When Progressive Christianity Runs Wet

Column by Rev. Jim Burklo on 21 July 2022 0 Comments

Now, more than ever, is the time to express our faith forthrightly, publicly, and invitationally.

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What are the reasons people reject theism? What do we gain by rejecting God? 


Dear David,

Ah, David. There are likely as many reasons people reject theism as there are people who reject it. Even those who often do cannot articulate exactly what they can no longer embrace. When they reach the point where they realize taking that step will have no great impact on their lives, they simply walk away from their religious communities and traditions.

Let me answer your questions in reverse, then. “What do we gain by rejecting God?” I must assume you mean the theistic god called, God, when you ask this. Many would immediately begin waving their arms and pressing upon you the many other definitions for the capitalized god. Most, I think, are attempts to continue to use the word “God” to cover newer, less problematic religious ideas. But I think that makes things rather, if not substantially, worse than better. There is no other word so intentionally used with its interpretation so carelessly left up to the listener or reader as is the word god.

There is much to be gained by rejecting theism, the idea of Christianity’s theistic god. Mostly, and conversely, they boil down to two things – the sense of shame and the sense of superiority. Both are integral to the theistic god program, and both cause deep pain in personal and communal lives. If you feel shame, your experiences and choices may reinforce your underserving nature. If you feel superiority, you may tend to see everyone around you as inferior, with an eye to critique rather than a desire to relate. If you begin to critique either assumption, your theistic views may soon come under serious critique.

There’s much to be lost, too. For starters, there’s the loss of an immediate affiliation with other believers even if you have never previously met. Also, the community that has been a home to you and the potential loss of long-time, meaningful relationships. The sense of purpose achieved when performing “good works” under the banner of a church. All these are, for some, sufficient to remain in the pew long after one has lost belief in a theistic god.

Unfortunately, when one leaves the world of belief, they sometimes experience a loss of meaning. That may be a symptom of an underdeveloped relationship with life, this brief journey we all share but experience from radically different perspectives. Exploring emotions, the world around you, family and personal relationships, the mysteries of the brain, the breadth of art, music, knowledge, local or geological history, ecosystems, the power of influence, what might make the world safe for future generations, any or all of these can bring one closer to the sense of wonder which lies at the core of any religious experience. For me, the wonder of life is enough to sustain anyone, in or outside the church, with or without belief in a theistic god.

~ Rev. Gretta Vosper




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