The Paradox of Atheism

The battle of the atheists is not really with religion but with their own understanding, or more precisely misunderstanding, of what religion is, for what they know of religion is the most literal, and hence the most superficial understanding that they themselves have read into it. For instance, a physicist cannot possibly take seriously a layman’s questioning of the peculiarities of modern physics, not so much because the latter is inferior to him, though his knowledge is, but because due to lack of proper training the layman’s objection isn’t really to physics but to what he understands of it, an understanding that is not grounded in experience and evidence but in pure speculation.
In the same way, it is futile to take the objections of atheists seriously or bother to debate them, for they have not even tasted religion, and hence their judgment of it is entirely groundless and devoid of objectivity. After all, how can a blind man become a rainbow scholar and specialist, and worst of all deny the reality of rainbows!?
A lot of these militia atheists, i.e. pseudo-intellectuals of our time, lose their temper when hearing of new age spirituality and fake gurus such as Chopra’s mixing of science and religion, claiming that these masters are not qualified to read into science their own spiritual impulses, for they do not have the proper training to understand science. And I must say I very much agree with atheists on this point, for this new age mixing of science and religion is not only unnecessary for one’s spirituality, but it also damages both science and religion, for they read into sciences such as quantum physics what is totally unrelated to it.
But the main point is that the same objection applies to atheists themselves: If a layman is not qualified to judge science or dispute its claims, the atheist too is a layman when it comes to religion: Spiritual realization is an activity, much like science, equipped with a well-defined goal and method. Even the most brilliant scientists or philosophers, such as Einstein, etc. are unqualified to judge the facts of spiritual life without having undergone the proper training under a spiritual master.
Thus, we only turn the atheist’s objection against himself, for he is oblivious to the fact that when it comes to religion he himself is in the exact same position as that of an arrogant layman’s skepticism when it comes to science.

13 thoughts on “The Paradox of Atheism

  1. One of the atheists’ main arguments is that religion cannot prove that God exists and therefore he doesn’t exist. Of course, we both know that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. On the other hand, just because atheists don’t understand religion, doesn’t mean that believers do (understand God, that is). Any thoughts on that?

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    1. Chicagoja I apologize for this very long delay in responding to your comment; I don’t know how I missed it!
      About religion I must say like anything else it has a form and an essence; its form is the rituals and beliefs, etc. Its essence or inner dimension, i.e. esoterism, concerns the attainment of higher states of consciousness. The formal aspect is what is perceived from the outside, say by atheists or even casual believers. The essence or what religion is truly about is only accessible to those who actually practice it, so it is like an experimental part of it in which the real proof or evidence is acquired. But this is true of any field. In physics, there are the outsiders who watch history channel, this or that; but their knowledge of the subject matter is always superficial; but then there is the physicists who actually understands the science because he/she is the one doing and practicing it. Now a physicist doesn’t bother responding to the claims of skeptics who challenge, say, quantum physics. He can offer them this: Here is the path to take to examine it for yourself; go to college, study physics, perform experiments, etc. and then you are in a position to challenge. Same holds about the arguments of atheists or anyone else. The inner dimension of religion where the true evidence and proof lies must actually practiced and worked out; before doing that we can have all sorts of opinions about it but they are all mere opinions. But ultimately the issue of God and truth is something settled down through experience. The atheists is unwilling to go through the steps that bring him to that experience and then denies the conclusions of those who have actually verified that Reality. So it is not a matter of opinion or argument; it is a matter of bringing things to self-evidence; that self-evident ground of all Being is what believers call God.
      Do believers understand religion? Well, religion is not like a theoretical or speculative idea which needs to be understood in every aspect; it is a practical means for a goal that lies beyond religion and philosophy itself. To understand religion is to practice it. However, as there are in any fields, such as science, those who have sharper intellects and have deeper perceptions of the subject, in religion too there are mystics or believers with a deeper understanding than the mass who is practicing religion; but that practicing too is meant to take the person to that deeper level of understanding, as all great scientists, mystics, etc. have to walk these steps to be prepared for that deeper understanding.
      A point I have to emphasize again is that religion is ultimately based on a single, transcendental experience very well-known to all mystics. That state is not a human state of consciousness, but human state is one among the many states at the summit of which is that stateless state, Supreme Identity, or unconditioned reality. Of course, many may challenge this or deny it; but what do we care? How can someone deny a reality that he/she hasn’t yet experienced. Why even bother proving to them that which is proved only directly. This is like a blind man trying to deny the reality of color simply because he is not exposed to that reality. At the same time, religion says this experience is accessible to all even they really seek it; here are the means of attaining it, say this or that practice which has worked for thousands of years and in various religions. If someone walked that path and didn’t attain to that state, then religion is defective; but if someone hasn’t walked it but expects proof, then that person’s intelligence is defective. The goal is clear; the way is pointed out. Anyone can try it; there is no reason to argue for it or trying to prove it.
      And the atheists have a very superficial idea of God. From the point of view of a mystic, if you asked him/her to prove God is like asking him/her to prove space. Not everything real is provable, like ideas of point, line, etc. in geometry; or the sense of I-ness. etc.
      To understand religion is to practice it but with the supreme goal in mind. Same is true of a field such as quantum mechanics. No one really understands QM in the conventional sense; as physicists say, to understand QM is to actually do it.
      I am not myself particularly religious; as I said religion is only a form, a clothing, on a deeper metaphysical reality. If someone doesn’t like the path of religion to get to that reality, then try another one; there are paths leading to that same truth that are not religious at all. A perfect example for me is Edmund Husserl’s Phenomenology which unlike other speculative philosophies, it is based on that one transcendental experience of consciousness within which the human experience is constituted. Religion is only one of the ways; philosophy, if it is healthy like in Plato, Pythagoreans, etc. too should lead to that same truth. Of course, here I consider all modern western philosophy as unhealthy because it is a word-play; a sinking into language rather than the meanings behind words.

