Friday 1 November 2019

What Are The Causes of Atheism?

I imagine most people reading this blog would agree that atheism is an unnatural state. Unnatural because wrong and a normally constituted human being would, on some level, sense this. What, then, are the reasons for atheism and for such a large number of atheists at the present time? Are they genetic or cultural or to do with intelligence or something else? Let us consider the various possibilities.

Religiousness, apparently, is heritable to a degree. Irreligiousness would, therefore, also be heritable. However, history, not to mention common sense, tells us that religiousness is natural for human beings so it may be that the lack of it is caused by a genetic mutation that harms our normal way of thinking and, effectively, sends us slightly mad, causing us to believe a lie or lack the instinctive wherewithal to know the truth. This mutation has been enabled and spread by the massive decline of infant mortality since the Industrial Revolution, affecting first the upper classes and then everyone which is why atheism began amongst the richer and more educated section of the populace before spreading everywhere else. Previously people who suffered from such genetic mutations would simply not survive. Now they do and they have children themselves, spreading the virus if one can put it like that.

Another reason for the growth of atheism might be cultural and there are two strands to this aspect of the situation. Material science has grown vastly over the last two hundred years, telling us things about the world that previously we would have turned to religion to explain. This inevitably undermines religion in all its aspects. The fact that science cannot explain life or consciousness is conveniently side-lined with the excuse that, no doubt, one day it will be able to do so. For most people, science has replaced religion as the authority to which human beings should defer and, since science is materialistic, atheism is the natural consequence.

The second cultural explanation is the decline of the spiritual power of the churches as they have all, to various degrees but without exception, descended into institutionalism.  Their capacity to inspire is so reduced that, in many people's eyes, they have become no more than museum pieces which we only tolerate because of their rich artistic legacy. But they don't even produce decent art nowadays and their intellectual representatives, the ones that are on public view anyway, are, for the most part, feeble. Once the churches began to accommodate themselves to temporal secular fashions their day was over, their weaknesses were exposed and their relevance destroyed.

It seems that higher intelligence tends to indicate the likelihood of atheism. I would qualify this by saying that in the modern world higher intelligence does this. The greatest people of history were not atheists. But now when you have high intelligence you think for yourself (to a certain extent, it seems strange that so many intelligent people follow liberalism like sheep) and you reject traditionally held values partly because they are traditional and we are supposed to be more enlightened now. You also want to demarcate yourself from the ordinary souls who follow the same old paths. You are better than that. So there is a degree of arrogance involved. There is also a rejection of instinct and a preference for ideology and theory. Instinctive reactions are seen as the mark of the primitive and the unenlightened which in some cases they may be but they have a wisdom too.

However, if intelligence is accompanied by a degree of spiritual insight or real imagination then the whole position is reversed. You begin to see the wisdom of tradition and the past. So, I would suggest that it is not intelligence that correlates with atheism but intelligence without intuition. If we surmise that humanity has three modes of cognition, which develop in an individual as that individual evolves, then we can stay that first comes instinct, then intellect and then intuition which is instinct on a higher level, a more self-aware and insightful level in which you respond consciously rather than automatically to what is perceived, and you do so because your conscious self is beginning to grow out of its own self-limitation into a greater identity. If you fail to develop intuition after a certain level of intellectual attainment then your intelligence actually becomes counter-productive and from being a good thing that functions in an evolutionary progressive way becomes harmful, maladaptive you might even say. This is the position for a sizeable chunk of the intelligentsia in our time. They suffer from arrested development hence their atheism.

We come now to the something else explanations for atheism. First of all, linking back to the genetic explanation, could it be a mental illness? We have seen the rise of all kinds of psychological pathologies in recent decades, affecting all areas of the mind. I don't agree that this is just because we now have better descriptive terms for them and are more able to diagnose them. That's true, but I believe they are also on the rise in the populace, perhaps a populace weakened by relative ease, even luxury, and lack of real stress. Atheism could be a consequence of this, a psychological sickness.

And now I come to the most controversial part of this essay. Might some people alive today have no souls? In normal circumstances, men and women are spiritual beings come to Earth to learn the lessons that will fit them for the life of a fully conscious son or daughter of God in heaven. Their material form is something they, as souls, inhabit in order to incarnate into this world. It is not them or not the whole of them. But at a time of vastly expanded population it is possible that some human beings do not fall into this category. They are their physical and mental selves, their material selves, and actually have to build the spiritual component of their being, to bring their self to the point at which it can receive the divine spark. Instead of being top down constructions, they are bottom up constructions. There is no reason for all human beings to have the same origin. They are all creations of God but who is to say God always creates in the same way? It is possible that some human beings are directly created by God while others are formed as a result of creative processes in the world that God, or his agents, have set up. Clearly this speculation of mine is open to misuse so I need to stress again that all beings spring from God. But do they all spring from God in the same way? 

