The theists believe of course that they belong to a community of meaning;

but they believe also that this community is not ultimately their own, either in its actuality or its possibilities. They believe that as human beings, they possess some freedom to choose the ways in which they will participate or not participate in the social cosmos in which they find themselves. But for them, the human condition as creatures longing for fellowship and as creatures possessing some freedom is a gift. In religious parlance, it is a gift of divine grace. Fulfillment of freedom is seen also as a divinely given task – and peril.

“The Love of God,” from on being human religiously, James Luther Adams

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The confident atheists,

in finding some meaning in life (even though it be partly expressed in “atheism”), have the sense of belonging to a community. They even place their confidence somehow in that community. But in doing so they do not characteristically think  of themselves as people of faith.

“The Love of God,” from on being human religiously, James Luther Adams

Nihilism, the sense of complete meaninglessness in life,

has been vividly depicted by the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre in his play No Exit…The author depicts the inferno of human loneliness and despair…For them, there is no exit from teh torture of loneliness even though they are together. They share no common values that can give them dignity either as individuals or as a group locked in their room in hell.

The Love of God,” from on being human religiously, James Luther Adams

Whether people call themselves theists or atheists,

the issue comes down to this: What is sacred? What is truly sovereign? What is ultimately reliable? These are the questions that are involved in every discussion of the love of God. And even if we do not like to use the words, “the love of God,” we will nevertheless deal with these questions in any discussion of the meaning of human existence. These are the questions to which we are always giving the answers in the embracing patterns and the ultimate decisions of our existence. Indeed, the struggle between the different answers constitutes the very meaning of human history.

The Love of God,” from on being human religiously, James Luther Adams

This kind of atheism is really a happy, confident atheism. It is in its way an affirmation of meaning. There is another kind of atheism, however, which is far from confident or happy. It denies that there is anything worthy of ultimate loyalty, that there is anything sacred or sovereign. This kind of atheism is nihilism, it takes nothing (not even itself) seriously; it holds that nothing is worthy of love and that love itself is meaningless.

The Love of God,” from on being human religiously, James Luther Adams