The Authentic Atheist

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The earlier excerpt with this title was from my book Adventures in Orthodoxy. As there seems to be some interest in the piece, I am posting the full chapter for those who wish to read it. This is the first section…

There is a picture of God in a painting in Ghent, Belgium. He is wearing a big crown and a red robe, he has a long beard and he is sitting on a throne. Sophisticated people and Protestants would object to this portrayal of God the Father because it is both so literal and so physical. After all, we know that God does not sit on a throne in heaven wearing a crown and a red robe. God is pure spirit. Like the jazz singer, he “ain’t got no-body.”

But we have to picture God somehow, and when we try to imagine a “pure spirit” all we can come up with is a bottle of vodka or rubbing alcohol. Therefore to picture God as the cosmic Father who sits on a throne as the ruler of all is probably the best image we could come up with. Some will protest that he then becomes a fairy tale king, but why is everyone so down on fairy tales? If you read the masterpiece of the splendidly named Bruno Bettleheim, The Uses of Enchantment, you will see that fairy tales connect humanity with the deep unconscious realm, and that’s very interesting indeed. So when we imagine God as the great cosmic Father King, awefully robed and crowned, we’re not being superficial but fishing deep.

We didn’t think up the image of the cosmic Father King. It was given to us. It’s part of humanity. It’s engraved in the history of the human race. It was revealed to us as the sun mounts in the morning and as the first whisperings of love well up in a fifteen-year-old boy. That’s what we call “revelation,” and it is something that echoes in the human heart just about everywhere. It is that hint of something beyond and that glimpse of glory that the atheist squints not to see. Which raises some curious questions, for instance, “Why do that?” Read More.

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