Not Random (but rather radical) Opinions

Note: By “radical,” I do not mean revolutionary. I am not proposing something new. Much less, by “radical,” do I mean crazy as in unreasonable. Rather, as “radical” is drawn from the Latin radix, “root,” I mean to offer as essential a sense of the following two words in addition to the way they, generally, are understood and employed.

On Religion

The word “religion” is derived from the Latin, religare, meaning “to bind.” In common parlance, many (most?) people consider religion to be the belief in a divine being or power.

However, it seems to me, religion (or, at the least, the word “religion,” again, its meaning being that which binds), broadly, even basically understood, pertains to any principles of belief (thus, not necessarily in a supernal God or gods) that ground one’s being and guide one’s living.

In a word, what one believes is that person’s religion.

From this perspective, it also seems to me, that all people, even atheists who profess no belief in God, are religious. For all people, in the act of seeking the sense of their existence, believe in something that binds things together, that, in other words, make meaning for and in their living.

Even, in the extreme, one who is a nihilist, thus, rejecting religious or moral principles, viewing reality as abstract, and considering life meaningless, believes (and functions in accordance with the beliefs) that there is no inherent morality, reality is not real, and life is devoid of intrinsic value.

On Atheism

The word “atheist” is derived from the Greek, atheos, meaning “without god” (a- “without” + theos- “god”). Generally speaking, an atheist is one who does not believe in God.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that if you and I believe in God, yet our beliefs differ as to the identity and character of God, then each of us is an atheist to the other. To wit, you are an atheist to me (a- “without” + theos- [my] “god”] and I am an atheist to you (a- “without” + [your] theos- “god”).

What’s the Point?

Not that I, God knows (for I do believe in God), have the first or last word on any truth, it does occur to me that the…my above definitions allow for space between and among us as human beings, which, if we looked at ourselves and at others in these ways, we might (just might) be less likely to label others as non-or-not (whatever we hold dear) and, thus, not rule them out of the universe of the care of our concern and our understanding.

2 thoughts on “Not Random (but rather radical) Opinions

  1. YES Paul, thank you for the SPACE!!!! It’s much needed!!! I too believe in God, but I also have room in my heart and soul to listen openly to the atheists in the world. I owe a lot of that openness to my belonging to St. Mark’s. The whole issue of questioning… and being able to say what you feel about religion openly and STILL be loved by your community is an amazing thing!! I’m all for not labeling others and I’ve tried to live that way! My collection of friends and acquaintances go from one end of the spectrum to the other. I’m proud of that too. I realize that they go from one end of the believer to atheist (and I agree with you that atheists too are religious – they just believe something different from what I do)… I hope it’s alright with you if I think about this further in my Writing as a Spiritual Practice class. I downloaded a book this week called Lost in Wonder – Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness. It was recommended in our class and I think it will fit in well with some of what you wrote in this post. We are all discovering… we just do it in different ways that can’t be labeled.

    Much love


  2. Think about this further in your Writing as a Spiritual Practice class? Of course! I rejoice to know where you are led and what you write as an outcome of following this train of thought. Plus, I’m honored that you’d consider anything I offer as an impetus for your contemplation. Thanks!

    As for St. Mark’s, yes, I do believe that the spirit of open inquiry embraced by and in that community – now, going back to the mid-50s when Bill Baxter came on board as rector and sought to revitalize the then moribund congregation (imagine that; some 60+ years ago!) – is a grand offering to the world; again, I write, especially in these increasing fractious times when listening and acceptance of difference seem to be lost arts of human encounter and engagement.



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