Recently, I have been engaging with organizations that espouse a scientific and non-supernatural world-view. In the process, I have been reminded of how the terms we use when expressing ourselves can reveal the way we perceive reality.
I am a scientific thinker. That means that I accept that all we can reliably know about the cosmos in which is live is through the information we receive through sensory experience. In addition, this information must be cross identified and critically processed by others in a disciplined way that strives to eliminate subjective bias.
I do not accept the existence of a supernatural dimension in our cosmos simply because there is not one shred of empirical evidence in support of it. For the same reason I do not accept astrology, reincarnation, ghosts, magic, miracles, consciousness beyond death, or anything of the kind. I do not believe there is a God or even a mysterious designer behind the universe because the proven process of the evolution of life could not have happened as we know it happened, had a designer been involved in it.
It’s not that I am opposed to these common subjectively held ideas; I am not. I once held them myself. I just do not see any empirical evidence in the cosmos to support them. I welcome the possibility of being given evidence of the supernatural and proven wrong.
Because I think this way, and after reading the Humanist Manifesto, one of the groups with which I have chosen to associate is the American Humanist Association. I find myself very comfortable with them. However, and to my surprise, some of them are not very comfortable with me.
The problem is atheism.
If you read the third paragraph of this article, you have what most people would probably say is the very definition of atheism. But I am a theologian and I deny being an atheist. That would be like a geologist denying the existence of rocks, or a biologist denying that there is anything called life.
I am of course aware that historically there has been a close identification of theos with God. We are creatures who are conscious of our own being. As a result, we are psychologically bedeviled by the need to know our purpose; the meaning of our existence. It is so strong a need that human beings do not thrive without it. Theos is whatever meaning or purpose we find in response to that need.
It is clear to me that our ancestors came up with gods early on in our cultural evolution as an explanation for why things are as they are, happen as they do, and why they were here. It was a perfectly reasonable idea given what little they actually knew about themselves and the cosmos at that time and for a very long while after.
However, despite the long history of our thinking that theos was one or another brand of god, it doesn’t mean that we have to remain loyal to that understanding despite having learned otherwise.
It is becoming ever clearer that the supernatural in all forms and the denizens that populate it were and are creations of the human mind in response to the existential question. We created the gods out of our need for theos. Now we are gaining ever more factual understanding of the cosmos and ourselves. In the process, we are moving away from the gods and magical thinking. But theos (purpose and meaning sustaining existence) remains an essential human need. We are responsible for responding to that need with all the intellectual, emotional and creative resources we can assemble. Everything depends upon our doing it well.
I do not believe in God, gods, the supernatural or any entities that inhabit it.
I am a scientific theologian who accepts the cosmos as it is currently understood by science. At the same time, I rationally understand and identify myself as a theist. There is no contradiction in these stances.
If some people feel the need to find their meaning by being against rather than for something, I beg them to find something other than "theist" to be “A”.