The Spirituality of Atheists

I am reminded of a time in the 1990s when I engineered an interview at a WUGA-FM, a public radio station in Athens, Georgia.  A professor of botany was interviewing a biologist who happen to be an atheist.  The biologist had written a few words of his spirituality but the botany professor asked him to reconcile the two positions of spirituality and atheism. He replied, “I am a biologist. I wonder. I wonder how a hawk flies. I wonder how nature works. That is my spirituality. “

My role in that interview was a silent one, making sure the audio levels were even, but my spirit soared with his response. That was a great expression of spirituality for an atheist.

This past week a bill was introduced in Congress to add atheist chaplains to our military. Democratic Rep. Robert Andrews of New Jersey who introduced the bill said that he wanted “to give atheists the same opportunity to visit with counselors and obtain the same personalized guidance as those of the faith.” . Opponents said would make a mockery of military chaplains.

Three Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio pieces address issues that face atheists who are actually coming out as atheist. The first concerns an atheist memorial in Florida.

A second story, again from the CBC radio comes from London where an Atheist Church has opened.

And the third on Q, a CBC radio program, inquires about the plight of a Texan pastor turned atheist. The story begins at 3:47 into the program. Time:16:09

In the middle of the last decade a few writers published accountings of their firm beliefs in atheism. British biologist, Richard Dawkins wrote “The God Delusion,” (2006) American philosopher, Sam Harris, wrote “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason” (2004) and author and journalist, Christopher Hitchens wrote “God is Not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything” (2007). The Christian right had taken a firm foothold in American politics at that time and it comes as no surprise that a pushback would be in order.

One’s divine expression is different even among people of the same faith. Whether it is in a sense of wonder and scientific inquiry, a congregational gathering of like-minded people, a memorial to honor one’s non-belief or one’s life journey, atheism is making itself known. We still hear stories of religion’s intrusion on people’s lives in this country. Just recently Margaret Doughty, an atheist seeking U.S. citizenship, was told by an immigration authority that she must join a church or be denied citizenship, and all because she expressed her beliefs against war.

The United States is becoming more secular as these things swing in generational cycles. Yet, it is interesting that some atheists are seeking out spiritual questioning which pop up in everyone’s life. This new to the West, but in the East we have Buddhists and some Taoists who work to attain spiritual knowledge without the help of any deity. It would be interesting to see what they discovered in their search.