Last Sunday I spoke about theism and atheism at a church in Redwood City, California. I told them why it is personally important to me to help bridge the gap between theism and atheism. Here’s what I said:
“My thoughts about this issue were shaped by a personal life-crisis which turned out to be an amazing opportunity. In my early twenties, I had the unusual experience of being able to identify with both theism and atheism at the same time. I had grown up with a sense of continuous daily communion with God, but in college I began to question whether there was anyone present except myself as I sat silently in the Prayer Room at the University of Redlands Chapel. And so I began to incline toward atheism.
“For a while I was so evenly balanced between believing and disbelieving that I could see either side with equal clarity. It was as if I were perched high on a mountaintop. If I sat facing east I saw one valley, if I turned west I saw the other, and both were equally visible.
“That’s how I discovered that we can think about the universe in terms of either theism or atheism. But people typically build their theological ‘houses’ on one side of the mountain or the other. They either believe or disbelieve because that is the only side of reality they are able to see.”
To some extent today I can still interpret my everyday experiences in either theistic or atheistic term. I find it sad that many believers and non-believers are so unsettled by the prospect of trying to see from other viewpoints, so that theists could see atheism as legitimate and atheists could understand the possible validity of theism.
It ought to be possible for us to “try on” another theological perspective without overly quickening the heartbeat or elevating the blood pressure. The fact that it’s so hard to do this sort of thing tells us a great deal about the current limitations of human understanding.
Roger Christan Schriner
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