I took part again in the Lenten “decentering practice” of Atheism for Lent which we examined and allowed the “theological dimension of atheism” to cast a searching light onto our beliefs. Each day we were given some media, from music to video, from talks to texts, to digest around a weekly theme.
Below are a small selection of stand out quotes (and one piece of media) from this year, there are probably more that I forgot to note down, but this is a good sampling of what this years exploration illuminated for me. These do not mean I agree with them only that they caught my eye as worthy of note and perhaps further examination.
———————– Quotes ———————–
The illusory god that we create in our own image to conform to our knowledge and our values provides us with great confidence and security; but as we are secretly the masters of this god, it turns out to be “No-God” at all, but rather, on closer examination, just idols such as “Family, Nation, State, Church, Fatherland.” Since idolatry is inherently polytheistic, it is not surprising that, just as Zeus and Hera once squabbled on Mount Olympus, so today’s “No-God” presents itself to us as the conflict between “Nature and Civilisation, Materialism and Idealism, Capitalism and Socialism, Secularism and Ecclesiasticism, Imperialism and Democracy,” all of which express our willingness to make ourselves ultimate.
~ Merold Westphal
Perhaps we need to see Marx, Neitzche, and Freud, along with Luther and Barth, as expressing a Promethean protest against all the Zesues of instrumental religion, the piety that reduces God to a means or instrument for achieving out own human purposes with professedly divine power and sanction.
~ Merold Westphal
Just what would have to happen not merely (morally and wrongly) to tempt but also (logically and rightly) to entitle us to say “God does not love us” or even “God does not exist”? I therefore put to the succeeding symposiasts the simple central questions, “What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or of the existence of, God?”
~ Anthony Flew
There is no speaking of it, nor name nor knowledge of it. Darkness and light, error and truth-it is none of these. It is beyond assertion and denial. We make assertions and denials of what is next to it, but never of it, for it is both beyond every assertion, being the perfect and unique cause of all things, and, by virtue of its preeminently simple and absolute nature, free of every limitation, beyond every limitation; it is also beyond every denial.
God cannot be grasped by the mind. If he could be grasped, he would not be God.
~ Evagrius of Pontus
Anyone who tries to describe the ineffable Light in language is truly a liar – not because he hates the truth, but because of the inadequacy of his description.
~ St Gregory of Nyssa
The most important thing that happens between God and the human soul is to love and to be loved.
~ Kallistos Katapbygiotis
I am God, says Love, for Love is God, and God is Love, and this Soul is God through its condition of Love, and I am God through my divine nature, and this Soul is God by Love’s just law. So that this my precious beloved is taught and guided by me, without herself for she has been changed into me. And this is the outcome, says Love, of being nourished by me.
~ Marguerite Porete
And certainly that than which a greater cannot be imagined cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is at least in the understanding alone, it can be imagined to be in reality too, which is greater. Therefore if that than which a greater cannot be imagined is in the understanding alone, that very thing than which a greater cannot be imagined is something than which a greater can be imagined. But certainly this cannot be. There exists, therefore, beyond doubt something than which a greater cannot be imagined, both in the understanding and in reality.
A master saith: If I had a God whom I could understand, I would never hold Him to be God.
~ Meister Eckhart
I must move towards an abiding conception of the divine mercy, a conception which does not change whatever event destiny may send upon me and which can be communicated to no matter what human being.
~ Simone Weil
Man first unconsciously and involuntarily creates God in his own image, and after this God (Religion) consciously and voluntarily creates man in his own image
~ Ludwig Feuerbach
God is the explanation for the unexplainable which explains nothing because it explains everything without distinction — he is the night of theory, nonetheless making everything clear to the mind by removing any measure of darkness and extinguishing the light of discriminating comprehension — the not-knowing which solves all doubts by repudiating them, which knows everything because it knows nothing in particular and because all things which impress reason are nothing to religion, lose their identity and are nil in God’s eye. The night is the mother of religion.
~ Ludwig Feuerbach
“what are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”
The burden of all song and praise “unto the Highest” has been that God stands for justice and mercy. Yet injustice among men is ever on the increase; the outrages committed against the masses in this country alone would seem enough to overflow the very heavens. But where are the gods to make an end to all these horrors, these wrongs, this inhumanity to man? No, not the gods, but MAN must rise in his mighty wrath. He, deceived by all the deities, betrayed by their emissaries, he, himself, must undertake to usher in justice upon the earth.
