Practical Atheism

There is no mistaking the presence of unique challenges to belief in our modern day world. Our secular, privatized, consumerist affections have wielded a religion (indeed many religions) that has little or nothing to do with life itself. Coupled with secularism’s privatizing of religion from the public realm, consumerism’s pull creates a context whereby the choice of belief is not only a personal matter, but a matter entirely divorced from the history and communities that inform these beliefs. As professor David Wells notes, “God has been evacuated from the center of our collective life, pushed to the edges of our public square to become an irrelevance to how our world does its business. Marxism rested on a theoretical atheism; our secularized world rests on a practical atheism in the public domain, though one that coexists with private religiosity.”(1) This chasm between public and private, sacred and secular, forces a theology whereby God is largely absent, unknown in the public arena, and silent unless spoken to.

Meanwhile, in conjunction with our evacuation of God and subsequent practical atheism, we live within an understanding of unbounded freedom to pursue and consume whatsoever we will. While we may recognize secularism for what it is, Wells warns: “[W]e do not recognize the corrupting power of our affluence for what it is…. We consider our abundance as essentially harmless and, what is just as important, we have come to need it. The extraordinary and dazzling benefits of our modernized world, benefits that are now indispensable to our way of life, hide the values which accompany them, values which have the power to wrench around our lives in very damaging ways.”(2) Far more than a matter of wealth, our sheer appetites, which we readily appease as if angry gods, bring us to the conclusion that we ourselves are the center of collective life, echoing the call of secularism that God is exactly where God belongs—in quiet, private corners. Even within the church, this outlook is often practically lived if not publicly admitted.

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One Response

  1. Enjoyed the read! Atheism has had quite an impact on our culture, and indeed, even our church culture. Today, I actually posted an article that was largely about atheism on the topic of faith v. reason if you want to check it out! https://jakebyrd.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/bridging-the-gap-pt-4-the-faith-delusion/

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