Monday, February 23, 2015

Atheism is an ideology that has its god too!
And where do I stand?


The face of the Jewish God according to Michelangelo

Almost all of atheists in the world proclaim loudly that atheism is neither an ideology nor a belief or a faith. Really? 

If according to you all my atheist friends, atheism is not an ideology, then I can conclude that you do not understand what ideology is. Literally, “ideology” is the “logic” of any “idea” one maintains. If atheism is not an ideology, it means all of you atheists do not have any idea about it, and don’t have any logic whatsoever why your idea is such and such. So, let me ask you atheists, are you sure that atheism is not an ideology, not an idea that has its logic to make it meaningful to those who adhere to? I hope you live not in denial again and again. 

I am sure that you atheists want me to give you a full definition of ideology. Ok, here it is, quoted from Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics. Ideology is
“Any comprehensive and mutually consistent set of ideas by which a social group makes sense of the world. An ideology needs to provide some explanation of how things have come to be as they are, some indication of where they are heading (to provide a guide to action), criteria for distinguishing truth from falsehood and valid arguments from invalid, and some overriding belief whether in God, Providence, or History, to which adherents may make a final appeal when challenged.”/1/
So, I hope you now to be widely open to accept the fact that atheism is an ideology. But, ok, if atheism is not an ideology, the alternative is that atheism is a faith, in the same meaning Christianity is understood by almost Christians. Almost all Christians do not want Christianity to be considered ideology. They say, Christianity is not an ideology created by humans, but a revelation sent by their God to be accepted faithfully as infallible by faith alone. If atheism is a faith in the same way Christians view their religion, alas this faith of atheism itself is an idea too that has a logic of its own―in other words, in this regard, atheism is an ideology whose validity is based on faith.

If atheism is the debunking of theism, the antithesis of theism, then it is scientifically necessary for all of atheists to demonstrate that their debunking of theism is true or valid by giving any valid empirical evidence. While theism views God to be in existence, then, as the debunking of theism, atheism maintains that God doesn’t exist. If atheists always ask theists to provide empirical evidence for the existence of God, then, scientifically speaking, atheists too should provide empirical evidence that God doesn’t exist. The atheistic claim that God doesn’t exist is scientifically valid only insofar as atheists can provide empirical evidence that God doesn’t exist. Thesis and antithesis are scientifically valid only insofar as both can provide empirical evidence for their respective different positions. The usual mantra of atheists all over the world that the burden of proof falls only on theism, not on atheism, is only a mantra, not a scientific statement. If you atheists view atheism as a scientific position in contrast to theism, so you are obliged to give empirical evidence for your atheistic position. Don’t live in denial again and again.  

Of course you atheists need another clarification to make you well-informed. Asking atheists to provide empirical evidence of the non-existence of God is entirely different from asking someone to prove that dragon or unicorn factually exists. Asking atheists to prove that God does not exist is scientifically necessary because they claim that atheism is a scientific debunking of theism or a scientific antithesis of theism. So far as I know, until now in the modern world, there are no official world religions that we call Dragon Religion or Unicorn Religion. Of course I know that dragon is a fictive animal that has an important role in the symbolic world of Chinese religions; but no Chinese will call their religions as Dragon Religions. Therefore, none wishes to make her/his life busy to scientifically debunk the Dragon Religions which do not exist in the real life.       

Of course, we all know well, both theism and atheism cannot provide valid empirical evidence altogether for each claim about God, either God does exist or God doesn’t exist. To conclude, both theism and atheism are two different BELIEFs or FAITHs. The former is the belief or the faith that God exists; the latter is the belief or the faith that God doesn’t exist. In other words, theism is a religion of the existence of God; atheism is a religion of the non-existence of God. I am going to justify this strong contention of mine.

But, please now understand me that I do not want to make the definition of atheism complicated and extremely difficult to grasp. Everyone in the world of atheism, so far as I have found, has each own definition about what atheism is. This is an indication of confusion and arbitrariness in the ideology we call atheism and in the communities that support it. Normally, atheism (from the Greek word a-theismos) is defined as a belief or an ideology that views god does not exist. Short and clear and honest. But, one god has been removed, other gods appear to have the power to rule the world.

