Another 'Christian In Exile'
Chaplain Al Holm
WHAT A DELIGHTFUL SUBJECT. I have asking myself that and other related questions for more than half a century.
One of the first things that I must confess is that I am an ordained minister in the Christian faith. At least I was for many years. Now, I think that I am an atheist when it comes to the god of many churches. I have to agree with Dr. Gerald Mann when he said that if you belong to a church that worships a ve9ngeful and angry god, you are in a sick church. And, I agree with Spong when he suggests that we must ask the question of not who is God but What is God.
I also had the pleasure of meeting and learning many new ideas from a man named Rocco Erico. His teaching along with Spong's concept of the Hebrew Lord have certainly secured many new ideas about the whole situation. Yes, I am theist, but not a theist of the first century religion. I am also an atheist to the religions of the 20th or 21st century in most churches.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
I think I have to join Bishop Spong in declaring myself to be a christian in exile.
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Chaplain Al Holm"
Subject: Thanks From Poaitive Atheism
Date: Thursday, July 27, 2000 9:26 PM
You wrote to us two months ago.
I was so glad to get your first letter that I stopped everything (and was even running late that night) so I could post it.
Since then, we have been engaged in some lively discussions that I would like to point out to you.
Probably the two most important (based upon what you said in your letter), and also the most concise, are the ongoing dialogues: "Your Style Of Atheism Could Remove Atheists' Stigma" with James Darpinian and "Atheists Of The Deep South: Stay In Your Closets!" with Bill Garrett.
Both the above dialogues summarize thoughts that I developed while engaged with two pantheists: "The Semantic Dance Of Pantheism" with John Love-Jensen; and, to a lesser extent (but easier to follow), "Pantheism Section Of FAQ Misrepresents Pantheism" with Trene Valdrek. We even discuss Bishop Spong in some of these letters -- both glowingly and critically.
The Darpinian letter voices the real nature of the question that is of the utmost concern for me in my work as an atheistic activist: How can we shake the stigma that goes along with atheism? The Garrett letter approaches basically the same subject, but starts out from a different direction. Both show clearly my reasons for using the "weak" definition for the word atheism ("I simply lack a god belief" -- for whatever reason) as opposed to the "strong" definition for atheism ("There are no gods"). It is very fortunate that these two conversations were going on simultaneously with the two main dialogues described below, because this gave me the opportunities to digest what I had been realizing and to express them in concise terms and in a more useful context.
It is the Love-Jensen letter where I spent much time racking my brains trying to figure out how to voice my objections to his views (and in many respects, trying even to understand what he was saying). As you follow, you will see me going over the same points again and again until he finally understands the nature of my objection. When we finally come to an agreement as to what each of us are saying (and during the very last portion of this grueling and extended dialogue), I come to a very surprising conclusion. Some of the afterthoughts to this conclusion are related in the Garrett and Valdrek letters.
But, what is exciting to me is that I now see four elements in the philosophy of Positive Atheism as I advocate it here: (1) a proactive ethic that gives primacy to truth and truthfulness; (2) an outlook that tends toward being constructive and getting along rather than "bashing" (though "bashing" is not ruled out, here); (3) the "weak" definition for the word atheism which means "a-theism" -- "without theism" rather than "no-god-ism"; (4) the sense of awe toward nature, life, the earth, and the universe which drives many to become, among other things, Scientific Pantheists -- or, in many cases throughout history, outright creationists.
I hope you enjoy.
[I might tack this onto your post as a belated response. I had initially intended just to leave your letter as it is with no response. So, if you have any comments on this new twist in the development of the philsophy of Positive Atheism, perhaps this would be best as a new thread of discussion.] I also might even publish yoru first letter it in the print edition, and will let you know if this is what I do, becaue it would net you some free issues of the magazine.]
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
From: "Chaplain Al Holm"
To: "Positive Atheism" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Thanks From Positive Atheism
Date: Friday, July 28, 2000 10:27 AM
Again, I find it very enlightening and enjoyable to hear from you. I am having a difficult time getting started here because there are so many issues to address. Perhaps I will begin with the idea of all the names that are given to different ideas about gods, God, higher power, systems of belief and non belief etc., etc., etc.
I think that everyone realizes that ALL religions are man created. My name is Ellsworth so the religion that I participate in is now called Ellsworthism, It is the relationship that I have with whatever God, god, diety, or whatever that I choose to believe in. I don't need a go between with my choice of the object of my devotion or belief. I don't really need a minister, pastor, rabbi, saint, priest or anyone else to practice my belief.
I guess that one could say that I an indeed an agnostic because I don't know what God or god is. I do know, and I can prove, there is a creation. I don't know who, what , when , how or why this creation that I enjoy came into being. I do know that creation exist and my religion and my way of worship is to honor the Creator, whatever that may be, by honoring the creation of the Creator.
I am also what you mentioned, an a-theist. I do not accept the concept of the creator that theism has created.
I personally encourage all people to consider the concepts of theism and perhaps realize that theism is man made and not Creator created.
Then again, maybe I have my head inserted somewhere that the sun doesn't shine.
Thanks for remembering me.
Al, a recovering Christian minister.
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