Today I listened to ‘From Minister to Atheist’ on NPR All Things Considered.
According to Teresa MacBain, she had big questions after being an ordained minister. “Her secret is taking a toll, eating at her conscience as she goes about her pastoral duties week after week — two sermons every Sunday, singing hymns, praying for the sick when she doesn’t believe in the God she’s praying to. She has had no one to talk to, at least not in her Christian community, so her iPhone has become her confessor, where she records her private fears and frustrations.”
She progressed through stages where she simply could no longer believe.
After listening to the episode, I went online and Googled, “…can we love an atheist.” I ran across an atheist blog where a questioner asked, “Do Atheists Love?”
Two of the several responses were baffling:
G.R.:Yes. “Why do you ask? What a moronic question.”
D.H.: “No. We’re all miserable misanthropes who hate everyone and everything. We hate our spouses, children and pets. We hate music and art and theater. None of us has ever read a book or seen a move that we love. We despise every idea and concept we’ve ever encountered.
When you see an atheist who appears to be a loving family man, who tries to make his wife and kids happy, it’s all an act. He really hates them, and only pretends to like them for some inexplicable reason. When he goes to a concert and seems to be enjoying the music, maybe even singing along or dancing, he’s really quite miserable, despising every moment. His large music collection is just there to fool friends who might visit. Which is a waste, because he has no friends so no one ever visits. Except, occasionally, other atheists. And he hates them too. “
Rather than connect to the questioner in a loving way, the responses appeared to push away. and certainly did not seem to match the love they wished to represent.
There are many Biblical verses worth reading, especially on love. In one particular, the Apostle Paul quoted, “ Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not envious, arrogant, or rude.” This teaching is very close to that of the Buddha. For a Buddhist, “Love all things, believe in all things and endure all things.” Love has no limits. Love never ends. Love is reborn, again and again. The love of Christ and the love of Buddha are reborn in us all.
To be patient, listen, understand, to love. If we love someone we must continually reach into the power of love. And it is love that transforms all us: Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Atheist alike. Regardless of religion, love is the greatest power.
Maybe we can learn from the Reverend Maclean (A River Runs Through It):
Each one of here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.
Remember, we can completely love even if we do not completely understand.
Teresa MacBain, “You are honored in my heart.” To all others, “Do No Harm. Live in love.”