The Dead Man’s Religion

I was working in a salmon processing plant, in the middle of a sixteen hour shift when it struck me. Atheism is an act of faith. Many of the more conceited atheists seem content to point and laugh at theists for their faith, that they believe in things that cannot be proven and for which there is no evidence (at least, no scientific evidence – and yes there is a difference; there is a great deal of philosophical evidence not to mention millennia of human experience) without ever thinking about how they may be guilty of the same charge. For atheists believe in a claim that is equally impossible to prove: that God does not exist.

What, doesn’t everyone philosophize on the fillet line?

After all, the atheist’s belief that God does not exist is just that: a belief. Its not a fact or a scientific law. In truth, there is nothing at all in nature that contradicts the existence of God or truly even suggests His absence. The atheist does not believe in God because he chooses not to believe in God – just as the theist chooses to positively believe. The core at both ends is a leap of faith. Now, some may argue, as many atheists have, that we are born atheists and therefore it is not some act of faith (eww, that’s spiritual, gross!) but simply our nature. We are genetically programmed to be atheists.

Maybe the “born-again” part is a joke, in which case its not a good one, but if the irony is unintentional then this is hilarious.

To which I reply, atheists: don’t make this argument! It will blow up in your face. According to a new, 3 million pound, Oxford study human beings are, in fact, fundamentally religious from their very earliest days (but, seriously, millennia of religious beliefs, all with many of the same, universally held underpinnings, spanning every region of the world: no surprise there).

Believed in God before it was cool.

The basic difference between the theist and the atheist is that, while the theist believes in Something the atheist believes in the absence of something, that is, he believes in Nothing. While the theist belongs to a religion centered on some Thing, the atheist belongs to a religion which, at its center revolves around a void. The theist embraces God, but the atheist can’t even make an embrace. At its roots, atheism is a religion, but it is a dead man’s religion. Nietzsche famously stated that God is dead but it was not God that was dead: it was atheism, a religion that served to remove everything worthwhile in religion, rendering it sterile and lifeless.

The only belief regarding God that is truly faith-less is agnosticism which, really, boils down to an absence of belief. The agnostic, who claims that the truth about God is unknown and unknowable, is the only one who does not take a leap of faith. Such a take on God, however, is entirely useless because it is perpetual skepticism. Agnosticism, in its full definition, is not a cross-roads between two beliefs, between theism and atheism, but the intellectually lazy claim that we can never know anything about God one way or the other so why even try. G.K. Chesterton had the following to say in response to this kind of impartiality: “The man who took the trouble to deduce from the police reports would probably be the man who would take the trouble to deduce further and different things from the evidence. The man who had the sense to form an opinion would be the man who would have the sense to alter it.” Ultimately, the absolute impartiality of the agnostic leads to the same conclusion as atheism: belief in nothing. The only difference is that this particular brand of nihilism lacks the religious aspect of the atheist and his stoic faith in the absence of some Thing.

“Uli doesn’t care about anything. He’s a Nihilist.” “Ah, that must be exhausting.”

Either God exists or he does not. Human experiences suggesting His existence abound but never can it be proved one way or the other. All we can do is take a leap of faith. I for one choose to leap in the direction of belief in something. I cannot bear to believe in nothing, not because I’m too weak, but because to do so contradicts everything in my heart. So, instead, I choose to follow the words of Jesus Christ to be “like a child” and believe.

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7 thoughts on “The Dead Man’s Religion

  1. Alternatively, assertions about the existence of God fall more easily into the realm of claims about which there should be evidence than those about his absence. You will probably disagree, but analytic propositions and heuristics are widely acknowledged by empiricist approaches to knowledge. The notion that everyone who expects evidence for god is committed to the notion that all propositions must have evidence for them is a bit of a straw man.

  2. If the ethos of atheism were merely that belief in God should be suspended until the theist can prove his claims then certainly no leap of faith is taken, but then it is the agnostic who says that. Atheism leaves no room for such skepticism but categorically denies the possibility of God, a denial with just as much quantitative proof as that provided by the theist.

