My Sweet Lord: An Atheist Meditation on the God that is Love

My Sweet Lord: An Atheist Meditation on the God that is Love February 5, 2014

“Unpack karma and you get cause and effect. Unpack cause and effect, and you get affinity. Unpack affinity and you get the tendency to coalesce. Unpack the tendency to coalesce and you get intimacy. Unpack, intimacy and you will find that you contain all beings. Unpack containment and there is the Goddess of Mercy herself.”

Robert Aitken, Encouraging Words: Zen Buddhist Teaching for Western Students

In my youth I prayed to know God. I prayed with complete earnestness, with the fullness perhaps only a youth can muster with a deal. Show me your face and after that you can kill me.

Meant it.

And I was met with silence.

Many years have passed.

Today, by most conventions I’m an atheist. That is I do not believe in a human-like consciousness that directs things. In a universe of uncertainty I come as close as a human mind can to certainty that there is no deity that acts within history.


Within my experience there is something. The best word I can call it is love. I suspect I know the grubby roots of that love, how it arises within my mammalian consciousness. But, it seems to have a larger existence, as well.

I’ve found how the Unitarian Universalist two truths that the individual is precious and that the individual is created out of a world of mutuality results in an experience of love.

I’ve found how the (Zen) Buddhist two truths that everything and everybody in the universe is mutually created through a dance of causality, and that everything and everybody in the universe has no substance, but rather is wildly open, boundless results in an experience of love.

Of course this love is completely a-moral. It is desire and it can extend beyond desire. And it is here I think we find our work as human beings. The Hindu sage Sri Nisargadatta gives a further wrinkle on it all, when he says “wisdom is knowing I am nothing. Love is knowing I am everything, and between the two my life moves.” I find a pointer in this. How my life is directed out of this experience, and how a range of behaviors as ideals and as pointers, and as warnings emerge. The five Buddhist precepts perhaps the clearest of the many intuitions of this path of intimacy, this path of love.

What I find in this world of hurt and loss is something precious and powerful, terrible and beautiful.

Out of the silence I have indeed found something.

As a word love falls so short. It has to do too much work, standing for sentimentality and the burning away of self and other, and so much in between.

But. Language is like that. Falls short.

And, and, points…

Within the silence.

And here it points

out of the silence

to that place

where planets and stars and whole galaxies

burst into existence,

burn bright,

and die,

and in some random corners of this dance of galaxies

heart minds birth

that can see

can feel

can know

in an unknowing sort of way

in the face of silence

this love.

If we want a meaning in a world that exists beyond meaning and meaninglessness, I suspect this encounter with the face of the divine is it. A path to walk. A sea in which to swim. Our true home. Our one soul…


And from these atheist lips a hymn births…

My sweet lord…

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