Monday, October 19, 2015



It sounds like something one would read in the National Enquirer while standing in line at the checkout stand! But it gets even weirder! The cactus is in my bathroom – and there are three slender projections, one adult 4 inches tall and two children, each 1 inch tall. And what lessons they have taught me! They're on top of the water tank near the only source of light in the room: a clouded window with no direct sunlight. Each day as I enter my bath, I see that the top of each cactus has moved very slightly in the direction of the light - in the direction of some power (it knows not whence it comes or what it is) as it seeks to fulfill the potential of its life. That power is so strong that when I slightly move the container, the life of the each cactus grows in a different way. And if there is some obstacle, they become strangely distorted. I can even note a significant difference between the adult and the two children attempting to overcome that obstacle in seeking fulfilment.

How thankful I am that through 60 years of attending church Sunday School, I learned how to enrich my life through parables.



Alice in Wonderland may have told you that there is no such thing as an agnostic atheist, but let me tell you about them. I became aware of them after two events. The first occurred when I was finally able to persuade my grandchildren to go to Denny's for breakfast early in the morning one January 1st. I began by saying that I was again awakened early in that morning when God gave me a brilliant idea. My third oldest grandson, with anger in his voice said, "Grampa, I wish you would realize that those are your ideas they're not sent by God."  All of a sudden I realized that my children and my grandchildren have thought that I actually believe those beautiful stories found in MY Bible and in the myriad hymns I love.

The second occurred when I was too busy at the age of 88 with my free culture blog, but I finally found time to go to a lecture by Boston University theologian Stephen Prothero based on his book, “Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn't”. The statement I heard was something like, ".....the characteristic that defines Christianity and distinguishes it from all other religions is its claim that it's founder was raised from the dead." Thus I knew I must end my hypocrisy and recognize that I truly am an ATHEIST! I KNOW there is no God!   Certainly not the one I have been taught about all my life!

But how can I say that I am an agnostic? What happens to me almost every morning between 4AM and 5AM seems so similar to that of Samuel (for those not reared in Christianity or Judaism see I Samuel:3)?  How can I explain that miracle?
As I returned to blest slumber after one of those early encounters, I finally awakened, went to my bath and noticed the strange contours of my three cacti. The next morning I realized that I was an atheist, certain that there is no God, but also an agnostic: uncertain about some “unusual power” at play in this marvelous universe. 

And then I recalled Unitarian/Universalist minister (really brilliant essayist) David Rankin's class many years ago in which he had us “define the word, 'god'”. My response was:

That creative and sustaining power in the universe
which draws us to good and positive relationships with others
and the world around us.
When we are thwarted or distorted or somehow cut off from this power
by chance or misadventure,
life goes awry.

Thus I feel confident and proud to be know as an Agnostic Atheist filled with wonder at this marvelous world!

That said, I take leave of my Ranting and Raving to celebrate my forthcoming 90th birthday by taking a sabbatical. I'll follow my older sons advise given to me several years ago,“Dad, you've paid your dues, just take it easy and do what makes you happy". 

Part of my happiness will be continuing my weekly free cultural blog, going to many more of those I recommend to others, watching more quality TV, having more naps and doing a better job of keeping the fish pond clean. Perhaps I'll even return to college to finally take a course in philosophy. Maybe I'll even sleep straight through the night and perhaps I'll rant or write a book when I'm 91. I may even go to more than two churches, synagogues and mosques. I'll embrace any religion that seeks to follow the mystery found in Victor Herbert's lyrics Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life (with my slight paraphrasing):

Ah! sweet mystery of life at last I found thee.
Ah! Sweet mystery of life at last I'm yours,
The hopes and dreams and burning tears that fall.

Ah! Sweet mystery of life at last I found thee.
Ah! At last I know the secret of it all:
'Tis LOVE and LOVE alone that rules the world!

In fact for once I agree with George Bush who named Jesus as his favorite philosopher, Perhaps someday I'll be known as an Agnostic Atheistic Christian. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Why an agnostic atheist attends two churches

 The time is running out! I've resolved to end my ranting and raving when I reach 90 years of age in two months. Yet I feel I have a number of things yet to say and many of them are among my most deeply felt convictions. Thus I began attempting to answer a recent question asked of me,"Since you are a 'nonbeliever', why do you go to church?"

  1. It's in my blood. My parents, of German heritage in our lower middle class economic position, found the church and public schools as our major ties to society. Were I in another culture, I would probably be writing about the predominant religion of that society.
  2. The southern mainline church we attended provided moral teaching focusing on the example of the life of Jesus. I believe this continues to hold true today.
  3. Throughout the history of our country, I believe churches have played a leadership role in every progressive social movement for human rights and social improvement.
  4. In the church I find a mutually supportive group of people concerned not only was each other but also was the problems and issues of the world.
  5. Every church I have attended has encouraged and developed my appreciation of the beauty of literature, music, art and poetry.
  6. Churches provide a sanctuary for contemplation and meditation regarding spiritual, emotional and philosophic issues of life - even the meaning of life itself.
  7. While progress may have been slow at times, churches have changed and evolved as social institutions. By continuing to attend, I can help facilitate change.
  8. The churches I have attended have encouraged progressive thoughts, ideas and action by the individual. They have respected and encouraged freethinking and sponsored meetings, events and activities open to all.
For me this is the easy part: explaining my views, and fascination with religion and the church. In the near future - hopefully next week - I will "get in over my head in theology and philosophy" as I look at the inconsistency of being a self-described "agnostic atheist"  and my views of "god" and the meaning and purpose of life. My church-going friends may not want to look at it since I shall be frank about what I perceive as hypocrisy and current trends that increasingly make church going out of vogue.