RD Extra: An Atheist’s Sermon

This RD extra features a sermon written by Jeremy Beahan for All Souls Unitarian Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Those who reject religion go by many names; atheist, agnostic, skeptic, freethinker, secular humanist–but please do not call us “unbelievers.” If you ask you will find there are many things we believe in. We believe that the natural world , as revealed through science, is more beautiful and inspiring than any mythology. But a world without the supernatural also confronts us with disturbing possibilities. If there is no God then the human story comes with no guarantee of a happy ending. Humanity must solve it’s own problems but it’s not at all clear we are up to the task. If there is hope, it will be found in those who reject the hollow consolations of faith and choose to press on instead of hoping for a miracle. By living with courage and integrity, pursuing truth for truth’s sake, we can make our lives and our world significant.

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  1. says

    The scariest believers are those who come right out and say they are glad the end times are near because they don’t see a solution to whatever problem of the day. Many more aren’t saying it, but are probably thinking along those lines. I’ve seen an increase in actions being taken just because they need to be, not because of supernatural inspiration. Sermons like this should continue to encourage this. Thanks for the transcript.

  2. AJ says

    I was able to attend this event. Everyone at All Souls was very friendly, and there was some great conversation afterwards too. Jeremy delivered an excellent sermon that elicited many nods of approval, big smiles, and even a few tears from the audience. I think the pulpit was even impressed.

  3. Cryptohominid says

    Well done. I will be spamming Face Book with your sermon today in honor of the solstice. Love the show and the work you all do, keep it up!

  4. Derek says

    Wow Jeremy, a wonderful sermon. Do you have any restrictions on others using this (with attribution)?

  5. David says

    Found a link in the old blog. You might want to get that moved over though. Thanks to all the doubtcasters for all the hard work that goes into the podcast. I’ll be putting my money where my mouth (ears?) are and donating.

  6. Lee Harrison says

    Only decent sermon I have ever heard. And I mean ‘decent’ to indicate both quality and moral fibre. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Greg Esres says

    I also thought the sermon was very good, but I would urge caution about trying to adopt too much of the religion-speak as our own. Carl Sagan’s quote “we are a way for the cosmos to know itself” is a nonsensical statement, as is any talk of “this gives meaning to that”. “Meaning” is a subjective experience and can’t rationally be said to exist independently in the world.

  8. Charley Beltman says

    Jeremy, that was so good I think I will refer Christian acquaintances to it if they ever express interest in understanding my worldview (for lack of a better word). Not that they ever do, but you never know.

  9. Coffee-cat says

    Excellent! In episode 95, you had asked about finding comfort in atheism and you have largely answered that question with this sermon.

    I seem to have long since missed the comment thread on episode 95 and don’t want this lost in an abortion debate, but I was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year, so I was hospitalized for 5 weeks. I found that I did not struggle with the question “Why me?” since the answer was quite obviously, “Why not me?”

    What my lack of faith did for me was let me to focus on important things: doing what I could to get better and to giving my children what they need from me with whatever time I have left. That has lead me to have more real conversations with my kids and taking the time to enjoy their company and allow them to do the same. The freedom from a religious paradigm allowed me to focus on the here and now and the things that make me happy. It allowed me to find the positives in the situation – yes, really – like I missed the end of winter, did no laundry, and had time to read. Throughout this year, nearly everyone commented on my positive outlook (not the smarmy ribbon crap) but a disinterest in spending the time I do have wallowing in self pity. Admittedly, a good prognosis helped.

    Perhaps Dr. Prof. Luke Galen could perform a study on faith or lack thereof and diagnosis of serious illness.

    Lastly, I listened to a lot of Reasonable Doubts podcasts while I was in the (Catholic) hospital, a wonderful escape from all of the religious imagery, etc. Thank you guys for helping me keep my perspective through it all!

  10. Nathan Parker says

    Also, please spell “its” correctly on this line:

    “Humanity must solve it’s own ”

    The post on the original site that refers the reader to this site also contains the same error.

