Practical Atheism

I was listening to an online sermon series recently, when I heard a phrase, which I suppose is old but seemed to strike me as relevant today, that “worry is practical atheism”.

Now, I know several people—many from the blogosphere realm—who call themselves atheists; and I’m happy to call them my friends.  I’ve talked to several of them, both through online commentary and discussion forums, and through personal contact and face-to-face conversation and, though I may not agree with some of the conclusions they’ve come to, I can see, and understand, how many of them got there.

But what is atheism?  How can someone be both a Christian and an atheist?  And, how does all this apply to the phrase, “worry is practical atheism”?

From Webster’s Concise Encyclopedia we see that atheism is:

“. . . critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or divine beings. Unlike agnosticism, which leaves open the question of whether there is a God, atheism is a positive denial.”

So, how can one be both a Christian and an atheist?  How does it apply to the saying, “worry is practical atheism?”

In essence, when you worry–when you find yourself in life situations where you either have no idea how you got there, any idea of how you can possibly get out, or what the resolution is going to be, yet there’s this burning desire inside you wherein you desperately need those answers–what you’re really saying is:

  • “I believe in a God who is in control of the universe, but not in one who is in control of my life.”
  • “I believe in a God powerful enough to speak matter into existence, but not in one powerful enough to guide me through my current crisis.”
  • “I believe in an all-knowing God, but my problem obviously caught him by surprise.”

You believe in God.  Yet, you don’t.

Christian.  Atheist.

So when you hear scripture like . . .

Matthew 6:25-34
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

Proverbs 12:25
Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.

Philippians 4:6
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

1 Peter 3:13-15
Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.  Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

. . . you’ll either believe . . . or you won’t.

Or, as another wise sage once said, “Do, or do not.  There is no try.”

12 thoughts on “Practical Atheism”

  1. This reads as if ‘worry’ is always a bad thing. Much the same way in which one would consider ‘failure’ always a bad thing. If I don’t fail, how do i learn? if i don’t worry, how do I solve the problems I’m in?

    This, of course, is the opinion of someone who is a practical atheist, an actual atheist, and an atheist who is practical. So feel free to take it with a grain of salt.

    1. Hmm, interesting question. I don’t see worry as a “bad” thing, only a useless one. Even failure denotes an action taken. The action didn’t necessarily produce the desired outcome, but still, action was taken. I don’t equate worry with action. “If I don’t worry, how do I solve the problems I’m in?” ~~ if this is the thought, then action isn’t being taken to solve the problem, in fact, a solution isn’t even being thought about, only the problem itself.

      Anyway, that’s how I see the difference.

  2. The first thing that came into my mind are the Savior’s words in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” I think there is a difference between worrying uselessly, and legitimate concerns that are productive and spur us on to action. However, those concerns can quickly grow into monsters of worry and fear. The scriptures teach that if we are prepared we will not fear, and that love and faith are deterrents to fear. Each of the phrases in the scripture above from John are worthy of careful study. The Savior is teaching us that we have a choice about whether we will “let” our hearts be “troubled” or “afraid.” We need to practice more listening in our prayers and less talking. As we take time to meditate, the Lord will guide us in our concerns, inspire us how to press forward, and comfort us, even though our problems may not necessarily disappear. I have found that when I worry my mind becomes confused and clouded. If I remain calm I can think more rationally and gain power to act. It is much more difficult for us to feel the Savior trying to talk to us if we are overcome by our worries and fears.

  3. I’m an atheist, but I don’t worry about too much. I figure if I can deal with a situation, then I’ll deal with it. If I can’t, I might as well accept it and move on. No real need to worry. Of course, I still worry about things sometimes. I think that’s probably true of just about everyone.

    I love the sage you quoted by the way — one of my favorites. I hope to look that good when I’m 900. 🙂

    Oh, and I like the new layout too. However, I’d recommend moving your “Get the Drift?” widget up to the top, so people can find it easier if they want to follow you.

    1. [cue bad Yoda accent] Oh, Like my look you do, MmmmHmmmm? Want to look like me, you do? Train you must!

      Sorry, had to go there 🙂 Anyway, yeah, that was kind of the point of the post; everyone worries, it’s just a constant struggle. Even those of us who follow a God that explicitly says, “Don’t worry . . .” still worry, which only adds a thin layer of frustration to the situation. But . . . and this was the big “but” of the post: if we say we believe in God, we also have got to believe Him when He says, “Don’t worry.” Even if we don’t feel very comforted at the time. 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing though and I can see just enough to have the faith to still trust Him. (Sorry, had to go there, too. 😉 )

      Good to hear from you, as always my friend!

    2. BTW, thank you for the layout tip. I got this new layout and didn’t even notice it had the capability of two sidebars; so I made a few tweaks. Take a look when you have a chance and tell me what you think!

      1. Really love all the quotes too. That one from Morpheus is a favorite. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen that GK Chesterton quote before, but it’s awesome!

        1. Re the Morpheus and Chesterton quotes: I really resonate with quotes that work on multiple levels! Those two are some particularly fun ones. Glad you liked the layout and again, thanks for the tip . . . sometimes you see something every day to the point that you really don’t even “see” it anymore. I changed the theme but didn’t really even look at rearranging the layout until you brought it up. BTW, glad to see you back in the blogosphere. I’m gonna take a look at them (your posts) when I have a little time to absorb more than just skim. 🙂

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