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Sunday 12 November 2023


I’m an atheist and, thus, disinclined to believe in the supernatural. I explore various happenings as an individual not as a member of a group and/or according to the group’s rules.

Atheism tends to be misunderstood. I would no more try to “convert” anyone than suggest they copy my accent. My atheism is for me alone.

Atheism is difficult; it requires me to accommodate contradictions. I am thrilled by The Goldberg Variations, secular piano music, yet the same composer created the Mass in B Minor. I have read and re-read The Sword of Honour trilogy written by a devout catholic. I regard Raphael’s Madonna and Child as a masterpiece. I agree with much literary criticism by Rowan Williams, the now retired Archbishop of Canterbury.

Religious people say, when ill, they turn to their god. What do I do then? I suppose I rationalise. Ask: Am I entitled to complain? Is complaint logical?

Atheism encourages me to doubt certainty and knowledge of science helps. Scientific truth is, ultimately, provisional. Informed disputes are welcome. Think of Newton modifying Descartes and Bohr/Heisenberg modifying Newton. Non-scientists see radical scientific developments as flashes of intellectual lightning; more often they are another spadeful of vegetation on the compost heap.

I’ve even experienced such spadefuls myself. No verse, short story nor novel I’ve written could be even regarded as consistently competent, Yet, on re-reading, I may take pride in a combination of words, a neat choice of verb, or an unexpected divergence in the plot. Whence came these details? They are the result of writing, revising and re-writing. Over and over

I have good and interesting friends who “believe”. Normally I only raise the subject in response to proselytising forays. Atheism, properly pursued, is demanding. I struggle on.


  1. I too am an atheist and share much of what you say. It is hardly surprising that great musicians and authors would rise to the occasion when glorifying their version of god. The results are spectacular in many instances and you cite a few here. As for the Goldberg Variations try Glenn Gould’s interpretation and then move on to Angela Hewitt’s. Two very different and equally riveting performance of the same glorious music. As for the intolerance of Christians, a friendship with another couple was severed in 2019 when we refused to join hands around the table with them to incant before eating. They had driven us to the airport, and on the return refused to drive us back home (an hour’s drive. Now there’s the loving spirit of Christianity for you! Gods were made by men and not the other way around, and the sooner people accept that we’ll be a whole lot better off. The United States is descending into a Christian Taliban as we speak.

    1. "...a friendship with another couple was severed in 2019 when we refused to join hands around the table with them to incant before eating."

      Oh, my goodness, I had to laugh...Christians who are incapable of following the words/teachings of Christ. Grins.

    2. DMG/Sandi: I should stress that being an atheist doesn't automatically mean I'm anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, Anti-Buddhist. Some of my good friends are, etc, etc. On the whole I keep my feelings in the cellar and discuss other subjects freely, only responding when I become the target of one of these faiths. Or when something controversial arises, like attitudes towards abortion, where the protagonists seem to be closely associated with fundamentalism. As you both well know I'm a retired journalist with only one single skill to call my own. And that's unabated curiosity. Were I to meet the risen Christ or Allah in a bar my initial reaction would be to ask questions - questions that sought straightforward factual info, not those that are thinly disguised modes of attack. From then on we'd see.

    3. Yes, yes, many questions!!! I'm more of the sort of 'the jury is still out' on the question of a supreme being, god. However, I think we are so naive to think we are the 'only' beings in this vast universe, let alone in the billions of others, which totally blows the 'in his image,' drift.The comfort of having a 'being' to call upon or to blame for one's successes or disasters is simply a crutch either way. So, I simply stand on the side watching the ping-pong match of religions, and try to dodge the stray balls.

  2. DMG: I avoided Gould for some years, given that various critics couldn't make up their minds about whether his interpretations were justifiable or Philistine. These ambiguities reached a climax at the beginning of a performance of the Brahms first concerto with Gould at the keyboard and Bernstein on the podium. Lenny found it necessary to address the audience beforehand, explaining that he disagreed profoundly with Gould's concept but for this or that reason he would wield the baton. The recording can be found on YouTube

    Round about this time I happened to watch an interview with Gould in which he compared Bach with Beethoven, greatly to the latter's disadvantage. Even to the point of rippling off a few bars from one of the sonatas and sniggering at their apparent corniness. Hard to digest.

