One of the greatest exercises in scripture is trying to rewrite passages specifically with atheists in mind. The reason for this is it requires us to get away from religious cliches and vague terms, and, instead, challenges us to be specific about what we mean when we say things like,
"I'm learning to trust in God"
"God is always faithful"
"God is working for the good of those who love God!"
For that reason, I rewrote Psalm 33 for atheists for a sermon back in June, and I've included it here.
Psalm 33 for Atheists:
To everyone who loves anything that is right in the world,
may you sing and dance with unfettered joy like a child—
for this expression of joy is the essence of what it means to be alive.
Live with gratitude toward the mysterious origin
of your unlikely existence,
plug in your guitar and crank the amp to eleven!
Put away your dusty hymns,
and compose a new song
For entire albums remain unsung
about the wonder of what it means to be alive.
Yes, we suffer, and yes, we grieve
but we also love; we also laugh and we also dance.
Learn to trust, my friend,
that love can be found
in even the worst circumstances.
Learn to trust, my friend,
in the unfolding chronicle of the cosmos
See how the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice,
See how each new day brings more love than the day before.
The starlight in the sky is a gift given to us
by light which traversed the universe
with the sole purpose of igniting our retinas.
The symphony of stars sing to us with a voice so immense
that our largest numbers struggle to quantify their grandeur.
The oceans are so deep
that even the explosions of the sun
cannot pierce the murky unity of water.
And yet, in the darkest trench on earth,
we discovered life, living happily
completely unaware of the existence of any sun.
We must learn to see that life on this earth is fragile.
We must learn to see that life on this earth is durable.
We must learn to see that life on this earth is part of a much larger story.
Rulers will come and go.
Nations will rise and fall.
Our wealthiest empires last for a few centuries
on a planet that is four billion years old.
But life endures.
Love still abounds.
Justice presses forward.
And the heart still beats.
Stop trying to control the rotation of the earth!
Instead, accept your small part in this galactic narrative
and happiness will soon follow.
From a great distance,
our individuality becomes indistinguishable.
We are all children of the same spark
which jolted the universe to life.
Our hearts are all composed of the same stardust,
our common humanity desires the same things.
Our politicians will not give us joy with a larger army,
and our police officers will not make us happy with their strength.
Trust in your gun to deliver contentment
and you will be disappointed—
despite its power,
the gun will not help you revere life.
But the people who revere life
who hope that there will be more love tomorrow
than there is today
that believe it is possible for humanity to adapt
in the grim face of climate change
they will uncover something worth living for.
And so, with our backs against the wall
and with the ominous temperatures rising
we continue to live,
we continue to hope,
we continue to love.
For in the very essence of living
we trust that our hearts
will be filled with joy.
If you would like to see the sermon in which I fully discuss this rewritten version of Psalm 33, please click here.