Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Are Atheists missing the point?

Alright, I need to just write this down and get it out there because I'm not sure how long it'll be before I'm able to write something completely clear, coherent, and complete on the topic. Here goes... 

Are Atheists missing the point? I'm a regular listener of "The Atheist Experience". I've been listening to it for years now and find it both entertaining and informative. After you've been listening for a while, it becomes more of a "Gilligan's Island" experience; since you've seen/heard it all before, you now see how long it takes for you to remember what happens! I've often thought it would be interesting to simply write up all of the arguments against "god" (I don't feel I need to capitalize the title of egomaniacle, genocidal, homophobes), give each argument a number, and then simply reply to each caller with, "number 15", "number 23", etc. We keep hearing the same arguments for and against god over and over again. As the Lotus Sutra clearly states, a person has to come to understanding in their own time, in their own way. (Read it, if you haven't.) 

I came across an interview many months ago... heck, it was probably more than a year ago now, and I wish I knew who it was. Anyway, the person's primary point was that if you think religion is all about having a good reason for believing in god, having a "proof" for god, etc., then you're missing the point. The point of religion is not to show that there's this "God" person out there somewhere who answers prayers, etc. The point of religion is simply to draw a person's awareness and understanding out of the mundane world, out of their own petty little "issues", and instead focus on something greater, something beyond yourself. If you can focus on something outside of your world, outside of your understanding even, then you can escape whatever bad things may be happening, you can escape from a limited view, and instead embrace something greater than yourself, your community, even your planet. Religion gives you a sense of awe and wonder; we've all heard that before. But it also gives you something greater than yourself to believe in. He went so far as to say that even if we knew that "God" didn't exist, there would be still be a place for religion. 

So, when believers try to come up with some "good" reason for believing in a "God" who is loving, kind, and looks after them, they're really doing it because they feel they need to in order to fight back against this "Atheist" thing, which is trying to "destroy all that's sacred". We atheists would ask, "why do you need anything to be sacred?" Well, they need it not because they need the religion, not because they need their "God" so much, more simply because they need to feel a connection to something bigger than their own life. They feel as though "Atheism" is trying to take away that connection to something bigger and it makes them defensive. 

Of course, most Atheists have probably already dealt with this. We're human also and being such, we're primarily social creatures. We also have this need to feel connected to something bigger than just us. (Some more than others, obviously.) Some of us have moved to Humanism as a way to feel a connection to the rest of Humanity. That's certainly a cause outside of ourselves. Others have latched onto Science, and in particular Astronomy, as a way to feel connected to the rest of the universe. (We're all "star stuff" after all, as Carl Sagan was famous for saying.) These are all ways to feel the "sense of awe", yes, but also to give one's life "meaning and purpose." 

So, once we have broken all of the arguments for God, once we have made believers think enough to realize that they really have no basis for the foundation of their life thus far, with what shall we leave them? Now that they have no connection to a creator of the universe, they have no vision of something greater than their own miserable little existence, where shall they get the connection to something bigger? We, as humans, need this. We must get it from somewhere, or else we start asking questions such as, "what is there to live for?", "is this all there is?" 

I'm not saying that we should stop pulling the rug out from under believers. If a person never takes that first step, then the journey will never be started. Coming back to the Lotus Sutra, we all need an Upaguru sometimes. However, we Atheists should be careful, while we're pushing that believer off the cliff, to prove the parachute which we know they'll need. We need to find out where that person gets their sense of inspiration. In what way to they feel that connection to something greater, something outside of their own life. Then provide them with a more reasonable, solid, rational, way to receive that same feeling of "this is where I belong", "this is why I'm here." 

Remember that Theism and Atheism isn't just about logical arguments for or against "God". The real reason for Religion, is to provide that link to something outside of normal life, that link to the infinite. We all need that. 

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