For My A-theistic Friends

The God you don’t believe in? I don’t believe in ‘him’ either. (More on that later.)  But I do believe in a beloved son in whom the benevolent universe was “well-pleased.”

You might reasonably counter: “So why do you believe in Jesus? You’ve never seen, touched, or been touched by him.”

My response to you is: Let’s assume you’re right. That there never was a carpenter’s son called Jesus. But don’t you think there must have been someone like him who did and said what religious people think Jesus did and said?

Your easy response might be: “Maybe so. But you cannot know that. All you really know is that someone said this Jesus person was thus and so.”

To that I say, without reservation: What I do know is that when any one of us acts as we think Jesus suggested for us, we find ourselves fully human and fully alive, maybe for the first time. 

I have a gentle challenge for you. Why not make eye contact with a homeless person the next time you get a chance. You might talk to them. Or maybe even feed them. Or (stay with me here) maybe even hold them in your arms.

I hope you will try it out. Part of it at least.

Let me know what happens.


PS:  If, for you, this homeless person thing isn’t going to happen, tell me. There are other things that can be done to experience being fully and blissfully alive.


  1. Scott See says

    RE: “But I do believe in a beloved son in whom the benevolent universe was ‘well-pleased.'” The anthropomorphization of the universe gives me pause. But if by this you mean that Jesus was very wise and compassionate, then I have little doubt that this is true.

    • John Hickox says

      Hmmmm. Interesting. If only anthropomorphs can be benevolent, a pause is probably called for. I was not, however, trying to say that Jesus was wise and compassionate. As a matter of fact I think most would agree that it probably sounded more foolish than wise to suggest to his followers that in caring for the poor and downtrodden they would be caring for him. As regards compassion, it was probably not at all compassionate to ask his loyal discipuli to follow his example and oppose the religious leaders of the time. I can hear them now: “Yeah right! And end up hanging on a cross!!”

  2. Dick Manhire ) says

    This is a hard topic to discuss because answers, or understandings, opinions, or childhood beliefs, all whirl around in my mind each claiming their legitimate jurisdiction—and my task is to decipher a philosophy for my relationship with a Supreme Being, God ,and with a Jesus representative—-you know this task may/will take years to figure.
    So, as you said, John, what our inner spirit and God relationship is all about is probably directly related to our relationships with our fellow world citizens—what else is there?
    I’m sure I’m leaving out many ideas .

  3. Richard Manhire says

    A follow up comment—-
    Having questions or doubts about God/Jesus concepts does not mean one is an atheist—as much as professing God/Jesus proves one is “Christian” or “Muslim” or “Buddhist” or “Seek” or other religions.
    I’m trying to say it is an individual relationship between you and a creator.
    The two great commandments, in probably all religions : Love the Lord, your God, with all you’ve got, and Love (care for) your neighbors as you yourself.

    Last night my wife read out loud from her daily devotional book, this thought. It seems germane to this topic—” A prayer for perspective.”
    “Dear God, let me lift my head off my own chest, and focus on the other. My family, my loved ones, and my friends. My neighbors, my enemies, those loosely connected to me halfway across the world (Sri Lanka, for example). These eyes of mine are so often focused inward. Dear Lord, today, turn them out. And give me vision to see needs, other than my own.
    (This is one of those “where the rubber meets the road” deals. know what I’m saying?

    • John Hickox says

      You’re right of course. “Having questions or doubts about God/Jesus concepts does not mean one is an atheist …” It means one is an agnostic. I’ve always liked what William Barclay said about that. This is not an exact quote but it went something like: “Give me an atheist over an agnostic any day. An atheist has made a decision and I can work with that.” We live in a world of “maybe” and “let me think about that.” That’s dangerous when, as is the case today, we find ourselves on the precipice of no world at all.

      Regarding the God/no God discussion I think we can get authentic religious folks and unapologetic atheists on the same page. And that will go a long way toward solving most of the major economic and political issues facing us these days.

      • SCOTT SEE says

        Interesting point, “Give me an atheist over an agnostic any day.” But that begs the question, how many definitions of God are there? As a devout agnostic, I say I don’t know anything about your God because I don’t know your perspective. I only know my own. But I respect everyone else’s definition because they have their own perspective.

        • john newton hickox says

          Ha ha! Good one Scott. You’re a devoted agnostic. So you’re religiously unreligious?

          I like this game. So I’ll play along. You say you only know your perspective of God. Perfect.

          Tell me your perspective and maybe we can go from there.

          • Scott See says

            OMG, my definition of God? I don’t think in terms of God, so this will be a tough one. When my wife and I got married, I asked the officiant to omit any references to God. He was a minister and good friend. His response was precious to me, and I’ve never forgotten his words. “Do you believe in a higher ideal?” I aspire to a great many things, so yes, I do believe in a higher ideal. Yet everything I aspire to is within me already.

  4. John Hickox says

    “Higher ideal.” Wonderful!

    We have Christians who believe in God.
    We have 12-steppers, most of whom avoid saying they believe in God. They do, however, believe in a higher power.
    We have you. You believe in a higher ideal.
    Finally we have atheists. Atheists believe none of it.

    So. There are people in the pews on Sunday morning who believe in God. There are people who meet in the church basement on Sunday evening who believe in a higher power. And there is you, in church on your wedding day believing in a higher ideal that’s within you. Finally we have atheists who are never in church. (Well maybe they’ll show up for their beloved grandmother’s funeral.)

    You know what I think? I think we’re not all that different from each other. So what I’d like to do next is carry this string to a new blog piece. The title will be something like: “We’re All In This Together.”

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