Posts Tagged ‘practical atheism’


Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
    there is no one who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
    to see if there are any who are wise,
    who seek after God.

They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
    there is no one who does good,
    no, not one.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
    who eat up my people as they eat bread,
    and do not call upon the Lord?

There they shall be in great terror,
    for God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor,
    but the Lord is their refuge.

O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
    When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
    Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.

Perhaps, in light of our recent reflections on the episode of David and Bathsheba from 2 Samuel 11, we should rephrase this as: “The fool says in his heart, ‘I am king. I can do what I want!'” We don’t mean to identify David permanently with his fall to temptation for Bathsheba, but the plot of his fateful romance with the lady next door reveals an atheism that is much more common and insidious than the dogmatic variety. It’s the kind one frequently finds in religious circles, of all places, where Jesus confronted them with the name ‘hypocrites’ – practical atheists.

Practical atheists are often hand-on-the-heart believers, but who live as if God didn’t exist. They confess the creeds of tradition with tears in their eyes, but then return to their real lives as abusers, cheats, and scoundrels after church lets out. God is to them little more than the ghost in the sanctuary, certainly not the Spirit of Life.

The “company of the righteous” in this psalm, then, is not simply any ol’ congregation of church-goers. Your average church or temple congregation is likely to contain a preponderance of practical atheists – a greater concentration of hypocrites than you are likely to find anywhere on earth at any given time. The truly righteous (not the self-righteous) are those who live with a sense that the God of Love is looking out through their eyes and touching the world with their hands.