Atheism is a spiritual sickness but there are different sorts of atheists. There are those who simply do not 'get' the idea of God and can't see how to fit that into their experience of the world. I would call this simply ignorance. But then there are those who actively deny God and this is more in the nature of a sin because it relates to the will. Such people don't want there to be a God because of the damage that would entail (in their eyes) to their sense of a fully autonomous self. These people are actively anti-God and are the true atheists.


Bruce Charlton said...

William - That's a very interesting post, which I intend to ponder and re-read.

"If we surmise that humanity has three modes of cognition, which develop in an individual as that individual evolves, then we can stay that first comes instinct, then intellect and then intuition which is instinct on a higher level, a more self-aware and insightful level in which you respond consciously rather than automatically to what is perceived, and you do so because your conscious self is beginning to grow out of its own self-limitation into a greater identity. If you fail to develop intuition after a certain level of intellectual attainment then your intelligence actually becomes counter-productive and from being a good thing that functions in an evolutionary progressive way becomes harmful, maladaptive you might even say. "

This is a new idea to me, but immediately rang true. One malign effect of the mass/ social media overuse and addiction is, I suspect, to suppress intuition.

William Wildblood said...

Bruce, I'd link that cognitive progression with the idea you often mention of the development from original participation to separate self-consciousness and then on to the next phase of final participation. (Is it called that? I can't recall at the moment!). Instinct, intellect and intuition are modes of knowing connected to those phases, I would say.

I'm sure you're right in what you say about social media and all the other facets of the current assault on our minds. it's an attempt to destroy our instinctive reactions and also to hinder the development of intuition.

ted said...

I do agree with what you're positing here William, but I also think reincarnation helps me with some of this dilemma. Why would God not create all souls that could potentially align with Him equally (albeit through different paths)? Might it be some souls are underdeveloped, and have created some conditions for this difficulty in a prior life. I don't adhere to reincarnation being as ubiquitous as the Hindus or Buddhists believe, but there must be some aspect to it. Otherwise, it would make God unjust to create some beings that have no potential for a spark of Divinity.

William Wildblood said...

I believe in reincarnation too, ted, though whether all people go through that process or only some is another matter. I think the large pop. of today is partly a result of many souls incarnating to experience these times and also to make something of a definitive choice about their future paths. It's as though there's a fork in the road and one path leads up while the other leads somewhere else (I'm not talking about eternal punishment but a lesser place than heaven).

I'm not saying that all humans don't have the potential for a divine spark. They absolutely do. Only that some may have it to begin with while others may have to earn or develop it, develop it in the sense of make themselves fit to receive it. But even those that have it have to convert the potential it offers into actuality.

I don't think God cares about equality but all souls can have their fullness of him if that is what they want. He gives as much of himself as any individual can receive to that person if they turn to him.

Anonymous said...

Imagination is the key to our eternal salvation.

Moonsphere said...

A really good piece William.

It brings to mind the writings of Valentin Tomberg who was the first to diagnose the underlying spiritual disorder that is Bolshevism, in which the healthy functions of the human being - thinking, feeling and willing are entirely inverted and short-circuited.

The "bottom-up construction" as you describe it, matches his description where the Will takes primacy, entirely bypassing the mediating capacity of feeling, to be then conveniently "clothed" in abstract idealistic language by an over-intellectualised thinking process. The Soul would appear to play no part in such an arrangement.

The ever increasing activism that we see today is largely unthinking and unfeeling and seeks only action, change, progress - all forms of metabolic Will processes. What might appear superficially as soulful passion is in truth, hate filled rage, fuelled by an egregore that now serves as group soul of which herd instinct, worship of consensus and hatred of "the other" are clear indicators.

Of course not every atheist is a soul-less, "physical and mental" only entity - but many of them are on the path towards that state of existence.

William Wildblood said...

Thanks Moonsphere. The point you make about the egregore of the modern activist left is a very interesting one. You can see how it is fed by their rage and hatred and how, in turn, it supports them. The fact it is fed by negative emotions shows the low level at which it (and therefore they) operate.

Moonsphere said...

Thanks William, yes it really is a dire situation.

On the topic of reincarnation, it seems that the length of our sojourn in the soul/spiritual realms seems to be linked to the quality of spiritual thoughts and conceptions that we were able to assimilate whilst we lived on Earth. Steiner often spoke of the living as the granaries and libraries for the dead. Only on Earth can we sow seeds - afterwards we can only harvest what we sowed.

Perhaps like a spiritual fuel-tank the journey will not last long if one leaves with the needle already in the red! In the cases of lifelong atheism - the after-death journey might not even break the "surly bonds" of earth, leading to a truncated shadowy existence before another incarnation breaks the deadlock. And so the ratio of human souls in and out of incarnation swings ever more towards the earth life.

William Wildblood said...

Yes, I also think there is something unique about the earth plane in that here is the place we can make spiritual progress - or not. Atheism would act like a kind of heavy spiritual weight dragging one back down to material levels or stopping one growing up into higher ones. If we knew that our experience of the next world was determined by our spiritual attitude in this one, attitude and action, of course, then we might behave very differently.