catholics and atheists

i was checking out the website of the seattle atheist church. their mission statement is:

“Seattle Atheist Church is a place where atheists come together to do church: to address the Big Questions and celebrate meaningful life events with atheist rituals. We celebrate the values of Atheism (Critical Thinking, Scientific Naturalism, and Secular Ethics) by teaching, learning, and thoughtful discussion.”

it seems that they value some very good things: building a community; celebrating life; sharing and engaging common values. their desire to “do church” looks like they want the good things that we receive when we journey together in our world.

to me, they are searching for truth. certainly, we as catholics believe that our minds are a gift from God and to develop them in critical thinking is a good thing for us and the world. science shows us the depths and details of our physical world. as catholics, we are quite familiar with secular ethics since our moral teachings are based in the natural law. right and good actions are not dependent on revelation but are good and right in and of themselves.

of course, faith in God is one of the fundamental differences between this atheistic church and being catholic. for us, God is the source of our being, our redemption, and of our sanctification. God is love shown in these actions.

but i think that christians in general and catholics in particular have much to learn from our atheist friends. atheists can help enlighten us in the new discoveries of science in our creation. and also the abuse of the created world that exists because of our sinful human ways.

certainly, the declaration of human rights in 1948 was a response after WWII to build a world of goodness, respect and care. why would christians not want others to have the necessities of basic living such as water, food, education and health care? our rights help us be better human beings– both individually and as community. are not justice and peace aspects of loving one another? just because our source and inspiration differs, right actions toward one another is a good thing– indeed various forms of loving one another.

i have met catholics who fear people who have different creeds of life. it is as though if catholics listen to them and their worldview that they are not living out their own faith as a follower of jesus. this limited view of our world and others impoverishes us all. for me, they limit God to only a “religious” box and miss the bigger movements of the Spirit in the world. fear in this perspective is indeed the opposite of love.

i am reminded of the great quote from st athanasius: “the glory of God is humanity fully alive.” people of all sorts of beliefs want us to be “fully alive” as men and women. God’s glory shines when this happens in our world. did not thomas aquinas show us that God is the good, the true and the beautiful? does not our created world– in which God is present– reflect goodness, truth and beauty? in our best moments, don’t we get a glimpse of God?

and in their creed, the seattle atheist church state: “We believe in good because good works in non-mysterious ways.”

for me, one of the strengths of being catholic is our openness to mystery. this would mark a huge difference in our world view and this atheist church. we do not always understand the good in our world. maybe we can never fully understand it. at times, it just stands in front of us and disrupts our tiny lives. i am thankful for grace– that undeserved, and often surprising good that we receive. grace leads to thanksgiving. and being thankful is a center of our relationship with God.

so, we catholics have a lot to learn from our atheist friends. and vice versa. it requires a discerning openness to how the Spirit might be moving in our world. but when we have that disposition, we can– together– experience God’s glorious love.

and it will lead us to have thankful hearts.


  1. Jose Sanchez says:

    Amen! Brother. Let’s allow the Glory of God shine forth through our words and actions.


    1. frarthurcmf says:

      amen alleluia!


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s