Monday, 30 September 2013

The Atheist Illusion

It is understandable that many people think of themselves as atheists in the contemporary world, given the artificial environment in which we live, the largely out of date form of the spirituality to which we are exposed while growing up (if we are exposed to any at all) and the dominance of a scientific worldview that stubbornly refuses to recognise its limitations. However the truth of the matter is that atheists do not just deny God. In a very real sense they also deny themselves. If consciousness arises from material processes then it is mechanical. In a meaningless universe, you have no meaning. Why? Because individuality only has any substance in the context of freedom and there is no freedom if matter determines mind rather than the other way around.

In fact, the more you assert your right to deny God, the more you maintain his existence.

If you are an atheist it means that you regard life as arising from lifelessness, a bizarre, not to say irrational, notion.  It means that fundamentally you see love as only self-interested and so without any real validity or true existence. It means that you deny the sublimity of beauty for beauty, as opposed to what is just pleasing to the eye, has meaning only to the extent that it points beyond itself to a higher non-physical reality. That is what moves us to wonder and joy when we perceive it. And it means that, on the moral plane, you see everything as a matter of opinion because there is no objective truth. You may reject these points, or some of them, but they are the natural corollary of your beliefs. You may say that you don’t have beliefs but, of course, you do. For a start, you believe that all that can be perceived by the mind and senses is all there is to perceive, another irrational supposition. You may say that there is no evidence for a spiritual reality behind the natural world and point to the many flaws of religion which science has exposed. But science has not exposed any flaws of the substance of religion. It has only shown some of its manmade aspects to be manmade. And as for there being no evidence of a spiritual reality, all one can say is that there are none so blind as those who will not see. Do we discount the evidence of saints and mystics throughout the centuries? Do we reject humanity’s highest teachings from its greatest representatives? This may be regarded as circumstantial evidence but, for all the posturing of science, there is no plausible alternative explanation for life or consciousness or the fact, and I call it a fact because it is one, that deep inside us we know that this world is not our home, that we are spiritual beings whose source is elsewhere. We can blot this out if we choose, that is our right, but if we do we are making a big mistake because we are denying the substance of our being. And we are betraying our very humanity because the essence of our humanity is that we are more than human, by which I mean that we are more than just the outer aspects of a human being.

I am not writing this to convince atheists of their error but to support those whose intuitive sensibilities are crushed by the apparent logic of the arguments ranged against spiritual belief. This belief can’t be proved by reason (it’s not meant to be) but it is not irrational. Spirituality does not deny reason but it does go beyond it for it goes beyond the mind, or the mind as we currently conceive it. There was a time when science was the friend of truth. Indeed the word just means knowledge so why should it not be? Unfortunately that is not the case at the moment. Science is now the friend of science. Like the priests of old it has too much power and will not relinquish it without a struggle. I am a lover of science as a servant of God but I utterly reject it when it seeks to supplant God and install itself on his throne with the excuse that if God does not appear to it on its own terms then he cannot exist.

People say, who is this God in whom you believe? Human beings have believed in all sorts of gods so why is one any more plausible than another? But human beings have tried to express the inexpressible. That is why the forms and perceptions differ. These are necessarily limited by the imagination and understanding of the people who have come up with them. I freely admit that my conception of the spiritual power that transcends the manifested universe whilst also being present within every atom is partially (though only partially) determined by my cultural background and personal experiences. But that does not alter the fact that there is a Creator, a spiritual being who is the origin of all life in this universe and who is quite obviously far beyond anything that I or anybody else might conceive. A person might have a spiritual intuition of a greater or lesser degree of intensity and that gives them an insight into the nature of reality. But that person will have to express the intuition according to the mould of their mind which may be more or less able to encompass the intuition but will still be limited because the mind is restricted to form which always has boundaries.

I think there are two sorts of disbelievers in a spiritual reality. There are those, probably the majority, whose inner experience has simply not been sufficient to dislodge the weight of contemporary intellectual opinion. They are victims and in no way to be condemned except, perhaps, for not thinking a little more deeply about something that is of supreme importance, though some of them may have done just that but simply not been able to come to any conclusion. So they get on with their lives as one must. It is not necessarily a virtue to believe in God and it can’t be called a vice not to so long as one seeks to behave in a way that accords with goodness. It’s how you believe or disbelieve that matters, and what you do as a result of that. Even so, having made that clear, I should add that, while a non-believer can still make spiritual progress of a sort, it is most unlikely to go as far or be as fast as that of a person who does accept the higher truths and acts accordingly.

So there are those who simply don’t believe because they see no reason to believe.  But then there are those who actively deny God. Whether through anger or fear or resentment or dislike of the thought that there is a higher power to which they will have to submit, they reject God because they don’t like the idea of God. I think the first category of people simply doesn’t know enough but the second category doesn’t want to know and they reject spiritual knowledge because they don’t want it to be true. Naturally they would never admit that to be the case, preferring to take apparently logical refuge in science and condemn religion for its outdated and superstitious aspects while completely ignoring its more metaphysical and mystical core. But they are driven by their emotions, and the attachment they have to their prejudices has blinded them to the truth.

We live in a world that appears to have abandoned God but, to all those who yearn for a higher reality than the contemporary world allows, I would say this. Hold fast to your vision. Have faith in an absolute power of goodness and love, and follow the spiritual path in confidence that this world can never extinguish the truth even if it can sometimes veil it. Every human being seeks God whether they know it or not but if you do know it you are lucky. Pursue that knowledge and do not allow anything to deflect you from the path.

No comments: