“Atheism and agnosticism signify the rejection of certain images and concepts of God or of truth, which are historically conditioned and therefore inadequate. Atheism is a challenge to religion to purify its images and concepts and come nearer to the truth of divine mystery.”
― Bede Griffiths
When I encountered this quote on Facebook recently, I was struck by its application to my own evolving thoughts about God, or what I have come to call "the power beyond human power".
I have not gone so far as to think of myself as an atheist, or even agnostic, because both these terms do not describe where I am in my thinking. To me it is undeniable that there is power beyond human power. Some people call this power God but grant to the power a state of being that is too human-like to satisfy me.
Much atheism seems to me to be an adamant rejection of the idea of God, which implies a distaste for the very idea of an overarching power, more of an anti-theist stance. This attitude seems as narrow-minded as the opposite stance of God as the Supreme Being who put Adam and Eve in the garden after forming them from mud.
Agnosticism implies, to me, an unwillingness to grapple with the idea of a power beyond human power; it is undeniably true that there is a power that does control human lives. Agnostics would just prefer not to think about it. Which is okay, because thinking about it does produce so many currently-unanswerable questions that it is simply easier to let it go. "To let the mystery be", as Iris DeMent so poetically puts it.
Except that as science uncovers more about the universe and its natural laws, it is hard to insist that we know nothing about this power. We know that gravity, for example, the law of attraction, governs just about everything we have come to understand about the way the universe works.
As a side note, when I was in a 12 step program and thinking about my Higher Power, I used gravity as my HP for a long time. It was stronger than I; it could make me stronger as I learned to work with it to achieve an upright stance, a stronger body as I used its resistance to develop my muscles, my lungs, and my heart. If I forgot to heed gravity, it hurt! I could trust it to work the way it always did. It governed the tides and the winds through its influence on the sun and the moon. It was dangerous and unforgiving; it was a strict teacher. But when I could learn to use it effectively, it contributed to my health and wellbeing.
I don't object, generally, to other concepts of God. I see that they are comforting and offer a framework that encourages believers to act morally and wisely. Like gravity, that God is stronger, makes its believers stronger, punishes when the believer forgets its power and stumbles, governs the universe, created the universe, is benign and helpful when the believer aligns with It. It is trustworthy. Many believers define God as Love.
I see Love as inherent in the universe and innate in living beings. Many believers attribute Love as a gift from God. I see it more as the human embodiment of the law of attraction, manifesting itself in sexual activity, nurturance of other beings, altruism, and religious expressions, as well as others.
Traditional belief in a deity (whether God or other manifestations) can become petrified, unable to change except through erosion, to use a geologic metaphor. Many of my friends who are of the "none of the above" variety, unchurched and unapologetic, have had their traditional religious beliefs wash away in the winds and tides of their increasingly deep understandings of the universe as revealed by their experiences and by their education.
The ascendance, in recent years, of an atheistic point of view does challenge traditional believers to reconsider those ancient tenets of faith in light of new information. To be a traditional believer, one must be willing to "suspend disbelief" and block out new realizations. It is hardly surprising that the traditional "suspenders" have stretched and broken.