the deity that won't stay dead

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 31, 2007

Non-Theistic Liturgy is an idea -- or is it a non-idea? -- whose time has come. At least so the scholars that make up the Non-Theistic Liturgy Resources Working Group would have us believe.

Or not believe.

Anxious to protect a good faith atheism against doubts of doubt, the Working Group gives us a version of the Lord's Prayer, without the Lord business:

With revision, I can still pray as Jesus indicated we could:

My Creator (soul's Source, spirit's Destination, Ground of Our Being, etc.) in whom/which is heaven, or within which we can find heaven (as co-creators) we revere/respect you.

We will work to see your divine intent become a reality where we live.

We will work to see that everyone has the food they need to live and have health and energy to contribute to the welfare of Earth and its life systems.

We sense that we are forgiven for our admitted shortcomings to the extent that we art able to forgive others their failures.

We recognize the presence of evil in our world and strive to avoid being a part of it as well as pointing it out whenever we are aware of it.

We work for these changes in our lives and in the lives of others in the spirit of Jesus who cared for all those who were unjustly treated or oppressed.

May we make these things so.

The numerous parentheses, slashes, and alternative qualifications demonstrate the gloomy truth that losing one's faith does not necessarily free one from scruples. Somewhat pathetically, the Lordless Prayer is dated "Lent 2005" -- as if it weren't Lent all year round for these folks. And it would seem that, to a temperament predisposed to rigorism, unbelief can be a mistress as exacting as orthodoxy. The author of the oration above, the Rev. Dr. Charles Bidwell, beseeches us to grant him the following Nihil Obstat: "Note that at no time does this indicate a petition to an external force to intervene and do the work which only we can do." Noted. Duly noted.

At one point in his novel Put Out More Flags (a neglected gem, in my opinion), Evelyn Waugh gives a brilliant sketch of communist intellectuals huddled in a London garret at the outbreak of the Second World War. Dr. Bidwell would have been at home in their company:

There was a young man of military age in the studio; he was due to be called up in the near future. 'I don't know what to do about it,' he said, 'Of course, I could plead conscientious objections, but I haven't got a conscience. It would be a denial of everything we've stood for if I said I had a conscience.'

'No, Tom,' they said to comfort him. 'We know you haven't got a conscience.'

'But then,' said the perplexed young man, 'if I haven't got a conscience, why in God's name should I mind so much saying that I have?'

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  • Posted by: - Apr. 02, 2007 3:53 PM ET USA

    There may be self-identified "Roman Catholic" students there, but just across the lawn from this ridiculous institute is St. Joseph's College, which is a decent-ish Catholic college affiliated with the University - it has some okay profs and some really outstanding ones. The United Church is a great joke and a perfect lesson in how to empty out and kill a church in 3 generations or less. ("Put Out More Flags" is *excellent*!)

  • Posted by: - Apr. 02, 2007 1:06 PM ET USA

    I have this picture in my mind of a little girl all dressed up in her (far too large) mothers dress and shoes, lipstick and rouge smattered on her face and reaking of way too much perfume. She simply says: "me too, mommy. me too."

  • Posted by: - Mar. 31, 2007 8:17 PM ET USA

    Dr. so-called-Rev. Bidwell and anyone that would listen to him is nuts! What else can I say?

  • Posted by: - Mar. 31, 2007 5:28 PM ET USA

    at this "ecumenical" college, Roman Catholic students may also learn the art of non-theistic liturgy ...

  • Posted by: - Mar. 31, 2007 4:03 PM ET USA

    A second thought occurred: Why is it that non-believers find it necessary to think in God's terms, if they truly don't believe in God? Believers, I thought, don't find it necessary to think in non-believers' terms. But patience, to prevent that murmur, soon replied: Oh? Have you read an ICEL translation lately?

  • Posted by: - Mar. 31, 2007 3:09 PM ET USA

    I know it's the tiniest of niggles in the scheme of things, but these guys don't even know the English language. Art is the second person singular present form of the verb be. I am; thou art; he, she or it is. As the second person singular has largely disappeared in English, except for readers of the KJV and its contemporaneous literature, so has art. In their case, in more senses than one.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 31, 2007 2:23 PM ET USA

    "a college under the United Church of Canada" Hey, hey, hey! Who says that Liberal Protestantism doesn't have a few slick card tricks up its left sleeve? Praise the Ground of Our Being and pass the indigestion.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 31, 2007 11:30 AM ET USA

    I thought that the link was just a sarcastic name that would take me to some USCCB committee site, but the name is accurate and the group is affiliated with a college under the United Church of Canada. "Non-theistic prayer"? This is truly concrete proof that where the overiding principle is inclusivity for its own sake and not truth, you end up with nonsense and self-contradiction.