The poet Ezra Pound is said to have taken a Bible and torn out all the pages he disagreed with. He was left with only the pages of Matthew’s gospel known as the Sermon on the Mount. Here it is.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice for they will be filled
Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy
Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God
Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of justice for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
The interesting question is how accessible and meaningful this ‘sermon’ might be to an atheist point of view?
On the face of it, the ‘sermon’ mentions ‘God’ twice and ‘heaven’ twice, and so looks irrelevant to an atheist who believes in neither. However this is if the discourse is taken literally, or interpreted doctrinally ie to imply some creed that has to be believed.
It’s equally valid to read the ‘sermon’ without any filter of religious doctrine or belief, and simply take it at face value, without any prejudice. In this case, it’s the meaning which stands out and has value independently of any beliefs. It can therefore be meaningful to an atheist too.
Here in fact are huge values, virtues and human aspirations. Humility of spirit is heavenly, meekness will overcome aggression, justice will prevail despite persecution, mercy will rule, singleness of heart is divine, peacemakers are the truly godly people. This is a rather different world view, an alternative to egocentrism as well as to religious creed, and a devotion to supreme values and virtues. It’s worth some thought and discussion as to which sort of person and society we prefer to be.