On Atheism by bubbler December 19, 2006 at 10:13 am In Spirituality 7 Comments 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 affect 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 affect 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. . . Next Page » larvalsubjects Says: May 13th, 2007 at 11:46 pm My focus is more on how people arrive at particular conclusions, rather than what these conclusions are. This is a key point and a key difference, and is a large part of why I am suspicious of all myths, whether it be Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Homer, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and so on. In all cases they share this common authoritarian structure based on unconditional acceptance of the sacred writ that is revealed not discovered through a process of inquiry in grappling with the world. This is also why religious folk, at a certain point, can only sputter, fling names, distort, and scream when questioned as ultimately their views are grounded authority and authority alone and all the endless rationalizations that are subsequently woven around that authoritarian “foundation”.But this is off topic from the original post, which proceeds on the premise that religion of any form is an illegitimate way of explaining the world and relating to the world, and is at best a sometimes benign collective delusion or shared psychosis, and, at its worst, a highly oppressive form of social organization that leads to endless unnecessary conflict. Therefore the post begins with the premise that materialist explanation is the only legitimate way of explaining anything about the world– including the explanation of religious delusions and infantile religious attachments –brackets any talk of religion, and then proceeds to the Enlightenment activity of self-critique asking whether there were things internal to previous materialisms that did, in fact, contribute to the atrocities outlined in the post. The post is also premised on the belief that the current revival we see of fundamentalism throughout the world is a symptom of the demise of religion, and that slowly materialism will ultimately win the day. It has only been about 400 years, after all, since we begin to make a concerted effort to overcome our primitive and barbaric religious past, finally escaping our self-imposed infantile state and directly explaining the world about us.pdxstudent Says: May 14th, 2007 at 5:05 am Larvalsubjects, I say “God,” but perhaps mean the more contestable phrase of “religion” as I think it’s being used in this context. Personally, I think it is used as a catch-all for a belief system that is opposed to secular rationality and politics, when they are really perverse partners– like prohibition and enjoyment in the Superego.
You could say that I see practically all popular use of the term “religion,” which is to say those uses that really don’t refer to anything except for the way people relate to the fact that it doesn’t refer to its supposed material support (like the secret of the commodity-form being our misrecognition of its illusoriness in the reality behind the form (the content or use-values) rather than the form itself), as a mis-leading caricature. In this sense, religion is outrageously oppressive in comparison to secular social organization. Rather than demonstrate how fair and progressive the latter is though, to our face religion, in its oppressive and irrational/contradictory obviousness, shows us precisely how violent the whole system is, while providing the vindicating backdrop that makes it seem like secular, materialist rationality is, for one thing, really an alternative, much less the more humane one.
So, if it clears up what I’m getting at, I mean to restore the problematic division between secular and religious motives/beliefs/whatevers. Do I think there is a more appropriate, more genuinely non-materialistic aspect to what we might otherwise confuse as “religion”? Yes. It is that which I mean when I say that religion as subversive practice, with regards to Symbolic authority as such, is marginalized by both the secular and so-called religious contingencies in the United States.