Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Atheist Religion

In recent weeks, the likes of Ricky Gervais and Bill Maher have been vociferous in proclaiming their atheist point of view. I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with those – like Maher – who proclaim that atheism is not a religion. It is.
I am the child of an atheist father and a Catholic mother. I believe there is a God, that Jesus was a great man but that he would laugh if we told him that he died to end original sin. And in recent years, I have become known as “an ancient alien theorist”, which in the eyes of many means that I believe that our ancestors mistook extra-terrestrial beings (though I prefer to label them non-human intelligences) as God or gods.
My dad believes that when he dies, there will be general nothingness. He was also convinced – until we discussed this point – that as a result, when he dies, there will be general nothingness, whereas when other people die, they will have to see whether or not they encounter God. It doesn’t work that way. What happens at death and what you believe happens at death is irrelevant. And it is one of my biggest beefs with the world of science that they do not study the near death experience, whether or not there is a soul, etc., using the excuse that this is not a topic for science, but one for religion. It is only sitting within the bailiwick of religion – belief – because science refuses to investigate it.
But not believing in god is a belief. Atheism is a belief there is no God. Maher and several other atheists state that they would gladly accept there is a God, if Jesus were somehow to come along for a Second Coming and thus show evidence of his existence. But it doesn’t work like that. The question of God really has nothing to do with whether or not Jesus comes back.
So why is atheism a religion? It is, if only because they believe there is no evidence for God. But what is evidence? Are we seriously considering that “proof of God” equals “Jesus’ Second Coming”? That is simplistic. In essence, the belief in God is that there is a higher force that has created and may guide life – and as a result human beings – on this planet, if not throughout the universe.
It is my belief that in the past, we were contacted by a number of non-human intelligences, like Viracocha, Quetzalcoatl and Oannes. These beings, our ancestors told us, taught us art but also morals. It is because of the latter that they were classified as gods. And in the Hermetic tradition, the wisdom tradition of the ancient Egyptians, we are told that the gods taught us about God. So if God was indeed an invention, it was an invention of the gods, and not so much our ancestors.
Some will jump on this to argue that God was therefore a suppression mechanism to keep our ancestors under control, but studying the Hermetica makes it clear that this is not at all the case. God was seen as a creating and guiding force, and at no point are there references to obedience or punishments. Instead, what we have are statements that we are closest to God when we create, innovate and think along those lines, rather than fall in repetition, fear and destruction. In fact, the ancient Egyptians did not have a word for religion; for them, the divine was not about belief, but about experiencing the world by creating, for God was a creator deity and best understood by the act of creation – one of the reasons why the arts were deemed to be so important.
Sadly, what atheists like Gervais and Maher share is a need to proclaim the dogma of atheism vociferously, on par with many of the fundamentalist right. In the case of Maher, he even sinks as low as putting on a magician’s hat and literal “mumbo jumbo” in efforts to substantiate his claims. It is belittling, rather than what he would see as “making a point”. There is a difference between being non-religious and an atheist. The main difference, in fact, seems to be that the atheist is on a crusade. In medieval times, the crusaders thought they were fighting evil; the atheists believe they are fighting religion. But in both cases, they are two shades of the same color.

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