Can a minister in a Christian church be an atheist? That’s the question facing the United church of Canada as it wrestles with the case of Gretta Vosper


“I do not believe in a theistic, supernatural being called God,” says Gretta Vosper, the United Church of Canada minister who has led West Hill since 1997. “I don’t believe in what I think 99.99% of the world thinks you mean when you use that word.” Tor her, God is instead a metaphor for goodness and a life lived with compassion and justice.

Continue reading:  Atheist pastor sparks debate by ‘irritating the church into the 21st century’

13 thoughts on “Atheist pastor sparks debate by ‘irritating the church into the 21st century’

    • Hey Ark- Ever hear of Buddhism? It is a non-theistic religion. And Christians have ventured into apophatic ‘theology’ at least since Meister Eckhart, the Rhineland Mystic, who said he prayed to God to be rid of God. Nietzsche too, 19th century, championed non-theism. The 1960s were replete with theologians who seriously spoke of the ‘death of God. Paul Tillich, arguably among the most important theologians of the 20th century, could also be said to be a non-theist in his abandoning classical theology and speaking of the Ground of Being rather than a Supreme Being. Tillich, a Christian theologian spoke of ‘salvation’ as ‘participation in the New Being’ ambiguously and fragmentarily. That the likes of us seldom getting around to real theology does not mean that those who do are morons. It is well to remember that any talk of ultimate reality is necessarily metaphoric. I’m a retired pastor who considers himself a non-theist.

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        • So far as I am concerned, being a non-theist means that I do not ‘believe in’ a supernatural supreme being, much as the Canadian clergywoman states it. The stories and doctrines of the Christian faith are, for me, mythological and metaphoric. My sole aim in responding to your first post is to object to the notion that something one does not understand or agree with can be dismissed as moronic.

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        • Ah, fair enough. Well, firstly, it was a bit of semantics involving oxymoron, as I am sure you probably spotted.
          But, as Robert points out, the idea of institutionalized atheism runs contrary to my idea of secularism and it seems the ”pastor”( clergywoman) is doing little but ‘grandstanding’. Which I consider rather silly –
          or even moronic.


        • You’ve said it well, Ark, that your opinion about atheism and secularism is not that of the clergywoman’s. I accept that but would not resort to considering your opinion either silly or moronic because it differs from mine. Dialogue about ideas is seldom encouraged by name calling. Apparently dialogue is not your aim.


        • Religion is generally a stumbling block to human development and tends to divide rather than unite.
          And in general, the evidence bears this out.
          Thus anything that tries to masquerade as ‘Not really religion, honest!” yet feels the need to cloak itself in pseudo-religious jargon/paraphernalia is simply rather silly.
          And as I said initially, it strikes me that the pastor is showboating.


        • If you would to discuss the merits ( if any ) of my assertion that anything religious r masquerading as such is negative then please, feel free.
          If you disagree then I would be interested to hear your reasons why, and why you believe there are benefits to religion.


      • Buddha was The Enlightened One, not a deity, that’s true. The Rhineland Mystic, I never heard of. Nietzsche I heard of (Thus Spake Zarathustra), & while I wasn’t born until ’77, I did hear about how “God is dead”.

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    • I’m with you, Ark. Although I appreciate this pastor’s community-organizing approach to humanism, the idea of institutionalized atheism runs contrary not only to that philosophy but also to the practice of secularism (which I value greatly).

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  1. Sorry, but I fail to see how any of this entails institutionalized atheism or impinges upon the practice of secularism, or anything else one wants to do, for that matter, The article to which the blog refers speaks of a minister and a group of people who seems to agree with her. Besides the Protestant Principle is that reformation is ongoing and necessary, so being irritated should be expected by the United church of Canada.


    • As I said previously, Ron, I appreciate both her humanist message and the community organizing she’s doing. And, if she wants to do this under the institutional auspices of religion, so be it. I would not oppose it.

      However, I’m not sure if this is a particularly good idea. First, equating atheism with religion (which it is certainly not) risks a wholesale devaluation of that valuable philosophy. Second, the expansion of religion into non-theistic ideological realms frankly scares the crap out of me. Our crazy world today doesn’t need any more ideological polarization. Third, as a secular American, I’m constantly worried about religious incursions into public affairs and it is precisely that separation of church and state which would be jeopardized by any expansion of religion.


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