Word Worth®
                      World Magazine of Ideas and the Arts™ — ©Winter 2020 Volume XX,  Issue 1

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What Is Atheism?

There was a political ad some years ago in which an incumbent tried to discredit a challenger by posting a picture on her with a voice-over saying, “There is no God,” in a tone of voice that struck “zero to the bone,” to use the phrase of Emily Dickinson.  The voice wasn’t even that of the challenger who, as a matter of fact, was also a Sunday school teacher. But suppose she hadn’t been a Sunday school teacher. Suppose she hadn’t been a church goer.

There are FB posts celebrating an imaginary episode of a little girl standing up to a proselytizing atheist.

But atheists don’t proselytize. What little girls and boys, as well as everyone, has to be afraid of is cultists such as Jim Jones, for example, who led his followers into Guyana where he established Jonestown and murdered every last one of those followers included tiny babies. He was embraced by Jimmy and Rosalind Carter, among others, because he was a Christian.

Belief systems are tricky.

I am not an atheist. The term simply does not describe me. The most moral people I have ever known, those with the highest integrity, however, have described themselves as such.

It is those who are moral because it is the right thing who are the most noble. They do what’s right because it’s right, not for the hope of ultimate reward nor the fear of ultimate punishment. That’s nobility, that’s morality.

The great American Founders established separation of Church and State just because religion can be too easily twisted, and often has been, with zealots murdering people with shades of variance in belief systems. When we start blurring the lines, as many are attempting to do during the current age, we imperil justice and integrity.

Edgar Lee Masters book, Spoon River Anthology, published in April 1915, is a collection of short free verse poems that narrate epitaphs of the residents of Spoon River, a fictional small town named after the real Spoon River that ran near his hometown of Lewistown, Illinois.

The anthology reveals the interlocking lives and secrets of those who lived and died in the town. Some are noble, some ignoble. Those he admires the most are Lucinda and Davis Matlock said to be modeled after his grandparents:


Lucinda MatlockEdgar Lee Masters - 1868-1950


At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all,

And passed to a sweet repose.

What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,

Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?

Degenerate sons and daughters,

Life is too strong for you—

It takes life to love Life.



Davis MatlockEdgar Lee Masters - 1868-1950


And you must bear the burden of life,

As well as the urge from your spirit's excess —

Well, I say to live it out like a god

Sure of immortal life, though you are in doubt,

Is the way to live it.

If that doesn't make God proud of you,

Then God is nothing but gravitation,

Or sleep is the golden goal.


William Butler Yeats wrote about the coming times—what is now our times—in The Second Coming:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

We’ve seen it proven again and again that it’s not those who say they don’t know if there is a God whom we need to fear; we need to fear, and fear greatly, those who say they know exactly who and what God is and thinks and wants, those who freely, without reservation, speak for God.


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