The famous astronomer late Carl Sagan, in his book Broca's Brain, has a concise definition of what atheism is:
“Those who raise questions about the God hypothesis and the soul hypothesis are by no means all atheists. An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed. A wide range of intermediate positions seems admissible, and considering the enormous emotional energies with which the subject is invested, a questioning, courageous and open mind seems to be the essential tool for narrowing the range of our collective ignorance on the subject of the existence of God.”/2/ 
It seems that you atheist friends think that the various gods in religions are factual entities, physically exist in the sky, but are unobservable by our empirical instruments. Why do you think so while, on the other hand, you don’t believe that God exists? Your position is contradictory in itself.

For me, the theistic gods are not physical entities dwelling in the sky at all, but the theological concepts humans make to unveil the unobservable side of the universe, if this side exists at all. As the content of the theological concepts, these gods are part of the theistic ideology. So, gods exist in the realm of theistic ideology, in other words, gods are ideological entities too, or ideologies themselves. So, when you atheists are extremely angry with the gods of the theistic religions, you actually are angry toward ideological concepts humans have made! It is very weird to see that almost atheists unconsciously view themselves as being at deadly war against actual divine beings living in the sky.  

In atheism, gods-ideologies have been replaced by non-gods ideologies. If the non-gods ideologies atheism have are absolutized and elevated very, very high, then the “non-gods” in atheism change into alternative gods. So, I find myself justified if I say that atheism has gods too, in the sense that atheism too has elevated ideological values that are of the same level with elevated ideological values of theism. What matters the most in every ideology is that each has the highest value, meaning, has god. Whether the gods of any ideologies are metaphorical or factual, is dependent on the mind of the people who believe in these gods. 

Dear my atheist friends, I want to emphasize again that I don’t equivocate the word “god” in this writing of mine. Very clearly, for me, “god” is a theistic concept in theology, in the same way as the word “market” is an economic concept in free-market capitalism. Viewed from ideological studies of religions, the word “god” doesn't refer to an entity physically and ontologically dwelling in the sky, but refers to the highest value in any theistic religions, in the same way as the American or European cultural idea of goodness is referred to by atheists as the highest value in their belief system named ideological atheism. 

No ideological systems in this world do have no gods. In capitalism, the god being worshiped is money, capital and free market. In Americanism as a civil religion the god being honored and glorified is the state, the USA constitution and the people of America. In democracy, its god is the voice of the people and the positive laws. In liberalism, god is secularity and free speech and free mind. In theism, god is the personal entity imagined to live in heaven.

Thus, what is the god in atheism? The god in atheism you believe in could be one of these possibilities: 
  • either the atheism itself imagined by atheists as the perfect and final ideology;
  • or the best and most perfect god in the universe after this god kicked the gods of religions to nowhere; 
  • or a certain cultural idea of American or European goodness; 
  • or even the dreams of atheists themselves about science being the servant of the atheistic Lords;
  • or the individual atheists themselves who glorify themselves very high, and then are followed and obeyed blindly by their pupils and followers; 
  • or even, sadly, the rage and hatred atheists often reveal toward religions and religious believers. This atheist God has the name Religiophobia. Those are, minimally, the gods of atheism, in my opinion.  
  • But, I think, for now I can add another mantra of atheists, which functions as another god in atheism, namely, their statement of belief or their statement of faith they have constructed, that is, “Atheism makes no claims. It is a lack of belief and nothing more.” What is very funny is that they even are really unaware of the fact that this statement is a claim and a belief too. They seem to be unaware of the fact that atheism, as does theism, has many fictions or myths. I have listed here at least 32 fictions or myths atheists actually embrace. Incredibly indeed!
It is now in order if I refer to the humanist Richard Carrier who criticizes the leaders of the New Atheism, e.g, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Michael Shermer, as those who hold bad epistemology for their understanding of reality. Here is what Carrier has stated,
“Epistemology is that branch of philosophy that is concerned with how you know something is true. One characteristic that is shared by all religions, even the most harmless and liberal religions, is a bad epistemology. . . . So our singular aim should be not the combating of religion alone, but the combating of all bad epistemologies. . . . The first goal of humanism, therefore, must be the pursuit of installing in ourselves the best epistemology we can find, which must be an epistemology that is itself self-testing and self-improving—so that if it is flawed, we will be steered constantly toward finding those flaws and fixing them. . . . Escaping religion is not enough. If you stumble into a secular ideology that is just as false and just as harmful as any religion, you have made no relevant progress. You’ve just replaced one kind of religion for another.”/3/ 
Where is the position of mine? I take the agnostic position. Agnostic means that we presently cannot know precisely whether the transcendent dimensions exist or not. I intentionally do not use the term “gods”, but the “transcendent dimensions” instead to refer to the realms that theists understand as the supernatural realms in which their various gods are believed to exist.