  3. Quite a straw man argument. Your post is based on the premise that an atheist says “there is no god”. As an atheist myself, and one who knows plenty of other atheists, I can say that very few atheists actually subscribe to that position. Most generally say “There is no evidence for a god, and so I do not believe in one”. I’m an atheist in the same way that I’m an a-unicornist and an a-leprechaunist, and that you are probably an a-Zeusist and an a-Thorist. I see no reason to just assume such beings exist, so without positive evidence, I don’t believe in them. No faith required.

    How much faith does it take for you not to believe in Ganesh? I recommend actually getting to know more atheists before making blanket statements about us.

  4. I’ve met many atheists who emphatically claim that “there is no god” and this post is directed at them. Your claim that “very few atheists actually subscribe to that position” is anecdotal. I’m addressing a particularly belief system, one definition of atheism. If few atheists subscribe to that belief than my post is relevant to a few atheists, that’s fine: this post does not address the beliefs of many self-described atheists – but as I said, your evidence is anecdotal.

    As to your take on atheism, if you’re simply refraining from believing in God because you’ve seen no evidence than how does that view differ from agnosticism? Not in the strict definition of the word which claims that God is utterly unknowable but in its general use as refraining from taking a stance one way or the other?

    As for your statement that I am probably an a-Zeusist or an a-Thorist I can assure you that I am not. I don’t assume that such beings exist any more than I would assume that there’s a giant tea-pot in the sky but neither do I assume that they don’t. Maybe somewhere in the universe there’s a giant tea-pot floating through space, maybe there’s not. Because I have no evidence that one exists, however, my reaction is simply one of disinterest. Such a thing probably does not exist but I really don’t care. Most atheists I’ve met care a very great deal about whether or not God exists and they take every opportunity to try to disprove the existence of God or to discredit religion. They have conviction and that is a step beyond the mere abstinence of belief of the agnostic.

  5. Your evidence is also anecdotal, but I’ll acccept that your post is directed at those few who claim there is no god. I’ve met hundreds of atheists, and a few of them might fit your categorization.

    Agnosticism refers to knowledge. A true agnostic does not know whether there is or is not a god. Theism/atheism refers to belief. Most atheists I know would call themselves “agnostic atheists”, in that they cannot know for sure whether a god exists, but they have no belief that a god exists. Even Richard Dawkins, whom many christians love to demonize as “rabid”, sums his position up as “there’s probably no god”.

    If a god existed, that would be a very important thing to know, but years of looking at the question have led me to the “god is very unlikely to exist, and any specific god even less likely” position.
    But I am very much concerned with the behavior of god’s fan club. You don’t care about a giant tea-pot in space, but if your community was full of people who insisted that you must believe in the tea-pot to be a good person, then you might care. If your children were harrassed for being a-teapot-ists, if you had teapot missionaries knocking on your door, if people were waging wars in the name of the teapot, then the belief in the teapot would be a problem. You’d constantly be told about how much faith it would require not to believe in the teapot. “A-teapot-ists are so angry! Just because we pummel them all day with the good news of the teapot! How rude and offensive of them to point out that there’s probably no teapot.”

    In our world there are a whole lot of people using “god’s will” as an excuse for treating other people very badly indeed. Reducing the power and privilege of religion, and helping people leave religion if they so wish, is something I’m very much in favor of. If presenting a counter-apologetic helps someone finally get up the courage to leave an abusive situation, or have the courage to ask the questions they’ve been told not to ask, or to stop giving money to organizations promoting violence, or hatred, or bigotry, then it’s worth it.

    • Thanks for the reply and I have to say, I like this teapot analogy; it shows the disconnect between believing a certain creed and actually following it. People have waged wars in the name of God but really I don’t care if they wage war in the name of a teapot, that doesn’t make teapots evil or discredit the existence of teapots. What it means is that people say one thing and then do another; it means that people will commandeer genuinely good causes and twist them to their own evil ends. People use “equality,” “tolerance,” “diversity,” and “security” – all good things – as excuses to do terrible things. Its awful but its also human nature. Violence, hatred, bigotry: these things are wrong, and its my religious beliefs that lead me to that conclusion. The tenets of almost every major religion are in promotion of peace, love, justice and solidarity. If members of these religions harm their fellow man they usually do so despite their religion, not because of it.

      Belief in God is not the problem, how people choose to respond to that belief can be.

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