On Atheism

I have somehow gotten myself involved in some on-line debates revolving around the existence or non-existence of a god. Rather than continue bickering with people who already have a set viewpoint, I thought I should just post a summation of my thoughts here instead.

To call yourself an atheist means that you do not believe in the existence of any god or deity, and that to believe in a god is to believe in a myth. Problem is, most atheists apparently have taken this position not because they have gone to the fullest extent of the logic required to get to this position (which I’ll get into in a minute) but simply because they don’t like institutionalized religion and the mind-numbing effect it has on the masses. Meaning that they associate “god” with the Pope, or as a construct of the Bible. They would be more suited by calling themselves anti-religionists.

The outcome of the viewpoint of atheism is that all of human existence can be reduced to objectivity and materialism. That is, all life and love is simply the happenstance interaction of chemicals and particles or what have you. Because to deny the existence of god is more than simply saying, “I do not believe in God.” It is saying that you also do not believe in the existence of ANY spirituality. You believe that all of life is simply what it appears to be, and nothing more. There is no magic, no love, no poetry, no spirits, no collective soul, no reason for seemingly random things to occur at just the right time. There is no unknown mystery to life. Hey, if that’s what you really believe, good for you. You’re officially hopeless.

But if you’ve got a problem with institutionalized religions, and their negative impacts on society and politics world-wide, then you’re in the same boat as most intelligent human beings. Nobody likes seeing neo-cons capitalizing off of a naive Christian populace to wage war for resources and increase the disparity between rich and poor. Nobody likes seeing desperate Muslims equating mindless bloodshed with soulful righteousness. Nobody likes seeing Zionists wrap selected history and vengeance around a slow suffocation of Palestinean life. Religions account for probably at least 75% of the world’s bloodshed. Oh, yes, I can understand why someone would despise religion and the bitter division it causes in the minds of the uneducated and downtrodden.

But to disagree with institutionalized religion is one thing. To deny all spiritual existence is quite another. Because you can believe in a god, and not believe in a religion, as I do. I think what it comes down to, oftentimes, is simply what your definition of “god” happens to be. Is it a white bearded dude sitting on a golden throne somewhere in the golden paved suburbs of heaven? If so, then you probably don’t know much of anything about the religion that you’ve subscribed to and have just been spoonfed a load of horseshit. But if you know god as an active, present force in your life, inside of your heart, inside of every little mundane part of your day, then you’ve gotten a little closer. As Rumi said, the water the thirsty man seeks is “nearer than his jugular vein.”

When Zen masters seek to jolt their students into enlightenment, they give them mind-fuck games (“koans”), they tell them stories or give them experiences that are designed to take their mind beyond logic. Logic and reason can only get you so far before you begin to realize that you could argue all day about anything from any viewpoint. Ultimately, reason and logic only gain you a shallow perspective, and in order to go deeper and gain a broader understanding, you must move inward. It is a common spiritual insight that one must, in a sense, die before one can open up one’s senses to spiritual dimensions. Die in the sense that you have to let go of attachment to your individual self and all the mental constructs you’ve built up to support that illusion.

To deny a god and spiritual existence is easy. To despise all religion and its effect on humanity is easy. To go deeper in search of the source is difficult. To admit that all things are beyond the safety and comfort of appearance is difficult. To live according to your heart, and not your mind . . .

Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

14 thoughts on “On Atheism”

  1. I hate getting involved in things like this, but your ascribing to atheists the belief that “There is no magic, no love, no poetry, no spirits, no collective soul, no reason for seemingly random things to occur at just the right time” irked me. I’m an atheist. For me magic and and spirits are right out. However… I believe in and relish love. I occasionally write poetry. As for a “collective soul” I think they’re a pretty good band ;) — actually there are some theories in quantum physics that are suggestive of a cosmic ‘connectedness’. I don’t believe in a reason for coincidence, but I value it. To top it off, I’m anything but hopeless. I’m just saying.

  2. I think you’re going too far. The minimum requirement for being an atheist is to not believe in the existence of deities. It does not necessarily follow from this non-belief that you believe that “all of human existence can be reduced to objectivity and materialism”. Plenty of atheists (i.e. people who do not believe in deities) would disagree with that statement. Many Buddhists, for example, are atheists, yet they would never make that reducibility claim.

    Science itself has no need of making this claim (that there is nothing more). It restricts its methods to objectivity and materialism, but that doesn’t imply any belief regarding whether there is anything else out there. Whatever else might be out there is just out of the realm of science.

  3. Godma, you are in fact classifying yourself, I believe closer to agnosticism rather than atheism if you are saying that whatever that might be out there is beyond the realm of knowledge, as in, we just “don’t know for sure.” As an atheist, you are saying that you DO know, and that you deny the existence of any deities. And yes, that is simply a premise, but what I am saying is that the logical outcome of such a premise is a materialistic outlook, or, ultimately, nihilism.

    If one is saying that there is SOMETHING more, maybe even an Oversoul of sorts, perhaps, or at the very least, some cosmic “connectedness” then why does this something have to differ from a conception of a God? Again, I think what this often comes down to is that what you are rejecting is a literalist’s interpretation of what god is. To me, God is not the Creator in the literal sense of some dude sat down with clay for 7 days–God for me is this collectivity beyond ourselves, this unknown force that imbues our lives with meaning.

