Breaking Up With God
People assume I’m an atheist, but I’m not. I don’t know what I am, but if I had to choose a label I’d choose agnostic. When I say that people usually ask me if I think God exists, and I usually give them the answer that my teacher, Gordon Kaufman, used to give me: The question of God’s existence isn’t the right question because it won’t get you very far. It’s a question human beings can’t answer. If we take God’s mystery seriously, then we can never know. I think there are better questions that we can be answering: What does a particular vision of God do to those who submit to it and to those who won’t submit to it? What difference is my version of God making? Who is it harming? In one of his books, Kaufman writes, “The central question for theology… is a practical question. How are we to live? To what should we devote ourselves? To what causes give ourselves?” He argues that theology that does not contribute significantly to struggles against inhumanity and injustice has lost sight of its point of being.
I can’t know if God exists, but I do know the word God is operating in the world, running around doing all kinds of work, good and bad, and I think, as a theologian, I have a responsibility to think critically about the kinds of gods we make and worship and to try to come up with versions of god that might make the world a more just and life-giving place for everyone.
I do call myself an atheist - because it is clear that Yahweh is as much of a construct as Allah or Zeus or Vishna… But I love what Sentilles says: there are better questions we can be answering - and the universe is a wonderful mystery.