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  2. Very well-framed arguments. It’s fun to look at the structure of thought. I really don’t think we ever understand it until we try to express in some vocal or physical way. Sometimes, seems we understand all kinds of things about a topic, want to, try to express, and somehow come up empty. Other times, knowing nothing, a page and another and another fill up with beautiful poetry. I’ve always wondered between science and art, which one trumps? I consider religion to be an art, but so many treat it like a science. I don’t get that. I really don’t.

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    1. Thanks for leaving your comment. I do agree with you that religion is also an art; but it is also a science where the two don’t really contradict each other. Religion is a science because its essential function is knowledge of total reality, which is identical with spiritual realization or Self-Knowledge. But it is also an art when it comes to the ways in which this function is expressed in and through man. In its content it is science; in its form and expression it is art. Now you may relate to its artistic aspect more but that is because your nature is in tune with that aspect. There are others too who by nature and inclinations are attracted to the purely intellectual aspect of religion, seeking liberation which comes only at the dawn of Self-knowledge. Now, these things you may not agree with but they are what truly religious and spiritual masters say about religion; and religion is really what religious people do rather than what an outsider, like myself, likes to think about them.
      This can be said even of modern science, that it is in a way art: Its essential function is knowledge of physical reality but actually doing science requires the artistic talent of scientific minds, in designing the architecture of scientific instruments to creating beautiful mathematical structures in their minds in order to explain nature. The rational and the artistic aspects complement one another, much like the left-right brain in the humans.
      There are many things we do not understand the reason for their being; but this doesn’t mean they are meaningless; it is just not in us to perceive that aspect at this particular place and time.

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      1. Maybe you are right. Maybe the lines between science and art are quite blurred. So often academia presents science as a science, but you explain that it is also an art. As also the search for religious matters can also be sought and understood. I am of the opinion that the process is more important than the product. I asked a neighbor the question one day, Is it right to have success through the wrong way or only to have success through the right way? Does the way itself matter?? He said he didn’t know, but I still try to understand. I find the science of torture fascinating. I believe the process is an art and not very well understood while happening, but the aftermath yields science. Data, numbers, facts, corrollaries. I don’t think people learn without torture. Learning is itself an adaptation to torture. To adjust and re-frame one’s thinking costs torture. The better one can withstand torture, the quicker he learns, adapts, and adjusts. Just a bunch of stupid thoughts. I guess I don’t really care, but thanks for responding my comment, anyway.

