Got into another long back and forth on religion the other day on Facebook. It was fun, in many ways. I enjoy putting my thoughts out there, having them challenged, and having to think again about how I really see things and how to get that vision across. I can't say I was entirely successful, but I'd like to think I made at least a tiny crack in the certainty with which I felt confronted.

Oh - no - I'm sorry. You thought I was having a discussion with folks from the general direction of the Christian right? No, no, no. I was having a discussion with atheists. Fellow atheists, if I may be so bold. About the uses of theology. About the role religion has played in human history. About the evil it has done living after it and the good (I fear) which might be interred with its bones.

Because I'm not an fundamentalist atheist. I don't believe there's anything in the deepest recesses of space but dark matter. But I don't have contempt for those who do. Believe. That there is.

I have a problem when some of those folks want to bring what they see as the fundamentals of their belief into the public realm of law. But then, I disagree with them as to what constitutes the actual fundamentals of their religion.

I don't think the specifics of pre- and proscribed behavior, the dire warnings or the promises of glory to come have anything to do with the real place that religion plays in the lives of most of the people who believe. But these days, the noisiest of them are insisting that those prescriptions and proscriptions of behavior, those warnings and promises, are exactly what religion is about.

And so do the fundamentalist atheists. I don't think many of them have ever seen the other side of the coin. And, oddly, most of them seem to think that their own values grew from some other place, some place that had never seen the influence of the Judeo-Christian heritage that has permeated the Western World since the 5th Century C.E.

I don't know what has happened to the Judeo-Christian thinkers who influenced my young adulthood. I went to a Lutheran college for my first two years of education. I later married a student who was studying at the Lutheran School of Theology. I did all of this as a practicing atheist, but through both of these institutions I was introduced to writers who, although they did not convince me of the actual existence of a guy in the sky, did show me the fundamentals of their own faith. Those fundamentals are a far cry from what we hear today. But they grew from the same roots. Roots that feed something far deeper in the human soul.

Reinhold Niebuhr, , is an unflinching realist in a world of idealism.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, , a Lutheran pastor in Germany, was executed by hanging for his part in the plot to assassinate Hitler.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, known affectionately to his readers as Teilhard, , a Jesuit paleontologist who stretched the wings of his own belief wide to include science, to interpret creation itself as a much more wondrous thing than a magic trick.

Martin Buber, , a Jewish philosopher who sought to erase the barriers between human and human, human and life, human and the planet, by seeing all others as a "thou," not an "it."

Intense reading, all of it. And I don't expect a rush of orders to Amazon. But as a practicing atheist, I insist on acknowledging my own Judeo-Christian roots. And cannot forget that those roots gave rise to these four thinkers who, to my mind, went further to the true fundamentals of religious thinking than any current mega-church minister has ever done.