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Problems with atheism


The problem with being an atheist

The problem with being an atheist
is the lack
of imagination.
no one to talk with
when we were first begun
to share the pain
of dying
the joy of living
to delight in our first words
our singing notes
our pictures on the walls.

The problem with being an atheist
is the lack of gratitude
having no one to thank for being here
nothing to join hands with
and dance the dance of life.

The problem of being an atheist
is the lack
of creation
the determination
that we shall be
that we art that
that we are formed
with intention,
with a smile
a deliberation
that you are you
and no one else.

The problem with being an atheist
is the lack of possibilities
a world to come into being
a kingdom to be worked for
blood and sweated for
any hope of future travels
curtailed with science.

The problem with being an atheist
is the lack of mystery
why the Boudhi tree and not a palace garden,
why the woman at the well
and not a real estate agent in Vaucluse
why the air becomes the Holy Spirit
and causes us to shake a little
to grin a little
to write in the dust
and find songlines in the earth.

the problem with atheism
is the lack ...

Jorie Ryan


Passing through

(a response to Peter Goldworthy´s 'Eye of the Needle')

To go from this earth to the next
you can remain yourself
but your self must
travel very light.

No coffers full of old customs,
no cases full of old attachments.
The have-nots, the poor in spirit
will be the only ones
who'll carry little enough.

At the end of your worldly tunnel
no one will be coming towards you
to support you and your heavy head.

Your heavy heart is a different matter —
it will be blessed with weighing less.
That, at least, remains of
the promise of the Light.

Frank Joussen


The new year's stars

And so, we ventured away from the lights of the house,
Away from compliments and cups of kindness sung
Into the tipsy night,
Peering into a darkness fragrant with the breath
Of lemon, eucalypt, mint and thyme.
Two paddocks away, an astrologer's dog
Was barking at the heavens,
Having caught the scent of celestial bears.
And so, as we looked up,
The cooling earth seemed to reel in the lee of Mount Sturgeon;
And, in their majesty, the stars passed in their transcendence,
Mapping our poles and times and expectations,
As randomly, it seemed, as if wild Caravaggio
Had flung his silvered dice without relent,
Exhausted only by the prospect of mundane dawn.
But, as one, spent star fumed its quiet death,
It seemed that from within the bright caravans of galaxies,
The stars, in choir, were singing of life,
And that we, whiskied, warm and staring,
Might yet become the grace notes
Within the promise of that stupendous song.

On this New Year's night
Attended at our peripheries
By fleets that trawl celestial seas
And bright caravans of lesser galaxies,
It seemed that in serried choir
The stars were singing,
And that we, small and staring upwards,
Were the grace notes within that enormous song 

Grant Fraser

Jorie RyanJorie Ryan is an Anglican priest who lives in country NSW. She has three books published and writes of the spiritual in the everyday. 


Frank JoussenFrank Joussen teaches English and religious education at a German high school. He is a member of the international Catholic peace organisation Pax Christi. His poems and short stories in English have been published in print journals and ezines worldwide. 


Grant FraserGrant Fraser is a lawyer, poet and filmmaker. His collection of poetry Some Conclusion in the Heart was published by Black Willow Press. His film Syllable to Sound was screened on ABC1. 

Topic tags: new australian poems, Jorie Ryan, Frank Joussen, Grant Fraser, atheism



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Existing comments

For Jorie.............. The problem with a closed mind is that it is closed The problem with evangelising a message as The Truth is that it may not be at all The problem with forcing your message onto children in schools is that this is child abuse The problem with cutting yourself off in a cult is the isolation and sense of absolute rightness it produces The problem with insisting that only you have the answer is that it closes off possibilities that you may be wrong The problem with insisting that you are right, for everyone, is that it is arrogant in the extreme. And ugly too.

janice wallace | 17 April 2012  

Jorie, the joy of being an atheist is that you have to think for yourself; act morally not for godly rewards but because it's the right thing to do; perceive the wonder and beauty of nature without prescribing purpose to it; wake each day charged with the desire to mitigate human suffering and extending human knowledge; to know thyself truly, without the fractured lens of the supernatural.

Tim | 17 April 2012  

Poetry can touch the emotions like no other art form - except maybe gazing at Velasquez's masterpieces!

Pam | 17 April 2012  

"In the dark ages people are best guided by religion, as in a pitch-black night a blind man is the best guide; he knows the roads and paths better than a man who can see. When daylight comes, however, it is foolish to use blind old men as guides." Heinrich Heine, as quoted by Christopher Hitchens in God Is Not Great. As a recovering Catholic who now finds secular humanism very persuasive, it is a continuing mystery, an exercise of the imagination, for me to contemplate exactly to why unerringly, eternally blind faith is acceptable, even preferable to many otherwise intelligently compassionate people.

