The Atheist Pulpit by Nick Bradbury

Mennonitengemeinde_Kochendorf_KanzelCopyright © 2011 Sokkok

Note: Nick Bradbury is a software developer and technology expert. And he’s also a talented writer, as you’ll see from his thought-provoking post below.

After my wife and I moved to a new town a few years ago, we talked about joining a church in order to meet people. This wasn’t easy for us since I’m a devout atheist, and I refused to take my kids anywhere that even mentioned the idea of hell.

At some point we tried out a nearby Unitarian Universalist church, and much to my surprise we both enjoyed the experience. My being an atheist wasn’t an issue—in fact, there were several other atheists in the congregation, all of whom wanted to be a part of something bigger that could do some good for society without all the dogma.

Not long after we joined, I was asked to speak to the congregation about what I believe. Here’s most of what I said:

If 20 years ago you had told me I would speak in front of a church crowd, I would’ve laughed hysterically. I decided I was an atheist at a very young age, so the idea of me standing at a pulpit would’ve seemed ridiculous, at least until I discovered churches like this one existed.

I guess you could say that by age 16 I had a pretty bad attitude about religion. For many years that bad attitude only got worse as I continued to witness people justifying cruelty in the name of religion.

That bad attitude reached its peak after I saw all the “God Bless America” billboards go up prior to the war with Iraq. At the time I took that as proof religion was nothing more than something politicians all over the world rely on to get people to approve of the awful things they want to do.

Yes, I was one of those smirking atheists who think they’ve got it all figured out.

But I’ve mellowed a lot since then. I’ve become friends with too many good people of faith to continue being a smirking atheist.

I used to believe that religious people were wrong, but now I believe that everyone is wrong—including me. We’re just monkeys with expensive haircuts. How on earth can we presume to have anything figured out?

I mean, look at all the mistakes we’ve made—we once believed that the world was flat, that the earth is the center of the universe, and that George Bush would never be a two-time president. Look at how wrong we were!

Perhaps some of us have seen a clue of what the truth really is. People like Jesus, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and George Carlin may have caught a glimpse behind the curtain and seen further than the rest of us.

But they’re probably wrong too, and it really doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that regardless of what gods we may or may not worship, I believe we’re all here for a very short time, so it’s not a bad idea for us to focus on enjoying ourselves and each other while we can.

And I believe it shouldn’t be as hard as it is to improve the lives of every person and every animal we share this temporary planet with.

I think we have to separate between what we believe and what we know. Atheism is what I believe, some of you believe in religion. We believe we’re following something that gives us some answers or some comfort, but none of us actually know how we got here and where we’re going, and that’s great.

It’s only when people convince themselves that what they believe is also what they know that the bad stuff happens.

So anyway, this godless journey of mine led me to this church. I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t expect to like it here. I’ve wanted to run away screaming from every other church I’ve visited.

But much to my surprise, I like it here. I enjoy being part of this group of intellectual misfits. This church is like a non-conformist convention where people actually show up.

So I want to thank you for welcoming me and accepting me here—that’s something I’m not used to, and it means a lot to me.

Copyright © 2014 Nick Bradbury


This video, I suspect, will be offensive to some. But watch it with an open mind. Like Nick’s article above, it’s thought-provoking.

About Nick Bradbury

Nick Bradbury is a software developer. He’s the creator of HomeSite, TopStyle & FeedDemon for Windows, and Glassboard & Social Sites for Android. Currently he develops mobile applications at Automattic.


Please share your thoughts and comments with us below.

12 Responses

  1. Margaret

    Loved your rap Nick and loved your song Dan.

    I felt the need to leave my church after 20 years because I got caught up in outward ‘duties’ and seemed to lose my way somehow so felt need to go back to basics, which for me was nature where I have most consistently experienced spirituality.

    I understand that whatever path we are on each of us is living up to our highest sense of good. That helps me when people seem to let you down. As you say Nick, Jesus teaches ‘they know not what they do’….

    Thanks John for these varied and stimulating blogs… is a funny word doesn’t sound right. Forum is much better 🙂

    Margaret x

    • John Cali

      Thanks very much, Margaret.

      I also like the word “forum” better than “blog.” “Blog” is an abbreviation of the phrase “web log.” It’s become popular and virtually everyone knows what it means. So I guess I’m stuck with it. 🙂

  2. Dan

    I appreciate having an article like this today. It is so unexpected. I expect most people who come to this site as being spiritual, not necessarily religious… but with all the discussion of God being all that is and each of us being God – I am glad to know it does not exclude atheists. For we all are important to the whole – by definition.

    Nick writes – “It’s only when people convince themselves that what they believe is also what they know that the bad stuff happens.” It seems to me there are very few things any of us truly know. I know that I am conscious, that I exist now – I extrapolate from that that I will always exist but I cannot know that since (as far as I know) I have not experienced always.

    Our beliefs give color to our world – but are oppressive when we expect others to have the same beliefs. Anyway – I am glad to have Nick contribute today – thank you – and found the video interesting as well.

    I wrote a song a couple years ago – which started with the concept that nothing is in our way – except us; but when I started playing around with the verse lyrics I started singing – “My religion is like a song – there’s nothing right or wrong – I choose wisdom which I believe resonates the most with me”

    I may have shared it before – but I will extend a link because I think it is apropos – Unrelated, but related to me and a post from a couple weeks ago – it has video of my recently departed dog Blackie and how he liked to rest on my arm while I was playing guitar.

    As always – thanks John (and Spirit) for the forum.

    • John Cali

      Thanks very much, Dan.

      I think Nick has given us all a lot to think about.

      As you said, we are all important to the whole — including the atheists. And including our enemies, friends, family — all of us. As my spirit guides often say, God is all that is — and that includes all humans, all sentient life, all that exists — everything.

      I love the lyrics of your song. We all need to follow our own paths, whatever feels right for us — and allow all others to do the same.

      Blessings to you, Dan

  3. Sarah d

    Hi John,

    I really enjoyed reading this article and the accompanying video was amazing. I could see a lot of sense in what was written. We are all entitled to our beliefs and that is as it should be. The difficulties arise when trying to impose those beliefs on others and not allowing others to walk their own paths. Our beliefs shape our whole lives but can we ever, truly prove beyond a doubt that what we believe is actual reality? Especially when every person has a different variation of belief.
    I guess the answer is go within and find your path and allow others to find theirs. And if your belief is positive and helps to live a meaningful and fulfilling life, then that is a beautiful thing.

    Blessings to you, John

    • John Cali

      Thanks very much, Sarah.

      The fact we all shape our lives by our beliefs, as you said, is what Seth was talking about years ago when he said we all create our own realities. The problems arise when we don’t like the realities others are creating. I agree with you — the answer is to go within and find your path and allow others to find theirs.

      Blessings to you too, Sarah.

  4. Micki

    Hi John,
    Brilliant and very thought provoking. Thank you.
    love and hugs,

  5. Annette

    Wow. That was big.
    Thank you for the intriguing article and the beautiful clip. Gave me goose bumps of knowing. When I left church I received a letter which invited me to a fertile discussion with church. I wrote back that I did believe in God and Jesus, but not in then exclusion of gender or sexual orientation. I never heard of them again. Sad. But I like Pope Franciscus very much. I think he’s what the church needed.
    Warm regards and God bless

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