Has atheism become nothing more than the latest fashion statement?

Religion is a favourite topic of mine. I find pleasure in pointing out the wonderful variety of paradoxes, incoherent constructs, and logical conundrums that tend to reveal themselves quite easily when using religious dogma and doctrine as building blocks for developing one’s thinking. An example is how one can piece together two fundamental Catholic beliefs — (1) God’s infinite capacity for forgiveness and (2) his promise to sentence to eternal damnation those who do not redeem themselves of their sins — to get two conflicting assertions:

(a) If God’s forgiveness is infinite, then Hell should be empty.

(b) If Hell is not empty then there is a limit to God’s forgiveness.

Perhaps it is these philosophical curiosities that “atheists” use to demonstrate to the religious the utter futility in their lifelong commitment to their faith. If so, then they are good selling devices — kind of like those “shoot-the-iPhone” banner ads that promise a prize if you successfully click on the cross-hair while an iPhone dances across it. So if you find yourself nodding even just a little bit while reading Points (a) and (b) above, consider yourself experiencing an Inception moment that brings you a bit closer to joining the growing ranks of “non-believers”.

Not surprising, therefore, that atheists are quite visible today. At least in the corner of the Philippine cyber-community I am most aware of, they seem pretty well-organised. The community Filipino Freethinkers is one (maybe the only) such Filipino community I am aware of (though they count among them “humanists, atheists, agnostics, deists, etc.” — the etcetera bit making what defines them as a community a bit ambiguous). As of this writing, their Facebook page, “Likes” (i.e., Facebook users who opt in to get updates posted on their profile newsfeeds) number more than 3,200.

For me the appeal of atheism, drawing from my own experience tossing it about in my head, would have come from a freedom to grow intellectually and to approach life from a broader range of perspectives. The problem is, atheism seems to be defined more by what one is not rather than what one is. An atheist does not believe in God, is what I keep hearing.

In that sense, I don’t consider myself an “atheist”. There is a lot more to being intellectually free than not believing in God. Being intellectually free is to be open to confronting realities about one’s place in the universe. Religion, in contrast, considers the specialness of humanity’s place in the cosmos as the cornerstone of the belief system it prescribes to its flock. The irony there is that the religious are seen to be the “humble” ones while the intellectually free the “arrogant” ones. Strange indeed. As I recall, it was science that pointed out the insignificance of humanity in the face of an immensely vast universe while religion stubbornly insisted upon the special and literal central place humanity held in the cosmos.

To be intellectually free then is to understand what it really means to be humble.

The concept of “God” as religion pitches it, as such, does not give enough meaning to the true nature of our humbleness in the cosmic scheme of things. God is an old man with a long white beard who speaks in a thunderous voice. Or a triangle with an eye inside it. Or a finger pointing out from a floating cloud. Or the rays of the sun poking out from a gap in a cloudy sky. Or he may look like Morgan Freeman or George Burns. Or a lamb. Or a calf. Or a naked man hanging from a cross.

Religion attempts to simplify or encapsulate God so that he may fit within the finite capacities of the average human mind — so that considering one’s self “humbled” in “God’s presence” need not be such hard work.

But what science presents as a context to appreciate humility is different. Those who worked hard to understand science have a more real grasp of just how humble and insignificant beings humans are. Modern physics has shown the vastness of reality and the smallness of the subset of it that we perceive with our senses and the illusion of reality that our minds are wired (by millions of years of evolution) to make of it. Science does not simplify reality to fit our human capacities. Science challenges us to expand our human capacities to understand it. Humanity’s greatest minds have done just that — developing the mathematics and intellectual constructs to piece together a picture that reveals reality as something not necessarily structured to make sense to us if we apply conventional thinking to it.

So while science challenges us to step up to understand more as it reveals more, religion hides as much of the truth as possible so that we need work less at understanding less meaning.

Where is God in either world view? If we use the God as defined by organised religion, then I’d answer that question by saying that he does not exist in either — not in science nor in religious faith. That leaves us with a God that we should define ourselves. And that requires a lifetime of hard work.

