Q & R: I am an atheist, albeit a poetic one

Here’s the Q:

I have read and enjoyed several of your books, listened to many of your lectures and even met you once. I thoroughly enjoy and identify with your work and message. My question is about your thoughts on my somewhat peculiar religious viewpoint.
I strongly identify culturally and emotionally with (the progressive and healthy version of) the Jesus story. I regularly invoke the images and metaphors of God, Jesus, etc. when talking with friends and peers about such issues.
However, due to my understanding of the natural sciences, Christian history and the philosophical qualifications of what is and is not “evidence,” I see no room for any sort of literal interpretation of any Christian language. The Jesus story seems to be an obviously mythological tale that is historically inaccurate. The only use of the word “God” I can understand today would be to mean “reality” or “the universe” in a poetic sense. But not a mind, not something that can “understand” or literally “love.” Understanding and love are found (as far as we know) only on one planet, inside animals with a sufficiently complex neural wiring. Right?
So basically my question comes down to: I totally support what you’re saying Jesus referred to as “The Kingdom of God,” which appears to be some sort of religious humanism. What am I missing in your view (if anything) since I am what the mainstream mind would call an atheist, albeit a poetic one?
Thanks so much for your very valuable time,

Here’s the R:

Thanks for your note. I’m so glad that my work has been helpful to you – and glad for this question, because I hear more and more people asking exactly this kind of question. Let me try to restate your position.
1. You do not believe in an anthropomorphized God … in its extreme, an old man with a long white beard sitting on a throne, controlling everything or intervening on occasion from the outside.
2. You do not believe in a God who is separated from the universe. Whatever “God” must refer to, it must be something inherent in the universe – maybe more, but not less.
3. You do not believe in a reductionist, mechanist universe – a universe devoid of meaning which would reduce religion or spirituality to nothing but a false hope and delusion, and would elevate math and physics plus nothing to “all there is.”
4. The word that is helping you navigate this space is “poetic.” Poetic suggests that meaning is not a delusion, but is – in some sense, along with beauty – the point.
The struggle so many people feel, as I see it, is to liberate our concept of God from an image reduced to human constraints … and at the same time, to liberate our concept of life from a formula reduced to mathematical equations.
How does one articulate in more positive terms the subject of this quest for liberation? That’s the question. And, I think, that’s where Jesus actually has so much to offer. For starters, it might be helpful to ponder the meaning of the term “logos” (word) in the first chapter of John’s gospel.
This question deserves a lot more reflection and response. I’ve been thinking about a more extended writing project dedicated to this constellation of questions. (By the way – two book recommendations from a philosophical angle: Insurrection by Pete Rollins and Anatheism by Richard Kearney. Highly recommended. I think you would also be helped by Michael Dowd and Evolutionary Christianity, written from a more scientific angle – evolutionarychristianity.com.)