    Since then the Goldberg, despite its length, has been added to the repertoire of many top pianists and I heard two youngish Brits - Stephen Hough and Freddie Kempf - play it live locally. Later, but on telly, Andreas Schiff. Bought all three on CD. Decided that by now I had a long enough spoon to sup with the devil and bought Gould. I wouldn't be without any of them and it was instructive. But I edge towards Schiff.

    As to your anecdotes I can only add there are Christians and Christians. The two you allude to are surely Fundamentalists and I admire your fortitude in crossing their threshold in the first place. I predict their combined death in a car crash, both proclaiming - at the moment of impact - that they know God's will and that they are Right. Intentional capital letter.

  3. I consider myself an atheist but I use the word God all the time. I often think of the word as my plea to the universe, the whole expansive, bigger than we can imagine universe. We are all the result of the big bang and whatever set that bang off is who/what I am talking to when I say, "Oh God," or "Good God are you kidding," or "God damn..." I am an atheist but I believe in the whole 93 billion light years of the universe, to what/whom I speak. (NewRobin13)

  4. NewRobin13: There's only one rule and that's to depend on oneself not some invisible entity. Though I'm not trying to pretend this is easy; it is in fact a discipline. Especially during terrifying events. However, no need to change the cursing habits of a lifetime: Those oft-repeated words simply become noises like coughing or sneezing.

    If it helps, you may imagine you're addressing the universe but - in calm moments - remind yourself that the universe is not sentient and cannot reply. When you see a ravishing sunset it's not the universe that's communicating with you but nature, part of an assembly of familiar things some of which are close to hand: the grass under your feet, and, slightly different, the clothes hanging on the washing line.

    Nature's mostly passive except when it arrives as lightning or a hurricane.

    But we're talking atheism here. Don't take my word for it, I'm one of those variable and often malign things known as a human being. My motives may not be apparent. It's quite possible all I have is the gift of the gab. Depend on yourself

    Do you know about Occam's Razor? Faced with something inexplicable it makes sense to opt for the most likely explanation first. If you've got time, try and relate to what you see, hear, smell, touch or taste in terms of provable facts you're aware of. Acknowledging of course that's there are lots still to be explained.

    Most important: if you already depend on yourself PLEASE IGNORE ALL THIS. You're the one who counts.

  5. I always depend on myself. I don't think the universe listens to me or will respond. There is no consciousness out there, but there are 93 billion light years of history, the dust of all that's come and gone, the future and the past. I am an atheist. (NewRobin13)

  6. Personally, I can't think of anything more logical than complaining about illness and physical pain. Not all the time, and not to everyone. But sometimes you just have to yell "ouch." Then again, I'm not an atheist. I like to hedge my bets, so I'm an agnostic. I'm absolutely sure that I'm not sure of anything. If it turns out that there is a reality of some sort after death, the spirit that may live on will adapt. If there is nothing, I'll not be anymore and the part of me that was "I" won't be aware. Religions? Meh! Not for me. If I had to believe in some kind of religious dogma, I would choose Greek Mythology. But I am in awe of the believers, how nice it must be to think you know something for sure.

    1. Colette: Perhaps, but there are options. One may complain boringly or entertainingly. "Ouch" is pretty boring, a one-word sentence that's also a one-word paragraph. The person listening is hardly encouraged to build a conversation on it. However... with a little imagination... imagine it carved on a tombstone. The single word. Better still immediately after the terminal date. I'd be prepared to respond with a small snigger.

      When my guts were being examined from inside, and I was able to see - on a small colour screen - parts of me I'd never seen before, the temptation to say something outrageous, in bad taste but comical, was enormous. I love making people laugh. A risky business given that the guy who was inspecting me was also working levers on the thingummyjig. Interrupting his personal Tour de Roderick and sending him down some unexpected alley-way. Whoops.

      Say the word "complaint" and a whingeing, whining voice is evoked.

      I was agnostic for a while but decided the word wasn't sufficiently grown-up. I mean, suppose there was a St Peter's Gate and an embarrassing interview. I know where I'd be going but agnostics wouldn't get off scot-free. You'd be going downwards though possibly to be eternally tickled; no dignity in that.