[With thanks to the guys behind BetterPhilippines.com and BadMannersGunClub.com for many of the concepts that went into writing the above article.]

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Post Author: benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.

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60 Comments on "Has atheism become nothing more than the latest fashion statement?"

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Edward
Guest
Well said sir, well said. Honestly, I don’t mind that some people are atheists, I mean in this kind of world, I understand why they believe in such Philosophy. I can’t really blame them. The way we see God is the same we see a person. I put a person in front of 1000 people and I’ll get 1000 different answers. So yes, the article is right, what we perceive God is only for our own explanation. But it is not how we see God that’s important but how we act out our beliefs in God that’s important. If not… Read more »
Hyden Toro
Guest

It is your SuperEgo; that is working…according to Sigmund Freud…

Edward
Guest

Call it what you may, it won’t change anything. I still believe in the higher power.

bp
Guest

i would question religious dogma any time but i would always maintain a healthy belief in some higher power. i call it God for no special reason. I just like it that way.

Hyden Toro
Guest

Hey…have you considered checking on: Reincarnation beliefs? We may have many lives; many masters, to teach us in our lifetimes. Millions of Asians, believe in this religion. Do you think; they will all burn in Hell, for not believing in the Christian doctrine?

ChinoF
Member

I don’t mind having atheists around. I just mind when they attack you and call you or your religion evil or something. Some people are just too aggressive.

Another thing I notice is that most atheists actually react to the dominance of the Catholic Church in this country. They are reacting to a real problem indeed, but some are just too reactionary for comfort.

Joe America
Guest
Rich thinking here. Organized churches, or “religions” as you call them, are manmade structures built on faith. Faith is what you use when you believe something but can’t prove it. One danger of faith is: what happens if you are wrong? It is rather like those who have faith that global warming is hype; what if they are wrong? A second danger of faith is that there are so many conflicting ones. Faith requires total commitment, so we have wars trying to prove one faith is more right than others. But of course, no one can prove anything. So we… Read more »
Ann Marie
Guest

I’m very encouraged of your personal faith Joe.

Joe America
Guest

Ann Marie. Thank you for sending encouragement back.

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[…] of the concept in various online discussion groups. Benign0 offered his take on the subject earlier on the Get Real Post, and since he graciously acknowledged mine and Better Philippine’s contributions to the […]

rob
Guest
“The problem is, atheism seems to be defined more by what one is not rather than what one is. An atheist does not believe in God, is what I keep hearing.” That’s the textbook definition of atheism, as informative as the textbook definition of theism is. If you want to learn more about atheism, why not ask or research? In the same way you ask when you want to learn more about something. The culture in which you’ve been conditioned is your own set of biases. For instance, this post has monotheism all over it. Monotheism is not the only… Read more »
BenK
Editor

Oh, what took you guys so long?

The textbook definition of atheism is what it is. If you are not that, you are something else. Which is fine. But “atheist” means “one who does not believe in a deity”. Which I think is impossible for human beings.

I’m curious, though: why try to convert anyone? Isn’t one of the consensual tenets of (mis-labeled) atheism that people should come to their own conclusions? That’s my biggest pet peeve with “organized” atheists — for people who profess not to believe in a god, you sure act a lot like a church.

rob
Guest

impossible for you, not for other people. also, i’m not converting you. you can worship god all you like. it’s only response to benigno.

alffaith
Guest

Amen, BenK!

Hyden Toro
Guest

You either believe in God; or you don’t…It is your choice…Religion helps also in our own existence here on Earth. If a Religion, will help me have a good experience with the Divine…then, I’m all for it.
However, if a Religion; will make me; exclude anybody; and agree totally, with the Doctrine of that Religion…then, I don’t believe, I want to be tied-up with it…there are many beliefs, many faiths…each telling us they are the true religion; and their teachings come from God…

Josh Ex Machina
Guest

Everyone are atheists. Some just aren’t aware of it.

