Perspectives for atheism

4.1. Review

 In the preceding sections an examination of atheism has been made, first of all, from the perspective of the different meanings that can be implied by the word 'atheism'. Secondly, the changes that occurred in the evolving philosophical and cultural milieus were traced, with particular attention being given to several forms of cultural atheism as well as to some of the more renowned atheistic philosophers.

 Due to the fact that theism and atheism are diametrically opposed to each other, it is very normal for people to take moral stands and judge, be it theism or atheism, as being either good or bad, correct or erroneous. The challenge when examining philosophically one or the other is to avoid making such moral judgments or condemnations while at the same time presenting a mature critique.

 4.2. A Critique of Atheism

 Maybe even more than other philosophies or beliefs, both theism and atheism, that is the acceptance or denial of the existence of a God have enormous consequences on the world views of both individuals and societies. Thus, atheism effects how man understands himself, how he understands society, ecology, history, philosophy, and all the different sciences and elements of culture. While the theist understands these in one way, with relation to God, the atheist understands and evaluates all things in a very different way.

 4.2.1 Anthropology

 The declaration of atheism, that there is no God, implies that both man and the world within which he lives have neither a creator nor designer, nor one who preserves them in being. Man, in contrast to theism, is not an image and likeness of a God, and above him there is no personal being. Thus, man is not answerable to a God, but only to himself or to his social ambient. Consequently, atheism requires a radically different (from theism) morality.

 Although, not every form of atheism is materialist, most of the atheists tend to a general acceptance of materialism. This principle carries with it the negation of the spiritual dimension of man, his soul. Man becomes living matter, the most evolved among animals. Accordingly, when compared to theism, atheism (materialism) signifies a major devaluing of the dignity and worth of the human person. Signs of atheistic anthropologies express themselves in the acceptance of practices such as abortion, euthanasia, human experiments and so forth.

 4.2.2. The atheistic society

 The development of atheistic societies naturally required a social philosophy. One of the major difficulties for philosophers was to avoid the chaos of an absolute egoism by seeking to draw a balance with altruism. A further complication rested upon the definition of society: is society the raison d'ętre of individuals or is it individuals who give society its raison d'ętre. If it is the first case, then individuals can be sacrificed for the rest of society, a situation found in communist and totalitarian societies. In such instances the atheistic society rejects the concept of human freedom. If it is the case where individuals give existence to society, then the atheist sociologist is forced to create a new and convincing ethical code that can help individuals to live an harmonic life together.

 4.2.3. Atheism and culture

Although there have been some remarkable contributions to culture by atheists in the fields of literature, music and art, one is entitled to explore the limitations of atheistic culture or rather cultural contributions. Atheism, in turning away from God or a God-oriented society has sought to understand the human and the terrestrial in itself and by itself. This search also provides the possibility for rich artistic expression.

 However, pure atheism due to its non-acceptance of the metaphysical and the spiritual leads to a devaluation of mystical intuition and interpretation which was almost essential to previous cultural expressions. Similarly, a mature atheist can not negate the fact that human nature often seeks something more sublime to itself which gives meaning to both humanity and the visible world. But, by denying the value of this tendency, the atheist is in danger of hindering the fullness of human expression and the full expression of human attractions and longings.

  4.3. The Philosophical Challenge

 A mature atheistic philosophy should have the quality of being non-reactionary, that is to theism. A philosophy or a world view that centers around a denial or a rejection of one principle or one thing is usually only at the beginning of its evolutionary process. Consequently, in so far as some atheists sought to merely negate God and the divine or spiritual principle in the various branches of philosophy, they had not as of yet matured their thought. Those who sought to propose new ethical systems and social philosophies, for instance, were in fact encouraging the maturation process towards an atheistic world view.

 The challenge for atheism, is to be a whole, not simply the rejection of God, but to be a world view which simply has no God and seeks no God. In many forms of atheism, a situation has occurred whereby God, usually understood as the Christian God, or else as a metaphysical spiritual reality of a deistic type, has been rejected, but replaced by a new god, be it Nature, be it Lenin or the Communist Party or be it matter or society.

 A further difficulty for a world view, within which there is no God, is the very tendency towards an affirmation of a super human, and in fact metaphysical principle which is the common denominator between all the things or phenomena presented to the atheistic .philosopher. This philosopher is forced, by philosophy itself, into some types of generalizations and abstractions. These must then be explained, but can they be explained and conceived of in a way which does not tend towards the divine, to the affirmation of a metaphysical reality?

 Atheism has never fully matured philosophically and it would seem that as it would start to investigate its own and yet final questions it would find itself at what might be considered to be premature forms of theism. Maybe, the fear of such questions and the challenges posed by other philosophical systems has led to the refusal of many atheists to more open discussion.

 Atheism, it can be concluded, is nihilistic in character: Denying and breaking down the idea and belief in God, be it theoretically or practically. But then it finds that it must have some God which it permits to be either created or sought.

Go back to Contents

   Return to philosophy and culture

or to Church-Unity Internet Center