But considered from the concept of the multiverse (according to string theory, there exist 10500 universes, our own included) and the 26 dimensions this theory predicts, and the infinity resulting from the simple mathematical calculation (one divided by zero resulting in infinity), and the existence of the growing Cosmic Consciousness as one of the solutions to the Schrödinger Cat Paradox in quantum mechanics, we can believe that the transcendent realms could exist― it is called the “transcendent” realm because this realm is beyond the universe of our own, beyond the four dimensions in which we now are living, beyond the cosmic boundary that entraps us presently, reaching to the infinity whose contents, forms, dimensions and essence we can never understand. 

But, what is infinity? For me, infinity is the scope, the dimension, the room, the space, the quantity, and even the quality, which are always, always, always beyond the limits and the borders humans want to make. Because of infinity, there are always dimension, room, space, scope, quantity and quality that are always bigger, greater, deeper, wider, than those humans can imagine about.  

In the second paragraph of chapter 13 of his book entitled The New Flatlanders: A Seeker's Guide to the Theory of Everything, Eric Middleton writes, “The challenge was to make sense of a spiritual reality beyond the reductionism of the three-dimensional world picture of Richard Dawkins, who focuses on the physical, ruling out any dimensions of the spirit. We shall move beyond the positivism of Stephen Hawking where only what can be tested and proved is true, to the models of transcendence in today's physics.”/4/ In some ways, I have the similar idea with Middleton’s, but I am of the opinion that physics one day in the future can demonstrate empirically, not only mathematically, the existence of the transcendent dimensions which, according to string theory, consist of 22 dimensions (our own 4 dimensions of spacetime excluded). Physicist Brian Greene, in his book The Elegant Universe, says that one or more of these extra-dimensions (that is, 26 minus 4 dimensions) may well be comparatively large even infinite./5/  

Sure, for the time being, we don’t know about the nature of those transcendent realms; but they probably exist. We should wait until our sciences advance to be able to describe empirically those realms. In this meaning, I am agnostic. The agnostic position is always science-based. This position causes anybody who embraces it to be open presently to the possibility that God exists or that God doesn’t exist; therefore, all agnostics cannot deny the full right of religions to exist and the full right of atheism to exist. As agnostic I, therefore, do hope that theism and atheism could in the present cooperate to build together the peaceful world we together inhabit now. Eliminate hatred and rage directed to one another forever! Our entire planet belongs to currently more than seven billion humans who embrace different and even contradictory ideologies competing to one another. Only people who presently can live harmoniously in diversity can manage well our one planet for the future generations.

Jakarta, 23 February 2015
Ioanes rakhmat   


Notes 

/1/ Ian McLean and Alistair McMillan, Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996; 2nd edition 2003; 3rd edition 2009). 

/2/ Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain: Reflection of the Romance of Science (New York: Random House, 1974, 1979), p. 365.

/3/ Richard Carrier, “Why Atheism Needs Feminism”, Freethought Blogs.com, at http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/6788.

/4/ Eric Middleton, The New Flatlanders: A Seekers Guide to the Theory of Everything, (West Conshohoken, PA.: Templeton Foundation Press, 2007), p. 134.

/5/ Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1999, 2003, first edition), pp. 184 ff.