Hyden Toro
Guest

Atheism is a form of religion, also…so are agnostics; and free thinkers…It respect them all…I’ve never seen suicide bombers from these people…

Ms. Mike Portes
Guest

“No one has a monopoly of the true God, nor is there a nation or religion that can claim, or at any rate prove, that it has been given the exclusive right to the Creator or sole knowledge of His Being.”
~ Jose Rozal annotations to Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas – translated by Austin Craig

Hyden Toro
Guest

It is not even sure; if God exists or not…Extra Terrestrials, from the UFOs; may have a hand in our beliefs in God…this is probable…

Ms. Mike Portes
Guest

“To doubt God is to doubt one’s own conscience, and in consequence it would be to doubt everything.” ~ Jose Rizal in his letter to Fr. Pastells (4 April 1893)

Hyden Toro
Guest

According to Sigmund Freud, the Father of Phycho Analysis: Consciense is your SuperEgo…
In modern PsychoAnalysis: there is a: concious mind; sub-concious mind; and super-concious mind…research on them…and be enlightened…

martin
Guest

If you doubt, you question
If you question, you understand
If you understand, you know
If you know, you want to know more
And if you want to know more,
You are alive

Aisha_Goddess
Guest

this is very NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.

Tony0
Guest

If what Jesus said was false, and I believed in Him and lived a life according to His principles, then at least, I would have lived a good life…But if what Jesus said was true, then I didn’t believe Him yet I lived according to His principles, then still there is no salvation, for no amount of good works may justify my single sin in the everlasting and perfect justice of God…I still will be damned forever…I’d rather believe and be wrong…than not believe then it was true all along…peace bro… 😀

martin
Guest

your so honest I’d rather believe and be wrong…than not believe then it was true all along…peace bro… haha this making me laugh.

Hyden Toro
Guest
No one has really been sure, if God exists or not…even the mystics, who have divine experiences; are not sure of it…we have various religious books and texts; all climed , were inspired by God. If your religion will: give you joy; makes you more kind to people; makes you more honest ant tell the truth…Then, go for it…Religions’ purpose is to make us Good However, if a Religion will make us: (1) Exclude people, who do not believe…then, it not a good religion…God does not exclude people…we are all given, free air to breath…free water to drink…free sun to… Read more »
Edward
Guest
Ok I respect you but in a bigger sense, this is not about proving if there is a God or not, this is about living with a purpose. Us humans have our basic needs, water, shelter, food, but looking deeply we need further than the basics like love, comfort or unity. But all in all that human needs, still, we cannot live without a purpose. You see we can never truly achieve something great without a purpose. We live because we have a purpose in this world. Some may live because they mean something to someone, some may live because… Read more »
Hyden Toro
Guest

I’ve read about the Scientist and Theologian: Emmanuel Swedenberg…this is not to covert anybody. What you believe is your business…I’ve read also about: Reincarnation and Soul Perfections…including about : the Akhasic Records…it is said : we live many lives, to teach us lessons, in this Earth school, from the Masters…if our souls are perfected…we can join God…these people pray to the Universe; not to a person-like Deity…I believe in open mindedness…I’m more of a Free Thinker…

Edward
Guest
Then good my friend if you are a free thinker. It’s better that way because you free yourself from rules of men and take charge of your own life or, as others might call it, destiny. Frankly speaking, that’s what this country needs, open-minded people, not one-sided people like the priests. What you read sir, all of it constitute to one goal of every man, and that is, like I’ve said, living with a purpose. Whether it be atheism, deism, theism, agnosticism, etc. The common denominator to this is purpose. We need it, some even die for it. But whatever… Read more »
Aisha_Goddess
Guest

Ah yes, the Akashic records written in Nadi leaves. It’s from India, and one only needs to travel to the Tamil Nadu province in India, and find gurus there, waiting for you. It’s been said that every life and soul that has come to this planet were already foreseen by ancient Hindu sages thousands of years ago, and the data of these lives were written in Nadi leaves.

