At first it seems ironic that Klaas Hendrikse, an atheist, continues to preach in his church building in the Netherlands. But really, as an atheist, why would he not keep the job? It’s not like he fears any consequences, or hopes for anything better. The people in the pews on Sunday are okay with it. His superiors in the organization that employs him, the “Protestant Church in the Netherlands,” are okay with it. He’s already got the black turtleneck. And of course it’s all very nuanced. He says he believes in God, just not in God’s existence. In a stunningly original twist, he’s even written a book.
I’m generally okay with atheists (no doubt they’re relieved to know it). People who say they are atheists have at least thought seriously about it. That puts them one step ahead of the nominal Christians: those who go to church every Sunday morning because it’s what they do after they read the paper. Having read a few books and given it some thought, the atheist may continue to read and think; and inevitably, life happens. So saying one is an atheist seems to me to be the second step, and often a step in the right direction. Being an atheist happens first, and an honest atheist is a couple of steps ahead of Lewis’ apostate bishop, the “fat ghost with the cultured voice.”
At least Hendrikse felt some need to redefine the words in “I believe in one God…” (if that church recites the Credo). That beats standing up to tell a big honkin’ lie once a week. That lingering impulse to honesty is a hopeful sign. The next step for Herr Hendrikse might be a beach vacation with some good books. And a nice Aloha shirt would probably put him, and everyone else, in a better frame of mind.