Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Philosophy of Atheism -

As a disclaimer, different people call themselves atheists for a variety of reasons. However, I am only focusing on one; the philosophical factor.

One can ask, "How can there be a philosophical factor to a paradigm that states overarching randomness of the universe?" There is indeed a very philosophical way to understand life and existence through the lens that everything, including human life, occurred through randomness; the main premise here is freedom to choose, but the real core of the premise is the freedom to choose anything. Atheism is a kind of liberation theology, from theism. If theism can be shown to establish fixed and absolute morals, then atheism is liberation from the establishment of fixed and absolute morals.

But there is an underlying logic to atheism, one which I reject, but yet which I feel at least holds some sort of intellectual spark. To understand it we can first divert our attention to monotheism, i.e., not one of the few forms of religion in which one god was selected out of a pantheon, but the true form of monotheism, where only one Divinity was understood as existing. When that form of monotheism (Judaism) came about, the polytheists likely considered it to be a radical, strange, and extreme form of belief, for what kind of strange Deity, Whom resides over everything, possibly exist? Most people probably considered it borderline lunacy and/or heresy; each nation and peoples were committed to their national gods, yet monotheism claimed that those gods in fact did not exist and that only "their G-d" existed, and that He was the G-d of all the nations - sounds a bit chutzpadik (audacious) if you are a polytheist, don't you think? Very loosely speaking, we can try to understand monotheism, in the eyes of polytheists, to be atheism, for it declares that those gods do not exist. In light of that it can be said to be similar to contemporary atheism, which declares that G-d does not exist, and many "theists" are bothered by that declaration, sometimes acting on an urge to label atheists lunatics and heretics.

I once heard an atheist say, "I just believe in one less god than you." This succintly sums up the way most atheists view atheism; just like monotheists rejected the gods and believed in One, atheists reject the One and believe in none - to them it is the same thing. In other words, a mere reduction of gods until arriving at zero accurately explains to an atheist the formation of polytheism to monotheism to atheism. Yet the pioneering spirit of monotheism, to atheists, is alive in atheism, for just like the monotheist was fighting against the illusions of polytheistic society, the atheist sees himself as fighting against the illusions of monotheistic society, which are primarily that G-d exists. They do not see atheism as a sin, not just because there is no Higher Authority on morality, but because they see themselves doing humanity a favor by fighting against the belief in a Divine Creator. To them, immorality, and even evil, is hinged upon belief in a Divine Creator.

I can understand the frustrating concerns of an atheist, in the case that I am speaking about the type who is concerned about humanity and truth (many so-called atheists are simply people lack the veracity to follow through on such inquisitive sojourns). The reason I think there is a parallel is because a similar tendency exists in Judaism itself. One can view monotheism as a type of machine designed with a built-in self-moderating mechanism; when the dial approaches one or another extreme, an alert is signaled and the components of the machine begin taking action returning the machine to a state of moderation. When monotheism is working properly, people can see this normalization process occurring. The type of atheists I mentioned, likely not home-grown on monotheism, are reacting in a very similar manner as is monotheism to the issues plaguing society; their desire is to calibrate society. Further, the parallel is even stronger when we consider that atheists link the issues of the day as being inherent to theism similarly to the way monotheists linked the issues of the day with polytheism. If theism can be rejected, the issues of the world will disappear with it - this is what atheists hold to be true.

The only problem with atheism, in light of this desire to do to tikkun (repair), is that they have an incomplete circuit. The purpose for the machine exists but there is no certified blueprint, and since this ingredient is missing, the moving parts of the machine do not know their role and cannot orchestrate themselves properly in order for the machine to actually do its job. They have preserved the purpose and goal of humanity, a (living) vestige of monotheism, but have rejected the blueprint and the responsibility that each piece has. The result is that each piece performs an individual task. The machine becomes nothing more than a clutter of sputtering pieces strewn about on a table, hopping and clanking and making noise, colliding with each other and completing nothing. The desire of this "type" of atheism might be to locate and achieve peace, harmony, and order - a noble goal - but all it ends up doing is creating war, strife, and chaos. The most ominous realization about this attempted machine is that its parts do not work in the way they were designed to work; they have grown and learned, and in doing so created new informational pathways, tweaking and changing the original blueprint. They continue to grow and deviate from their blueprint.