As a pastor I spend a lot of time thinking about God, and in keeping with our church's vision statement I firmly believe in "thinking openly" about God. To that end I have recently started reading a book by an atheist (Richard Dawkins) called "The God Delusion."
Getting through the book is taking a long time because I am constantly stopping to take notes, defending religion and God from the author's attacks.
As a rule, I am not opposed to atheism. I believe that God only desires us to believe in love and to love, and religion is just one way to do that. If a person can get there not believing in God, I really do not think God cares.
I enjoy frank discussions about God. Unfortunately the author does not seem interested in an honest discussion about God or religion. He appears intellectually dishonest, oddly applying rules meant for science to religion (which is more akin to poetry than science).
Then he sets up fanatics as religious norms and blames religion for the atrocious acts of religious nations, all the while refusing to blame atheists for the atrocious acts of the atheist nations (like the Soviet Union).
It's true that awful things have been done in the name of religion, but it is also true that many good things have come from religion.
Religious people have repeatedly led the way in ending injustices like slavery and racism, child labor and genocide, torture and political imprisonment.
I'd also argue that the author needs a better definition of God. He claims God is a supernatural being beyond creation. I claim God is that unfathomable creating, present and hopeful power that soaks the universe and endlessly persuades creation to the best it can be in each given moment.
For humans, the persuasive power is love - how God otherwise works is mostly mystery.
The proof that God (this power that persuades creation to its best) exists is that humanity experiences a longing for the best in any given moment. Call it by any other name, that longing is God persuading.
We fail to heed the call for sure, but dang it if it isn't always there beckoning us.
Faith families are about better heeding that call together and alone through the poetry of religion and the persuasive power of God.
Rev. Scott Elliott is the pastor at Riviera United Church of Christ in Palm Bay. Visit Riviera UCC's website at rivieraucc.org.