dying ones. If a church has no “entertainment” it won’t make it. The younger generation wants to be “entertained” with bands and praise songs. It’s a different world then the one I grew up in.

  • I think the institutional church is dying and not slowly either. It is home to people whose minds have generally been closed to reality in order to preserve the old belief systems from their childhood. Unfortunately the church as a whole encourages that. Anyone who tries to bring reality into the church experience is soon moved or if a member…excommunicated.

    The exception is my church. Although it still embraces it’s old myth, it is open to letting folks think for themselves. It’s called “faithful disagreement”. I am grateful for that or I could not go to church. Our church rotates the preaching responsibilities among their Elders. We have no paid pastors. But our church is one of the dying ones. If a church has no “entertainment” it won’t make it. The younger generation wants to be “entertained” with bands and praise songs. It’s a different world then the one I grew up in.

  • For me, God is equivalent to creative inspiration that I somehow receive…that somehow guides me through life and all of its good, bad, and complex experiences and presents me with opportunities for growth,fun and exploration. I truly feel that the guidance is somehow spiritual, but I cannot explain why. I am so thankful that “IT” guided me to Irvine United Congregational church that embraces everyone, no matter what they believe or what their life style is like. The sense of community at IUCC is strong, the music is out of this world (both choir and pianist as well as the music director), our educational programs are fabulously intellectually stimulating, our pastor is wonderful and a true inspiration to the members of our congregation and to the general community at large as he guides us all to reach out to others who are in need of support and assistance. I cannot forget how creative and inspirational my fellow church members are. Thanks Bil for reminding me or just how grateful I am!

  • Question: If I understand you, the creation force or energy is used to benefit everyone and everything be it man, animal, or planet that is sort of equivalent to God or the God Force. So what do you call the force or energy that leads people to do evil deeds without any consideration for the consequences suffered by man, animal or planet? This is a creative force…but is an evil spirit or force. Would be this be considered a Devil force?

  • Thank you Susan Sayer. I too see the word “creation” as central to my primary vision of God. (I still use the word.) But for me creation (God) is a verb, not a noun. As I look at the universe, the one constant is change. It is constantly evolving. And within space-time, I am a specific and belonging entity of this evolving process which includes self consciousness. This allows me to ponder and to wonder about what I am experiencing as a sentient human being. And that experience for me includes accepting the mystery of “something more” – beyond space-time. But that Creation or Creativeness or Creating is also an integral part of ME. I can only describe it as God is within me. And when we humans can rise above our animal instincts that are part of our evolved selves, we too can experience that “something more”. To me “evil” is what humans do to each other when they respond to the animal instincts still so strongly present within us. We humans create the evil in the world.

  • Personally, I think the evil spirit is mankind’s own selfishness. We make our own decisions. Sometimes we are overwhelmed with the bad decisions of others. I always liked what Flip Wilson always said about the devil. It sure takes the responsibility for poor decisions off our backs.

  • You left out the most important thing that keeps people going to church, maybe it is what keeps you going also since you did not address life after death. The church is selling tickets to Heaven to people who will never know that when the die they are dead forever. I know that now and it makes my life while I have life, all the better.

  • Hi Bil, enjoyed your blog. But to answer your question, your post exemplifies why the church has no future; you don’t bother to name and identify your church so that someone who wants what you have can find it! We liberals are too modest for our own good.

    Please, tell me the website of this wonderful church so I can find out what they are doing right so that I can help the future of the church have a chance.

  • I do find myself in this category of thinking. I withdrew my membership from a ME church and attend an open and welcoming church. The Creation naming works best for me at this time. I don’t need a Devil entity to blame!! Old ideas don’t work when they don’t square with science so millenialls leave. I like Neil Degrasse’s statement that you have to examine two issues: the love of God vs evil. If God is loving cannot be all powerful. If all powerful cannot be all living. Also look up Bishop Spong latest video. It is hard and painful for many to be open to new ideas and “grow up” spiritually. Another good You Tube is “What About Prayer” Dr Val Webb

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