  4. Ah…so THIS is where the intelligent people on the internet hide. Obscure blogs. Do you know how long it’s taken me to find you?

    Years. Years and years.

    In the end, it was a bored punching-in of a Paul Simon quote that brought me here. Howzat for irony?

  5. I found you via the WordPress tag search, in this case “spirituality”. I appreciate this post. You articulate much of what I find troublesome about so much of organized religion. Having said that I will confess to being a member of a United Church of Canada congregation which, as a denomination, is very, very liberal and usually encourages spiritual questions and always treats ‘answers’ with some suspicion.

    Having said all that, I’m probably an agnostic – a non-believer in most attributes put on “God” by religions’ founders, but someone whose spirituality, and personal journey, has come to appreciate Mystery.

    Nice to find you.

  6. Thanks for commenting Kenn. I guess maybe what I call (admittedly loosely) “god” you might term “Mystery.” The Unknown–unknowable except by faith, a sixth sense, and love. Beyond logic, beyond appearance, beyond everyday, yet still found through these means.

    I don’t want to give the impression that I am wholly against religion. I understand the antipathy against it and share some of it myself. But I believe that there are many paths to truth. I believe that institutionalized religion have an innate tendency towards power structures and corruption, but that does not mean that individuals cannot find their way through the aid of a church and guided study.

    My thought would be that the more liberal a church is in terms of its outward politics and power structures, the more chances of its followers finding true guidance.

  7. most atheist state that they believe there is no god because they are the yin to christianity’s yang. they are also afraid of not knowing what’s out there so they simply state the opposite of what they don’t like as the answer. most people are uncomfortable with the unknown. i can tell you i was atheist until i realized how much bullshit it is to be able to tell someone that there is nothing other than us and we were here by accident as if they were conscoius at the time of the advent of our existence. to be okay saying you don’t know what’s out there and why we’re here is to be an agnostic person. i usually don’t always get along with atheists.

  8. well, i’ve recently come to regard myself as an atheist, especially since i came to the conclusion that religion is man’s (in most cases not even woman’s) creation. I realized that although i have nothing against relgion, it is just a set of formula’s that dictates to you what you could have figured out for yourself through an inward journey.

    I don’t believe in god, but i believe that there is something mysterious, which is beyond logic and rationality – within us, around us. I believe in love, poetry, coincidences and even chocolate sunday’s ;). But i believe that these are spiritual things that lie within us.

    I was born a hindu/buddhist and do not have any problems with culture tied to religion – I go to temples, stupas anywhere (i love the atmosphere and place) and socially, don’t mind praying.

    But I feel that religion restricts us in a lot of ways in terms of our individual freedom, our individual journey’s. But as bubbler said, religion is one thing and god another. But even with god, I feel that sometimes, when i believe there is a god, i am submitting my free will, my own individual power to some higher force.

  9. Hmm, that last sentence is interesting. I wonder, do you feel that you are submitting your free will to a higher force as in something that is outside of yourself, controlling you, and that is why it turns you off? But I do agree that at some level, there is a submersion of self to something beyond, something higher, and that this does perhaps necessitate a relinquishment of notions of free will or any will at all.

  10. Yes. It’s like when i believe there’s a god, it becomes an excuse for me not to act. I found that when i believe there’s a god, i think that if something is meant to be, somehow or the other it’ll end up happening. But if i don’t believe in a higher power that controls my destiny, i do my thing, i get rid of my fears and i do things because i know that there ain’t no Mr., or any other higher force who’s gonna make it right or help me out. So it’s either i make my own destiny or i don’t. This is not to say that there is nothing beside free will. There are so many miracles, etc. in the chances that we take too.

  11. I’m very glad to have chanced across your blog. I am a converted Roman Catholic, and I am very happy with where I am with my spirituality. That said, I agree with much of what you wrote. Much of your reasoning is astute and reminds me quite a bit of C.S. Lewis’s assertions in Mere Christianity.

    I honestly believe that the closer one is to God, the less one is critical of others’ beliefs. At least this has been my experience. Zealots in any faith or belief simply turn people off. Anyway, take care. I’ve just added you to my blogroll!

  12. Thanks for adding me! I read Mere Christianity when I was younger, and remember liking it. I’m glad to hear that you are happy with where you are at; I’m always pleased to hear that people are on the path of spiritual exploration, no matter where that path may be. I agree with your statement that closeness to god = less criticism of other people’s beliefs. That said, however, I think it can also be healthy sometimes to be challenged, to have your beliefs criticized by other people, such that you have to step outside of them momentarily to reaffirm to yourself why you belief them. Having to defend your beliefs can teach you more about yourself and how to relate your inner world to other people.

  13. God to me, and who am i, merely an ordinary human being who has expanded her own mind, opened her heart and realised herself as a master of her own destiny, enlightened not frightened. God is an entity that lives and breathes through all of us and through our own awakening to our own truth we are fulfilling what we are here to do. Live, explore the infintite possibilites of Creation (my word for God) and expand our minds further than what Christ did. We are incredibly blessed to be alive at this amazing time where anything really is possible, blood into wine, fire without light and all manner of amazing actions can be taken when the heart has taken over the head. God runs through everything and cannot be controlled by just one we are all part of this creation we call life. That to me is God, life it’s self here there and everywhere.

    Love Julie-Ann

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