  11. marella says

    Carl Sagan’s quote “we are a way for the cosmos to know itself” is a nonsensical statement,

    I don’t see why you think this is a nonsensical statement, the cosmos is us, we are made of stardust, we are as much a part of the universe as any star and we are beginning to understand it, thus the cosmos understands itself. Seems perfectly reasonable to me. The urge to separate humanity from the world and the universe is a religious one and misguided.

  12. RickFlick says

    I hesitate to fully agree. The problem I see is with the term “believe”. It seems equivocal. Believe how? On the basis of evidence? Within science belief is not relied upon. Only the preponderance of evidence has weight.

  13. fox says

    I’ve been listening to your podcast for quite some time and wondered if you had any recommendations on counter-apologetic books that are available. I rejected my christian faith over a year ago and did so by doing a TON of work looking at apologetic claims, but have never found anything that is concise and self-contained that I could give to my wife so she could have a reference to help her out a little more…she recognizes the issues but is unsure and concerned I “may be missing something” and a second source would be helpful.

    I really appreciate adding the sermon…I recently started going to a UU church for two reasons: 1) it helps appease my wife’s need for church; 2) I feel that the greatest issue is ignorance and bigotry, which I feel can only be overcome by some level of understanding (which seems like what the local UU church tries to provide)…if for no other reason than to approach the issues in a fashion that can result in change. Even when I was an evangelical, I never felt that “thumping” someone over the head with my view was an effective method, but having a level of understanding can both allow us to learn, help guard us from making the same errors we condemn, and helps build a rapport so the conversation remains open. Anyway, the fact that one of the sermons given at this UU church was “an athiest’s guide to surviving christmas” (which was excellent and contained similarities to your sermon) gives me hope that this may be a compromise I can live with.

    Thank you for all you are doing and I appreciate any input you have.

  14. says

    Jeremy, This was brilliant. I can’t imagine a more articulate, less condescending, or more inspiring presentation of the naturalistic worldview. This needs to get wide circulation and I will do what I can to recommend this to others.

  15. Tom Hudson says

    So do you guys just not care anymore? This used to be my favorite podcast, but if you are only going to do it once a month, then be honest: It is an occasional podcast.

  16. says

    As was announced in the last podcast, we are taking a month off for the Holidays and the beginning of the semester (we are all teachers). Long time listeners know we have done this every year since we started the podcast. Our month is up in a few days, which just happens to be when we’ve scheduled our next recording session.

  17. Derek says

    Man, you guys get holidays? What kind of BS is this? Don’t you know we pay your wages? etc. etc.

  18. hyoid says

    When I read the word “significant” my brain said, “Until the earth blows up and is just a rock spinning in space. Then what was so significant?” Then I noticed my brain suppressing the idea; was trying to keep it unrecognized. It seemed exactly like the experience I recall when I read how God caused and did all the bastardy things in the Bible stories. He always got a pass, no matter what it was. The thought was there, somehow suppressed and couldn’t be expressed enough to break religion’s hold. I suppose it’s just how cognitive dissonance feels when it’s actually noticed by the victim. I don’t think I am a victim now though. Well, thanks for that. Great Sermon though!

  19. Stefan says

    I’ve literally never posted in a comment section before but your sermon really moved me. Thank you

  20. Harry says

    I was absolutely struck by this brilliant ‘sermon.’ I say brilliant because Jeremy brought together so many thoughts, facts, feelings, rationales, etc. that had before been floating around in my mind, and put them into a beautiful sermon that makes one glad to be alive and on the right track. Thank you, Jeremy. This is one of the best orations I have ever heard in my life by anyone.

  21. William Kemp says

    All I can say is wow. I am in absolute awe of your words.

    I just found you guys on Tune In Radio and this was probably my third RD podcast. This episode is easily my favorite atheist podcast of all time and I subscribe to more than a few. Keep up the good work!

  22. says

    I hope our dreams come trueLet’s go for a walk,shall we? Things are getting better.Could you tell me what the maximum weight allowance is? He grasped both my hands.They stopped talking when their boss came in.They stopped talking when their boss came in.He was not a bit tired.I wish I lived in NEWYORK.There is a broken small old gray stone bridge over the rive


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