Michelle Goldsmith | 17 April 2012  

the trouble with theism is that it is a myth - and worse, plot to keep the disadvantaged disadvantaged

frank hetherton | 17 April 2012  

When humans first started to ask how and why natural phenomena occur, it was quite reasonable to hypothesise the existence of supernatural agents. As knowledge and understanding progressed, hypothesises of supernatural agents coalesced and grew, eventually becoming Creator Gods. Humans developed codes of behaviour in the course of co-operatively living and sharing resources among themselves. Because these codes of behaviour were deemed necessary to successful co-operation and sharing, they came to be associated with the supernatural agents and Creator Gods. That's how religion developed: out of prehistoric natural science, coupled with emerging human civilisation. The Reformation, and subsequent Enlightenment, is where Western civilisation began to break the nexus between supernatural belief and ethical behaviour. This process, however, is far from complete. Meanwhile, in the East, Buddhism already included non-theistic ethical practice and behaviour. Atheism does not suffer a lack of joy through loneliness - if you just open your eyes, you'll see that you are sharing this life with millions of people. If you just open your eyes, you need never walk alone.

David Arthur | 17 April 2012  

No one is saying that blind faith is acceptable - and if you believe God is not great than that's fine - I'm sure the image of a murdered deity (Jesus on the cross) would fit in well with that. It's not theism that's the myth that disadvantages people, it's the hijacking of the truth of religion by empires - human greed. Society has not even begun to live as Jesus suggested even after 2000 years of trial and error!

AURELIUS | 17 April 2012  

Heinrich Heine would say that in the dark ages people are best guided by religion, wouldn't he? He was a child of the Enlightenment, hence the stuff about daylight. It is a very B&W way of looking at anything and appeals to those who like to see religion, science, politics, or any other area of human expression and endeavour as foolish. Enlightenment people used the Dark Ages (early medieval period) as a proof that religion belonged there, not now. We now see that period of European history very differently, indeed understand that it was religion in the form of Christianity that was the force of civilization and enlightenment through the Dark Ages. It was everything else going on at the time that we call dark. Hitchens would have been gobsmacked by the politics of Vandals and Huns.The really interesting question is why Christianity survived the Dark Ages when so much else did not. Heine is indulging in the fallacy of progress. But when I want to see Enlightenment, one of the first places I go to is not Heine or Voltaire or whoever, but the Book of Kells.

TABULA RASA | 17 April 2012  

The problem with being a Christian, Jorie, is that you assume atheists have no imagination, no creative spirit, no ability to appreciate beauty, nature, life in general. The probem with being a Christian, Jorie, is that you think you have all the answers.

Mike H | 17 April 2012  

The atheist position as I understand it is a alck- of belief in a theistic beleif system- hence the poem. The gospel doesn't demand. It invites- 'come and see'. I agree with Aurelius in that the message has been so hijacked by whatever groups are in power as to become quite shredded. Jesus never intended a 'religion'. He offered a way of life that showed a God who loves and who invited us to love in return through love of each other. Tim, the problem is that people do not (mostly) think for themselves. They mostly follow. I have chosen to follow God. My choice. I have no desire to force others to my position. I have simply said there is a problem with the position of atheism.

Today children are nor forced into a life of brainwashing (not rleigion anyway, maybe, potato chips and alco pops). Belief in God is not synonymous with having a closed mind. Truly living in faith is more challenging and much more fun than paying off the mortgage and planning the next holiday. Good to see so many comments about poetry. Go the muse!!

Jorie Ryan | 17 April 2012  

Jorie What a load of codswallop Get out and meet some of us and enjoy our lust for life and its vagaries

GAJ | 17 April 2012  

The problem of thinking you have all the answers is hardly the special preserve of Christians. The blogosphere is full of Atheists who give the same impression. The whole sphere of the world is full of people like that. The problem with being a real Christian is the self-admission that you very precisely don’t know everything. There is an open admitting that they have a lot to learn. In reality, if not in the blogosphere, Christians are no more one-dimensional than Atheists. It’s all much more complex than this and much more serious for those who take it seriously. I personally think that Mike has missed the main drive of Jorie’s poem, which I read as an apologetic discourse. The poet is wondering aloud what it must be like without God. It’s a poem about Jorie’s God more than it is about Atheists, both of whom seem to exist according to Jorie.

TABULA RASA | 17 April 2012  

Gaj, Very much 'out' in the world. Married to an agnostic which makes for marvellous discussions and yes we both respect each other's positions.

jorie | 18 April 2012  

Dear Jorie, The most telling aspect of your poem is that only a few words need be changed to create an ode to atheism: The joy of being an atheist (a response to Jorie Ryan’s ‘The problem with being an atheist’) The joy of being an atheist is the thrill of imagination. so many to share the wonder when we were first begun to share the pain of dying the joy of living to delight in our first words our singing notes our pictures on the walls. The joy of being an atheist is the gratitude having our parents to thank for being here so many to join hands with and dance the dance of life. The joy of being an atheist is the wonderment of evolution the determination that we shall be that we art that that we are formed with alacrity, with a smile the secure knowledge that you are you and no one else. The joy of being an atheist is the limitlessness possibilities of a world come into being humanity to be worked for served and cared for the marvels of the present world informed by science The joy of being an atheist is the spellbinding explanation why the eucalyptus tree and a palace garden, why the woman and the well and a real estate agent in Vaucluse why the universe arouses such wonder and causes us to shake a little to grin a little to marvel in prose and rejoice in songs to the earth. the joy of atheism is the exhilaration . . .

Frank Nicholas | 20 April 2012  

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