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February 15, 2006

Is Atheism Simple?

Religion definitely has pretensions toward simplicity: good/evil, sacred/profane, saved/damned. Atheism, I think, wants to be the opposite of all that: open to the world's tangles and shadings. Still, I sense a kind of impatience among some readers of this blog, as if we ought to be able to boil all this ratiocination down to something like: religion is stupid, and then leave it at that.

Can atheism be on the side of complexity while maintaining that the issues it itself raises are simple: God/no god, meaning/meaningless, science/ignorance?

Are the issues it raises simple?

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at February 15, 2006 11:10 PM


"religion is stupid"

Religion - like meditation - can be turned into an escape. And escape is stupid. Action by the "me" is never complete - never whole. So when I use religion as a means of escaping my emptiness, I am acting stupidly. Whether that be running to the latest so-called sacred thing proposed by organized religion or adopting a mere reaction toward it - for example, atheism. The atheist and theist superficially claim to be different but they are essentially the same - they grow from the same root. They are dependent upon each other for their existence.

Atheism is the other side of the religion coin. Of course, the atheists will say this is not true. But any movement that associates itself with the center - with the me - is an organized proposition as, or attack upon, truth. To say, "I am an atheist" is absurd.

Can one not point out the contradiction of the believers without adopting an identity?

Posted by: Peter Rock at February 16, 2006 6:01 AM

Atheism's critique of simple-minded theism is simple: theism is superstition; it is abandonment of rationality.

The atheist's search for an understanding of her human condition that accords with rationality and with an epistemology based on science is complicated and difficult. It is what gives our lives their zest, their meaning, their ultimate reward. It is our challenge.


Posted by: Richard Blumberg at February 16, 2006 6:28 AM

Richard says -

"Atheism's critique[...]"

Why is it the "-ism's" critique? Why this need for an "-ism" to point out the superstitious folly of theism?

"The atheist's search[...]"

Ahh! Look! The other side of the coin. There can be no understanding as long as there is searching.

The theist is the atheist.

Posted by: Peter Rock at February 16, 2006 7:09 AM

Searching is probably the key word there. So long as on is searching, one has to leave open the possibility that human reason won't be capable of wrapping itself around the ways of existence. Orthodox Christianity (my faith) acknowledges that, and for that matter so does Nietzsche.

The pitfall is when one stops searching, and this is a battle fought by both those who live by faith and those who live by a personal creed.

In general people should avoid contrasting atheists with theists, as if they're clashing civilizations or a kind of political affiliation. They're not. Rather, atheism and theism exist within each individual, a creative struggle between moral self-sufficiency and sublime dependence. That's why conversion from one to the other feels less something freely chosen and more like something desperately felt.

Posted by: Andrew at February 20, 2006 10:03 AM

Andrew says:

"So long as on is searching, one has to leave open the possibility that human reason won't be capable of wrapping itself around the ways of existence."

"Possibility"? It is rather obvious - is it not? - that thought cannot possibily grasp the whole movement of life. It can give it a name - call it the timeless or god or truth or whatever you wish, but the word itself is insufficient. Reason has its proper place but reason alone has not the capacity to envelop this whole movement. Surely this is a fact, not a mere possibility. Once this is realized - not intellectually - but factually, then all searching comes to an end. Only in the end can there be the possibility of something new. Search has no meaning when it is based on the past - on your conditioning. Whether it be the conditioning of the theist or the atheist.

"The pitfall is when one stops searching"

Can you verify this? What happens to the mind that no longer searches? Or do you simply assume this to be the case? What happens when the search comes to a full stop? I am not talking of verbalizing an ending - saying, "I refuse to search" - which is a self-enclosing reaction leading to callousness, indifference and depression. But what happens when the mind sees the futility - the limitation - of searching through the past to find something new? What happens? Do not assume a "pitfall" - for you have no idea - you think you know and therefore you do not know. "Pitfall" is a projection of what you think will happen. Don't project. Find out. Or stick to your christianity or atheism or buddhism or whatever one uses to escape from the unknown.

As long as there is searching there is sorrow for the seeker is the sought.

Posted by: Peter Rock at February 21, 2006 3:11 AM

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