Review : Christian Atheist, Belonging without Believing by Brian Mountford

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There is already an embryonic but strong interest in the theme of atheist spirituality, eg André Comte-Sponville’s ‘The Book of Atheist Spirituality’, Alain de Botton’s recent ‘Religion for Atheists’ and Geoff Crocker’s ‘An Enlightened Philosophy – Can an Atheist Believe Anything?’.

It’s very heartening therefore to have Brian Mountford express an open mind to such thinking from the church’s side. He discusses how aesthetics and ethics are common ground for theists and atheists, and allows that doctrine is flexible and doubt permissible. He doesn’t say what, if any, irreducible doctrines define Christianity in his understanding of church. But through his interviews, he does show a very ‘listening ear’ to the secular world, which is very welcome from a church which normally prefers to preach.

Secular atheism is often reductionist and relies on physicalism, but in so doing, fails to have any account of metaphysics, ie intellect, emotion, and spirit. Meanwhile religion for many fails as doctrine, but has power when interpreted as myth for social meta-narrative. Herein lies a meaningful synthesis for the ‘post Dawkins’ generation.

It will be very creative if the church shows a more inclusive attitude, and engages in discourse with these elements of atheist spirituality in the way Brian Mountford does. It would make a very meaningful difference to contemporary society which otherwise is driven to consumerist status by the same pervasive physicalism.

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