He used to be a committed Christian; then he became a convinced atheist; and now businessman and entrepreneur Geoff Crocker is arguing that even unbelievers should be able to find meaning and significance in religion.

Reading his new book, An Enlightened Philosophy: Can an atheist believe anything? it is clear that Crocker is as sick of virulent atheism as he once became of the evangelical brand of Christianity he used to preach at numerous Christian events worldwide and through the tracts he wrote for The Bible Society. He tells us leading atheists such as Richard Dawkins are dragging the ‘non-religion’ down. “Dawkins has stopped being a thinker and has become a campaigner, setting himself up as some kind of Messianic deliverance figure to ‘save’ people from religion,” Crocker argues.  “The result is moral nihilism and a materialistic, self-centred society, which does atheism no favours.”

But any Christians getting excited about the return of their prodigal son to the family fold will be disappointed; Crocker is light years away from re-embracing a religion he claims “busies itself with internal squabbles about sexuality and gender, and makes only feeble attempts to engage the faithful, or aggressive efforts to win new converts.” Inviting readers to ‘skip this chapter’ if they thinks they may be offended by his critique of the modern day Church, he writes that the Christian message of salvation and forgiveness is not only incomprehensible to most people, but “distorted” and “morally repugnant.”

Having dissed both Christianity and atheism, Crocker proposes an entirely new approach – a reinterpretation of religious texts as myth and a synthesis of sacred and secular – because he is also sick of ‘The God Debate’ and wants to defuse the barren confrontation between atheism and religion.  Looking at Biblical stories in this light, he claims, can be uplifting. The Old Testament story of Cain and Abel, or the New Testament account of Jesus Clearing the Temple, for instance, mean nothing doctrinally at all, he suggests. But interpreted as meaningful myth, they open up debate on serious moral and cultural issues, tap into serious, current issues such as justice, love, consumer society, the role of the state, fear, etc., and give atheists something to believe. Because yes, even atheists need to believe something.

An Enlightened Philosophy: Can An Atheist Believe Anything?  will be published by O Books on 25th March 2011www.anenlightenedphilosophy.com

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