tom kunesh – When non-theism isn’t enough: a marxian moral imperative

tom kunesh is to present our sixth ‘Creative conversation’:
4 November 2021: tom kunesh: ‘When non-theism isn’t enough: a marxian moral imperative’

(The audio recording of tom’s talk is now on the homepage)

tom writes:

‘Non-theism’ is as good a socially neutral term as Huxley’s ‘agnosticism’, but it also contains the same amount of energy to better the world, ie, none. Using these words (non-theism, agnosticism) to interpret the world is, as Marx said, dead. The real goal, as among Friends, is to change it.
Theism as an institutional process (eg. Church  has a goal – dominion.)  As Friends suffering the effects of state/church empire & domination, we should push non-theism into de-dominionizing, liberating, … actively decolonizing, de-theizing, … a verb.

a brief introduction: tom kunesh grew up on the west bank of the Mississippi in central Minnesota with 12 brothers & sisters, attended Catholic school for 12 years, & in his 10th year there ‘lost’ his faith. He later joined the US Navy, stationed in Spain, worked as a shipboard russian & farsi linguist in the Persian Gulf & Indian Ocean after the fall of the Shah, then spent 8 more years completing degrees in spanish (BA), religious studies & art history (MA), & divinity, UUism & atheism (MDiv). He wrote  the Shaman atheist :: the Dao of atheism in 1992. Teaching was his job but his avocation – as a child of his Standing Rock lakota tribal member mother – was/is native Turtle Island activism (drawing a necessary distinction between indigenous Turtle Island and the conglomeration of european colonies/settlements european colonialists called ‘America’ after a spanish-italian traveler/mapmaker).

He lives with his wife & youngest daughters east of Nashville where he directs the Tennessee Ancient Sites Conservancy, attends Nashville Friends Meeting, sweats (inipi) in Georgia, & works with Decolonizing Quakers & Sunday Assembly Nashville.  He is a fan of Ernst Bloch’s ‘Atheism in christianity’ (1968) & Neil Gaiman’s ‘American gods’ (2001), and is not a capitalist.

Trevor (web editor) writes:
His website on ‘atheisms‘ has an interesting typology of atheism (and agnosticism) and is well worth exploring – but requires frequent use of your browser ‘back button’.

Of particular interest is the page on ‘religious atheisms‘ which includes a short, very recently updated, biography of tom, (scroll down past the book titles on that page to the very bottom for the ‘bio’).

tom writes:

Who preaches atheism? What is a god? A god is an idealized human being, human characteristic or human creation to which is attributed with super-human powers of giving meaning to human existence. Examples of gods are Jesus, Muhammad, Yahweh, Allah, political power, the State, money, sex, drugs. What is The Ultimate or God The meaning of being human The problem of suffering, esp. innocent suffering Salvation or Liberation

and elsewhere: Gods take many forms … myths, morality, security, science, bible, money, sex, church, drugs … addictions and desires of all kinds.

The shaman atheist knows the gods
knows the metaphors and the deaths and the idols and the falseness intimately.
But no atheist, shaman or otherwise, knows a real god.
Knowing all the gods, the atheist must take care not to fall into the worship of any god.

The following link takes you to a book by tom, available there as an easy to navigate html file: (all the links here should open in a new window or tab so you will need to close them or switch tabs/windows to get back here). This is from 30 years ago and it will be interesting to see if tom’s views have changed since he wrote that!

[One book tom doesn’t mention is Brian Mountford’s ‘Christian Atheist‘. Brian was a speaker at our 2014 Conference and you can still find brief details on our website here: (scroll down to page 3).]

Finally, don’t forget to check our ‘Articles‘ page for a cornucopia of material on nontheism/atheism/agnosticism – I hope all of that will make more sense after tom’s talk to which we look forward on 4th November. (Possibly suitable preparation for the following evening?).

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