TonyM
Guest
Take one human, then apply a simple attribute are they religious or not? True some people are not prepared to be classified one way or the other but many will accept one or the other. Now you know one thing about this person no more. We have been under the despotic regime of religion for so long that there are many flavors of religion people identify with and in part by it’s nature there are few different Atheist schools at least with names and logos. Perhaps the Atheist resists such classifications as they are historically the source of war and… Read more »
martin
Guest

excuse me sir. did u just claim that according to history atheist are the source of war and more? please do elaborate.

Don
Guest
Stalin Mao Hitler Pol Pot Kim Jong Il On the scale of their murders, yes, they have warred more and killed more. Crusades and jihads were bloody, but then again, these were never carried out on an industrial intensity as those mentioned above. And please don’t rub the Inquisition in, because going by the alleged numbers put forth as its victims, one would think that the whole medieval European population was wiped out by those rabid papists instead of the plague, bad hygiene, incessant warfare, and constant famine characteristic of the ages. And no, I’m not a big fan of… Read more »
Israfel
Guest

Hitler was a Christian. Please confirm.

Aisha_Goddess
Guest

Adolf Hitler in ur list of atheists? He was Roman Catholic, a Christian nonetheless. So please, get your facts right.

1.)Religious views of Adolf Hitler
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Adolf_Hitler

2.) Hitler by the Protestant and Catholic Churches in Germany
http://www.nobeliefs.com/nazis.htm

3.) “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so”
— Adolf Hitler
http://www.remnantofgod.org/nazircc.htm

4.) Roman Catholicism’s Nazi History Exposed!
http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Religions/Roman%20Catholicism/former_hitler_youth_elected_pope.htm

wes
Guest

I kinda prefer the term “humanist”, somehow the label “atheist” rubs me the wrong way, it defines someone based on what he’s missing (an absence of theistic belief) rather than what he aspires for – like the general upliftment of humanity. After all, people help other people, not some deity in the clouds.. if you could really cash in on prayers, then why is the Philippines still a third world country up to now?

Tora^2
Guest

I will understand if said critics of organized religion takes offense on what they see are excesses religious leaders and well-placed-albeit-misguided adherents.

However, I will take offense if said critics impose their arrogance on those only sin was to practice their own religions/belief system in a manner that best reaches out to others.

Aaron
Guest
Just wanted to share. Faith is a struggle, and to question one’s faith is not a bad thing, it is encouraged. Because only when you question your faith will you actively seek to answer your questions about it. I question my faith everyday. 🙂 Having said that, you obviously have questions about the Catholic Faith because you cited it specifically in your blogpost. And as you said, you take the time to enjoy pointing out the conundrums and paradoxes and incoherent constructs which just goes to show you think a lot about it. 🙂 I hope you don’t mind my… Read more »
Angelo Elevado
Guest

Indeed there are available tools to understand something such as faith. But when truly “questioning” something without strings to tie you down, well from the looks of things you’ve got a long way to go bud. It is not just about seeking the answers to your questions. It is also about *how* you seek those answers. 😉

Angelo Elevado
Guest

I’ve always regarded atheism as simply the lack of and the rejection of unquestioning belief or faith in a deity. But the whole confusion of how the word “atheist” should be defined is why I usually avoid calling myself one. But as a non-believer, while it is possible to dismiss *claims* about the word “god”, I think the word “god” in general is too broad to just dismiss or describe.

Aegis-Judex
Guest

Atheists in general–I have no fight with them, even without Nostra Aetate. My beef with some of them, though, is this: those “some atheists” have a habit of shitting on people just because they believe in God. Seriously, would you trash a Catholic just because he is Catholic?

jaymchi
Guest

Most atheists love attention. It’s funny because most Catholics and other theistic religions don’t really care about them, despite that religion is a topic for debate. That’s why they demand attention through groups, books, and promotions, encouraging other atheists to step out and spread the word. What’s funnier is it’s actually like doing missionary work. They made their beliefs a mission. And they lost it there. I actually see politics and hedonism as religions more than atheism.

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