Sunday, June 26, 2005


Psalm 14
Journal entry dated March 6, 2005

"The fool says to himself, 'there is no God,'"

The atheism of which the psalmist speaks here is not philosophical atheism, but the practical atheism of injustice. "There is no God" means that there will be no reckoning, that I have no obligation towards my neighbor, that I am free to do as I please. And in the view of the psalmist, this leads to a world of corruption and depravity.

The psalm raises a question about who we are: is it only the fear of punishment, the threat of a reckoning, that maintains good order within society? Is it true that if you take God, heaven, hell out of the picture, people will necessarily behave barbarously towards one another? If we believed that there was no God, how would our behavior change?

Probably it would change very little. We would still get up in the morning and go to work, come home at night and watch television, eat, sleep. Perhaps we would even go to Church on Sundays, because there are many reasons to go to Church other than believing in God. We would still give a little charity, because it makes us feel better about ourselves.

Within the world of this psalm, "there is no God" is the denial of the possibility of a better world. To say "there is no God" is to mock "the hope of the poor." "There is no God" is cynicism, the greatest failure of the spiritual life.

1 comment:

Johanna said...

Except that if we're really honest all of us "Orthodox" people can say that we're almost atheists...that's where we truly hover in that human space between faith & doubt. The gray area...& there's an awful lot of that in real life. The unknowing...