Atheists Have A Theology

There’s a conversation going on over at PeaceBang about theological education in UU congregations. I have to say that I’m a little concerned that there have comments that say, along the lines of, “atheists don’t have a theology.”

On that I have to disagree. Atheists DO have a theology. At least according to the dictionary definition of the word theology:

  • The study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions.
  • A system or school of opinions concerning God and religious questions: Protestant theology; Jewish theology.
  • A course of specialized religious study usually at a college or seminary.
  • If one takes this definition seriously, then it’s obvious that atheists can, and do, have a theolgy. Atheist do talk about the nature of God (coming to the conclusion that God has no nature). And, at least the atheists that I know, do participate in the rational inquiry into religious questions.

    Maybe it’s because I think that we would be much better off if we UUs didn’t avoid religious terms like theology or doctrine that this discussion is a little worrisome to me. Maybe I’m picking up on something in that discussion that isn’t there. I have no idea. I’ll think about it some while I’m traveling over the next day-and-a-half.


    7 thoughts on “Atheists Have A Theology

    1. What you say here was the entire point of the UU University track “Theology for a Secular Age” at the GA- that you can have theology absent a theos. Although I found it fascinating, and agreed with 90% of what was said, Dr. Guengrich always went the one step too far in denying the possibility of a Divinity.

    2. And when U*Us, especially U*U ministers. . . outright deny the very possibility of a Divinity, profound revelatory religious experiences of any kind become “psychotic experiences” or are otherwise pathologized by U*Us who deny the Divine. . . *If* what Joel Monka said here about Rev. Dr. Galen J. Guengerich, co-minister at the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City, is actually true (which admittedly may not be the case. . .) yet another Unitarian*Universalist minister has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that *The* Tiny Declining Fringe Religion known as Unitartian*Universalist religious leaders are being highly misleading, if not utterly fraudulent. . . when they publicly proclaim that “Revelation is not sealed!” within the Unitarian*Universalist religious community.

    3. No one thinks about God (Theo-logy) more than a deep thinking Atheist. Why? Becasue for the Theist, there is much that is assumed about God that Atheists instead have to think deeply about.

      Yours in Faith,


    4. Dear Kim,
      There are other dictionaries with other definitions of Theology. And definition is the central problem between non-theist and theist among the UUs. Our church recently found that problem to be a source of a growing resentment over the liturgy, the RE programs, and the “color” of the church. Perhaps, a little more on what is meant by color: The perception of tone and focus of its intent. (Always good to keep in mind that perception is very subjective.) In response the Humanist and non-theist formed an after service discussion group. The most difficult problem faced was that we had no shared defintion for most “theological” words. In the struggle amongst ourselves we are becoming more tolerant, more informed, and more powerful. The power comes about from people taking notice, from fellow congregants taking notice that we are not merely cranking, out-dated individuals, but have real concerns based on our own peculiar theologies.

    5. Hi

      Wikipedia has interesting articles under both “atheism” and “new atheism”. There are apparently many different kinds of atheists. Perhaps the new atheism is more likely to consider theism a positive evil to be fought against, rather than just a mistake. Anyhow, I found these Wikipedia articles interesting.

      The seven principles being completely free of any deities, UU surely qualifies as one of the non-theistic religions.

      (These comments are from a non-atheist with zero credits in religion!)

      best wishes

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