~ Emma Goldman
The difference between the Christian hope of resurrection and the mythological hope is that the former sends a man back to his life on earth in a wholly new way.
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
It is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman (a so-called priestly type!) a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one. By this- worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities.
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
But a church which raises itself in its message and its devotion to the God above the God of theism without sacrificing its concrete symbols can mediate a courage which takes doubt and meaninglessness into itself. It is the Church under the Cross which alone can do this, the Church which preaches the Crucified who cried to God who remained his God after the God of confidence had left him in the darkness of doubt and meaninglessness. To be as a part in such a church is to receive a courage to be in which one cannot lose one’s self and in which one receives one’s world.
~ Paul Tillich
Anyone who has seen, as I have, the rush toward new absolutes in the period of the rise of Fascism, Nazism, and Communism, especially by the younger generation of that time, has understood the quasi-religious character of these movements. Like traditional religions, they elevate their basic dogmas beyond question and make them refer to all areas of man’s life. Ethical decisions are determined by commandments imposed externally at first, then (and this is more dangerous) internalized in the consciences of the people. These commandments are also internalized in the legal and social structures which now depend on the implications of the basic dogma, in the ritual forms which sanction the whole, and in the artistic expressions which are now means to propagate the system’s truth and glory. The result is systems of life with an all-pervasive absolute, under an authority that is absolute, and generating absolutes in all parts of themselves. We live among such systems today.
~ Paul Tillich
Out of our courage to be in the face of the absence of these idols — in the face of the experience of non-being — can emerge a new sense of transcendence, that is, a new and more genuine religious consciousness. This means that a transvaluation of values can take place. Faith, instead of being blind acceptance of doctrines handed down by authority, can be a state of ultimate concern that goes beyond bigotry. Hope, instead of being reduced to passive expectation of a reward for following rules allegedly set down by the Father and his surrogates, can be a communal creation of the future. Love, instead of being abject acceptance of exploitation, can become clean and free, secure in the knowledge that the most loving thing we can do in an oppressive situation is to work against the structures that destroy both the exploited and the exploiter. The transvaluation of values that is implied in the revolution of sisterhood touches the very meaning of human life itself. It may be the key to turning our species away from its course of destroying life on this planet.
~ Mary Daly
What do I love when I love God?
I love this [Augustine] question in no small part because it assumes that anybody worth their salt loves God. If you do not love God, what good are you? You are too caught up in the meanness of self-love and self-gratiﬁcation to be worth a tinker’s damn. Your soul soars only with a spike in the Dow-Jones Industrial average; your heart leaps only at the prospect of a new tax break. The devil take you. He already has. Religion is for lovers, for men and women of passion, for real people with a passion for something other than taking proﬁts, people who believe in something, who hope like mad in something, who love something with a love that surpasses understanding. Faith, hope, and love, and of these three the best is love, according to a famous apostle (I Cor. 13:13). But what do they love? What do I love when I love my God? That is their question. That is my question.
~ John Caputo
Salt is my criterion of truth, and love is my criterion of salt.
~ John Caputo
For if love is the measure, the only measure of love is love without measure (Augustine again). One of the ideas behind “love” is that it represents a giving without holding back, an “unconditional” commitment, which marks love with a certain excess.
~ John Caputo
Love is not a bargain, but unconditional giving; it is not an investment, but a commitment come what may. Lovers are people who exceed their duty, who look around for ways to do more than is required of them.
~ John Caputo
Then where is the light itself? You see, you won;t ay. Nobody will say. You tell me there’s light here and light there, and this in the light and that is in the light, and people get in one another’s light. But you won’t point me out the light itself. If none of you know what light is, say so. If there’s no such thing – if it was only a fairy tale all along – say so. If the operation was a failure and I still can’t see what other people see, tell me. I can take that. It’s this secrecy that I can’t stand. You’re all like conspirators.
~ CS Lewis (Light short story)
We identify universally with the outside. Its not that everyone gets in, its that Christianity calls us out. […] The trajectory of Christianity is always to the outside. Who is the outsider? Who is the nobody, the nothing, in our communities? Who are the down-trodden, the people who are given no voice, who are silenced, who are made invisible? Thats where God is, that is where we need to go to find God.
~ Peter Rollins
———————– Media ———————–
Henryk Górecki – Symphony 3, Movement #2 –