It does not matter whether you are a theist or atheist, what matters is sincerity, forgiveness, and compassion. - The Dalai Lama
A lot comes with the word God. Consequently a lot comes with the words theist and atheist; respectively, one who believes in one or many gods and one who believes in the nonexistence of god(s) or rejects theism. Labels are helpful for us, especially when we want to categorize people and be on our way, but often labels miss the mark that an in-depth relationship could make. One of my favorite religious quotes of the moment comes from the self-proclaimed and rather famous atheist Richard Dawkins in his recent TIME magazine debate with Francis Collins:
“If there is a God, it’s going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.”
I find that very interesting. Dr. Dawkins might scold me outright for saying it, but that doesn’t sound much like an atheist to me. It sounds like an anti-religious person, but it doesn’t like an atheist. Dr. Dawkins has spent a lot of his life talking about what God isn't, but this is one of the quotes I have come across that hints to what he thinks God might be. Whatever the case, I think the quote has a lot of merit. We might spend a lot of time debating people who challenge our concepts of Truth and God, but what if we are way off and Truth and God are "a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything we have ever proposed"? Just judging by our advancements in science over the last fifty years, I would say that is quite possible.
So where do we go from there? I think the Dalai Lama's position, and that of Buddhism in general, is to move past God debates. What they suggest focusing on is what is answerable: shared human principles, shared human experience, and needed human action. Earlier the Dalai Lama suggested three of those principles are sincerity, forgiveness and compassion. I would add to that curiousity: a deep search for truth, wherever that leads us and as uncomfortable a place as that might be. I think when we do that we will be rewarded with an introspective and thoughtful life that respects the people and things around us. We will also have a lot of fun, learn a lot about ourselves and ultimately serve our purpose and, I think, our God (whatever you think that may or may not be).