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Stephen Bullivant


Dr. Stephen Bullivant is Senior Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at St Mary's University, England. A former atheist, he studied philosophy and theology at Oxford University, and converted to Catholicism while completing his doctorate on Vatican II and the salvation of unbelievers. In 2010, he was the first non-American to receive the "LaCugna Award for New Scholars" from the Catholic Theological Society of America. Stephen writes and speaks extensively on the theology and sociology of atheism, and the new evangelization. He recent books include Faith and Unbelief (Canterbury Press, 2013; Paulist Press, 2014), and (co-edited with Michael Ruse) The Oxford Handbook of Atheism (Oxford University Press, 2013). His latest book is called The Trinity: How Not to Be a Heretic (Paulist Press, 2015).


Was Mother Teresa Really an Atheist?

As is now well known, Mother Teresa of Calcutta suffered severe spiritual afflictions through much of her remarkable life: “This terrible sense of loss – this untold darkness – this loneliness – this continual longing for God.” These first emerged in 2001, but were only fully disclosed with the 2007 publication of her private writings and correspondence in Come Be My Light, edited by Fr Brian Kolodiejchuk MC, the postulator of her cause for canonization. In these writings, Teresa describes... Read More

How TO Talk About God

This is part two of a two-part series, adapted from Stephen Bullivant's new book, The Trinity: How Not to Be a Heretic (Paulist Press, 2015). Read part one here.   "A time to speak" I ended my last post in this short series with the apparent affirmation that silence is the only appropriate mode for Christian thought and prayer. This is what is known as apophatic theology, the “negative way”, or – as I like to call it – the via Alison Krauss-a. Far be it from me to denigrate this... Read More

How NOT to Talk About God

This is part one of a two-part series, adapted from Stephen Bullivant's new book, The Trinity: How Not to Be a Heretic (Paulist Press, 2015).   A Parable Here’s a cheerful thought: imagine that the only food you have ever eaten has been bought from a McDonald’s. All your knowledge of eating and drinking, and all your taste experiences have come from Big Macs, McNuggets, McFlurries, and those little carrot sticks you can get with Happy Meals. Every word or concept you have to think, talk,... Read More

How Should We Define ‘Atheism’?

NOTE: The following post is an excerpt from the recently released Oxford Handbook of Atheism (Oxford University Press, 2013), co-edited by atheist philosopher Michael Ruse and Catholic theologian, and Strange Notions contributor, Dr. Stephen Bullivant.     Atheism and Ambiguity   The precise definition of ‘atheism’ is both a vexed and vexatious issue. (Incidentally, the same applies to its more-or-less equivalents in other languages: Atheismus, athéisme,ateismi, etc.) Etymologically,... Read More

Vatican II on Atheism: The Sources of Atheism


NOTE: This is the third post in Stephen Bullivant's series on atheists and the Catholic Church, particularly what the Second Vatican Council taught about atheism. Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2. Also, his new book on this topic, Faith and Unbelief (Paulist Press), debuts this week. Check it out!     In the last episode of my irregular 'Vatican II on atheism' series, we saw how a number of determined bishops - not least the Bishop of Rome - ensured that the Council took unbelief seriously.... Read More

Vatican II on Atheism: A More Fruitful Dialogue

Welcome to the second post in my little series 'Vatican II on atheism'. As noted last time, according to at least one reputable commentator, the Council's primary statement on the subject "may be counted among [its] most important pronouncements". In future posts, we'll be looking at Gaudium et Spes 19-21, as well as the separate statement on salvation in Lumen Gentium 14-16, in some details. So - let's face it—we've all got plenty of exegetical fun to look forward to. This post, though, will... Read More

Atheists and the Catholic Church

Vatican II

"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun" (Eccl 1:9). This famous observation of the Book of Ecclesiastes applies, to a certain extent, to the recent upsurge of Catholic interest in and—more importantly, serious engagement with—atheism. Popes announcing that "there should be a dialogue with those to whom...God is unknown", and that atheists are capable of "doing good" and "are able to be saved"? The Vatican sponsoring... Read More

Catholic Saint: “We Confess that We are Atheists”

Picture the scene: it’s festival day in a provincial Roman city c. AD 156, and people have come from all around to see some local Christians being put to death. A young believer called Germanicus stands in the arena, not merely facing the savage beasts, but actively urging them on. Irritated by the youth’s composure, the crowd who have gathered to see him torn apart cry out: ‘Down with the atheists!’ Later, the old bishop Polycarp (whom ancient tradition assures us was a disciple of St John)... Read More

Atheist Religions?

Is Atheism a Religion

  Jimmy Akin recently wrote a post here at Strange Notions asking "Is Atheism a Religion?". The following doesn't engage with Jimmy's post directly—that's what the combox is for—but it does offer a rather different (and fairly blunt) answer to the question. It then tackles what I think is a more helpful question: is there, or could there be, a modern western atheistic religion? Is atheism a religion?   Let us deal with the question quickly: atheism is not and could not be a... Read More


In the Bible, Psalms 14 and 53 both open with the statement: “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’” Whatever this may tell us about unbelief in ancient Hebrew society, today it is not only, or predominantly, fools who are saying this. And they do not restrict their utterances to their hearts alone. Especially in the United States and Europe—the historic heart of “Christendom”—there are large (and growing) numbers of intelligent, educated, reasonable people who reject... Read More