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  3. This was well said. Science, art, religion, these are all forms of asking questions, of seeking answers. So faith, art, science all speaks of “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

    The problem with atheism is that is doesn’t ask questions and it doesn’t want answers. The answer they want is always “no,” which is a bit funny, because who do they suppose is going to be answering them?

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  4. What has religion to do with spirituality? Why should we waste our time over this most divisive force called religion? Spirituality is about wholism, and religion is about division.

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    1. I do agree with what you mean, as by religion here you are referring to the purely exoteric aspect which is exclusive and obviously abused by people. What I meant by religion here wasn’t its particularly western sense but religion as people like Swami Vivekananda have defined, as a road to truth and liberation. So I used religion here as meaning same thing as spirituality, this usage is common in perennial philosophy and Vedanta. Other than that I totally agree with what you mean in your comment.

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  5. When I was in school, I had faith mainly because my parents had. During college, I felt atheism was cool, you don’t need a God to lean upon for determining your destiny. So I declared myself an atheist mainly because it would give an appearance of a young man so sure of himself, so this was driven by a need for putting up an ‘image’ in front of others. Much later, I turned out to be a agnostic. During all these phases, I have been mainly indifferent to any philosophy of of existence, I was too pre-occupied with my ephemeral youthfulness.
    Then much later I witnessed certain things, certain events, call it divine intervention (please don’t roll your eyes :)) that changed my beliefs. I turned out to be a believer. I think becoming a believer is epiphanic. It’s something very personal.
    Atheists think that theists lean upon a God/ a supreme ultimate for a closure on survival. To think that there is absolutely nothing beyond death brings upon an existential crisis. I used to hold the same belief when I was a non-believer. But then later, I realised one thing, why do atheists who have a raw cynical view about existence, as if they alone have the strength to bear the pain of this brutal reality, take for granted the scheme of things in the cosmos. They accept scientific views as if they are the final reality but never venture beyond the ambiguous explanations that science has about the origins of cosmos. They think theists are close minded, but they are being close minded as well to not accept anything beyond the ambiguities science has to offer. If one is really being open minded to this view, they will start looking for answers in age-old wisdom. Sadly, these days religion is being considered as a malicious stigma. You just have to see the sheer number of atheists out there. And this transition is rapidly happening everywhere including India in this age of rapid globalization and its cultural imperialism.
    Ah, well, we are all mere sock puppets of the Supreme Ultimate. Who are we to ramble??

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    1. Thanks RamG again for your wonderful comment. I had a similar history, beginning with custom spirituality, then atheism, then agnosticism, and then back to spirituality, and like you as a result of certain convincing experiences.
      I also agree with you on atheists and limiations of science. Unfortunately many in the academia are blinded by science and aren’t even open to listen to old age wisdom which has, as I believe, at least all the existential answers.

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  6. self knowledge by its very meaning comes/gets stuck from Self alone. From my interaction with people of all hue and reading multi various works from variety of countrymen one should easily understand the true knowledge (again limited to one-self alone) emerges from the churning of every bit of information accrued in one’s life span with what he trusts to be true. in short one comes to a conclusion in all dealing to what extent he is able to discern on the particular subject. many a times we lack hard work both physical, intellectual and tend to accept which is amenable to our understanding or beneficial to sustenance.
    every word when subject to scrutiny ends up empty and vast silence only remains. generally human are puny and weak because we fail to withstand deep silence and void.
    my statement above too to be just neglected.
    finally my pranam to lovable Tomajji.
    my wishes are always with him and waiting his stay in Bharatvarsha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment. I do agree with you on every point. The major human weakness is his failure to be alone with himself, to open up to void and silence, so he/she has to surround themselves with all kinds of artificial stimulation, from people to places and things. Humans, particularly modern western people, are awfully addicted to external things.

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