Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why I Am Not an Atheist

I believe that when "set and setting" are rightly aligned, the basic message of the entheogens - that there is another Reality that puts this one in the shade - is true. There is no way that the prevailing view of the human self (which depicts it as an organism in an environment that has evolved purposelessly through naturalistic causes only) can accept that claim, which means that its Procrustean anthropology must go. That it will go, has been the critical (as distinct from constructive) burden of all my writing, for it rests on assumptions that are too arbitrary to escape scrutiny indefinitely.

... I do not see how anyone can deny that the traditional, theomorphic view of the human self which the entheogens endorse is nobler than the one that common sense and modern science (misread) have replaced it with. Whether the theomorphic view is true or not cannot be objectively determined, so all I can ask of the opposition is that it not equate noble views with wishful thinking...


I believe that there is a spiritual dimension to reality that we are not normally able to perceive or understand. Call it YHVH, call it BrahmaN, call it Einstein's God, or call it the Great Cosmic Muffin. From the rarest and briefest experiences of "it-ness" (no affirmation or denial of entheogenic catalyzed experiences is implied here!), I have come to believe this as much as I believe anything about existence. I simply cannot agree with the uber-skeptical-materialist-atheist approach that "this is all there is". That there is no purpose to existence beyond what each of us makes our individual purpose. SOMETHING goes beyond all this.

Maybe this belief actually originated subconsciously as a coping mechanism for the existential horror of the void (tho' the belief does not completely immunize me against the random intrusion of thoughts of nothingness, and not in a good Zen-like way.) Maybe it is a very deep need to believe that both for those who commit evil acts and for the victims of evil (including the victims of "Acts of God") it will all eventually make karmic sense. And while this belief is almost certainly not a result of any early childhood influences, maybe it is explainable on a purely physical (biochemical/psychological) level as just an ingrained proto-memory from our collective evolution as self-aware beings. A God gene?

Perhaps.

But it seems that a thinking person can take two (forgive me for creating a false dichotomy of choices here) main approaches when considering what a believer might refer to as "miracles" of the universe. One can consider the so-called anthropic principle ("miracles" of the Planck, gravitational and other physical constants, properties of water), consciousness and other aspects of human-ness (and I must include the experience of music), etcetera, etcetera, and certainly respond "in an infinite of universes anything can happen". And the non-nihilistically inclined may get deep satisfaction at the amazing dance of evolution or experience an almost mystical exhilaration at studying the music of the spheres from the quantum to the cosmic, even in the absence of the belief in any higher power. But this perspective - while appealing - ultimately leaves me wanting.

The other approach - "it makes more sense to me that it's not the luck of the cosmic lottery - that there is some higher power and purpose to it all" - the approach in which one maintains at least one eye focused on God, and being, and purpose, and morality, and what is a meaningful way to live with spiritually infused structure and context, this seems to have the potential of paving a far richer path for the 80 or 120 years that one is (hopefully) privileged to experience during this sojourn upon the planet.

12 comments:

gamzoo said...

Have you heard of Frank Tipler and the Omega Point theory? He blends the two approaches together and the result is a pretty interesting theology. I don't know if I believe it, but it's still interesting

Anonymous said...

So you narrowly define "all this" to not encompass everything, then believe in everything, (just nothing outside of that, you're not foolish after all) which is much more open minded than those who only believe in "all this".

You conflate God, being, purpose and morality...do you expect to convince anyone who doesn't already agree with you by doing that?

Jewish Atheist said...

Yeah, sounds like wishful thinking to me. :-)

Seriously, though.

Frum Heretic said...

gamzoo - haven't heard of Tipler before but I have read a little of Nick Bostrom's who argues that we may be AI individuals in a superior being's computer simulation. This is fun stuff, but like a lot (not all) of philosophical ideas its ultimate value doesn't go beyond enlivening discussions at the local pub. It doesn't provide any guidelines for right living (note the "not all" qualification.)

Anon - who said anything about "open minded"? And how are you interpreting my words as trying to "convince" others? I'm afraid that you are just a bit too quick with this knee-jerk reaction against a believer.

JA - yeah, I said that this was a possibility. I didn't call it wishful thinking, but I did mention some possible subconscious motivations for my belief.

gamzoo said...

Tipler's objective is to show how one can have a physical materialistic outlook and still have the religious belief in a afterlife. This he thinks provides hope and meaning in ones personal life and the life of the universe as a whole.

