An Atheist’s Blasphemy

Cliff Final

Will the veiled sister pray
For the children at the gate
who will not go away and cannot pray

When I first read these lines of Eliot in Colin Wilson’s The Outsider, I was amazed. These lines convey the depth of any non-believer’s most guarded fears as aesthetically as possible. Since then, I have wondered very often if spreading the idea of non-belief is really desirable.

The existential arguments that I have come to identify with have left the question whether god is or not, irrelevant for me. Probably, it was on reading reading Camus and Sartre that they deleted God from the syllabus of my life. However, it does not rush me into concluding that faith in itself is undesirable and evil.

For me, it would be intellectual dishonesty if I prayed or pretended to have faith in any form of almighty. Like Ivan in Dostoevsky’s Brother’s Karamazov, I could say: “It’s not God I don’t accept, Alyosha – only that I most respectfully return him the entrance ticket.” In some of my previous posts, I have made it clear that I have refused the ticket to eternity. However, I have failed to convince myself, despite all the ‘faith-head’ calling atheists in the world, that any one else who accepts it is either an idiot or a crook.

Faith has for most people served as a pacifying force and a place where they find solace and peace. Despite all the logical arguments that I or anyone else can think of, is faith (even if it might just be an illusion) evil or even undesirable? I must clarify that I do not consider faith and religion as synonymous and maintain thatreligion (each one of them) have in more ways than not proved to be destructive, counter-productive and evil. I consider faith, on the other hand, a matter of personal choice, not meant to be communized.

Many might refuse to accept, but those of us who are non-believers by logic know how gloomy the world appears when all pretensions of immortality, eternity, and after-life have been washed away. We learn to deal with it, but it takes some really serious ‘dealing with’. For an existential atheist alone, there is the painful angst and what I choose to call the beginner’s hangover. Most succinctly put again in Eliot’s words:

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender…

In wake of all this, my mind might disagree but my heart seems to go out and agree with the following words of Miguel de Unamuno in Saint Manuel Neuno, Martyr:

“And they, the people, do you think they really believe?”
“…They probably believe without trying, from force of habit, tradition. The important thing is not to stir them up. To let them live on the thin diet of their emotions rather than acquiring the torments of luxury. Blessed are the poor in spirit!”

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One response to “An Atheist’s Blasphemy

  1. Your posts are always so interesting to me. So incredibly thoughtful.

    My problem with the word faith is that it is understood these days as “belief”. Originally, the term had nothing to do with belief at all. To say “I have faith in God” was not the same as saying “I believe in God”. “In God” meant that you recognized yourself as existing in something greater than yourself. You could just as easily drop the term “in God” and say “I have faith” and it mean the same thing. It’s a process of trust/trusting. But to say, “I believe in God” is something totally different. It’s saying that you believe in an idea. (And atheism used to be understood as the rejection of this idea.)

    I identify with atheism far more than I identify with theism. But this gets people so confused. They think it has to be either/or. I don’t believe in a God as some sort of factual entity. But I can’t so easily say that I don’t believe “in God” if God is defined as the ground of my being. If defined in that way, then anything I believe (rightly or wrongly) is believed “in God”.

    But even the word “belief” has gotten a bad wrap of late. Split the word in two. “Be” is to exist, to live, to have presence in reality. “Lief” is an old English word for love and means gladly or willingly.

    Personally, I don’t like the term “God” at all because I think it is so misused. Originally I think it was a placeholder – a metaphor for something we can’t quite wrap our minds around. Now it is understood as an actual entity. And that is how we killed God – by trying to say God exists and then by turning this so-called existence into an absolute. Perhaps it is correct to say we exist “in God”. But it is not correct to say God exists. That doesn’t even make sense. I think it might be better to just get rid of the term altogether because it has so many ugly and misleading connotations now. Atheism often gets trapped in those connotations as well and ends up being the flip side of the same coin.

    The Miguel de Unamuno quote is really interesting. I’m not sure I fully understand it, but in a sense, I think he’s right. Maybe that’s where integral spirituality comes in? If there are different psycho/spiritual levels of relating to reality, then it is extremely important we allow people to be where they are at and not insist that they change that relationship until they are psychologically prepared to do so. (It seems what Miguel de Unamuno means here is the mythic/magical sort of belief? If so, I don’t think that is what Jesus meant by “poor in spirit”. Poor in spirit is translated from ptochoi – the lower classes – those who were viewed by society as the unclean and expendable.)

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