He believes that the idea that all life will some day come to an end for everything is a bit of a downer. Without a final goal for the universe it becomes ultimately meaningless. The belief of a future after-life corrects this.

The problem is that most scientists are materialists and tend to think that when we die, we die for good. So Tipler shows that not only is it possible, but he also provides the detail scientific explanation how it will most likely happen and why you should believe that it will most likely happen. Not in spite of materialism, but because of the materialistic point of view.

I find his ideas interesting and thought provoking, but many of his conclusions seem like a leap to me. Still a worthwhile read in my opinion

Baal Habos said...

>I believe that there is a spiritual dimension to reality that we are not normally able to perceive or understand.

Why?

> Call it YHVH, call it BrahmaN, call it Einstein's God, or call it the Great Cosmic Muffin.

There is a cosmic difference betweem YHVH and Einstein's God.

>From the rarest and briefest experiences of "it-ness" (no affirmation or denial of entheogenic catalyzed experiences is implied here!), I have come to believe this as much as I believe anything about existence.

Explain why?

> I simply cannot agree with the uber-skeptical-materialist-atheist approach that "this is all there is".

Maybe yes. Maybe no. But why do you believe one way or the other?

>That there is no purpose to existence beyond what each of us makes our individual purpose. SOMETHING goes beyond all this.

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

>But this perspective - while appealing - ultimately leaves me wanting.

Definitely agreed. But....

Reread your post and it's all wishful think and I deeply share that wish with you every time I open a newspaper and hear terrible news in the world, of crashes, wars, avalanches.


It's one thing to allow for the existence of a God, which I sort of do; but I take it as a long shot. And I realize that if there is a thinking God, he's most certainly asking asking himself, "How did I get here". In other words the infinite regress that every child asks at one point or another. But I realize there is nothing at all compelling in that direction.


In short, you haven't explained why you believe one way or another other than saying you wish it to be so.

Larry Tanner said...

"I believe that there is a spiritual dimension to reality that we are not normally able to perceive or understand."

To me, this sounds like "wanting to believe" or "belief in belief." It's OK to want to believe. It's a natural impulse, but I think the important part is to acknowledge it and acknowledge it as only thought.

Believe it or not, there's as much emotional satisfaction in acknowledging the falsity of one's hopes for a spiritual dimension to the universe. It's like a mini re-living of one's intellectual childhood and transition to maturity.

BHB said...

>... It's like a mini re-living of one's intellectual childhood and transition to maturity.

That's just a booby prize.

Frum Heretic said...

>I believe that there is a spiritual dimension to reality that we are not normally able to perceive or understand.

Why?

Through specific, intense experiences of - what I described (tritely?) as - "it-ness." That's a separate post on its own, but for now will simply reference: William James, Alan Watts, Huston Smith (whom I opened with here), and others on the mystical experience. And then things just made a lot more intuitive sense to me when I looked at the universe in the context of a Supreme Intelligence. My educational background (only through an M.S.) is in the sciences, and somehow this idea resonated with me the more I learned. But I've always acknowledged that it can go completely the other way to an atheist outlook. I don't think that there is a "default" outlook.

> Call it YHVH, call it BrahmaN, call it Einstein's God, or call it the Great Cosmic Muffin.

There is a cosmic difference betweem YHVH and Einstein's God.

No kidding!

>From the rarest and briefest experiences of "it-ness" (no affirmation or denial of entheogenic catalyzed experiences is implied here!), I have come to believe this as much as I believe anything about existence.

Explain why?

See above.

> I simply cannot agree with the uber-skeptical-materialist-atheist approach that "this is all there is".

Maybe yes. Maybe no. But why do you believe one way or the other?

See above.

>That there is no purpose to existence beyond what each of us makes our individual purpose. SOMETHING goes beyond all this.

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

I choose the former!

Anonymous said...

>>That there is no purpose to existence beyond what each of us makes our individual purpose. SOMETHING goes beyond all this.

>Perhaps. Perhaps not.

I choose the former!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have a similar philosophy. To wit:

>>That there is no purpose to existence beyond what each of us makes our individual purpose. Marmaduke the dog is the true author of the Garfield comic strip.

>Perhaps. Perhaps not.

I choose the former!

BHB said...

>I choose the former!

Do you mean choose the former as in "2+2=4" or as in "I like chocolate"?

Frum Heretic said...

Sorry, but I don't acknowledge your false dichotomy.

Please re-read my post and my comments.