Why Atheism Is A Belief & Its Unacknowledged Claims

atheism is a belief

Atheists in their Almighty Snark like to make absolute statements and poorly constructed arguments that their worldview does not constitute a belief. They are also keen on insisting that their statements and arguments contain no claims, and are rather just a rejection of the unsubstantiated claims of non-atheists. The problem that generally arises from this rhetoric is that these assertions are based on the inability of atheists to unpack their own ideologies and recognize the underlying premises and metaphysical assumptions they entail.

First let me say that if you clicked on this article with some idea that the author is a theist, you would be completely wrong. Even if I tried to use pre-existing labels for my beliefs, they would still need endless explanation, and if I am doing that right I would probably end up having to adjust those beliefs by the end of it. In the same manner, if your atheism applies only to a rejection of the specific doctrines of theism laid out in Judeo-Christianity based on it’s claims, this article will not be about you. This is for the hard atheist, the truly faithful adherents of the belief that only our physical senses can detect reality and who have rejected any type of creative force, divinity or cosmic intelligence besides our own.

The Hidden Claims of Atheism

The first argument out of the atheists mouth is going to be something along the lines of – “Prove God exists.”

First of all, ‘proof’ does not apply to the question at all. Proof is a term used in axiomatic knowledge to acknowledge that the parts of an axiomatic model do not contradict one another. Therefore nothing in nature -or- reality can be ‘proven’.

This is actually a very important function of the empirical system the atheist is attempting to appeal to. Empiricism ‘proves’ nothing. Its goal, in fact, is quite the opposite. It is meant to ‘disprove’ knowledge that does meet methodological criteria or contradicts its dependent models. And actually it does not even disprove, but rather, sets it aside as knowledge that is currently subservient to one or more ‘better’ models.

Even if empiricism did ‘prove’ absolute objective knowledge eternally, which is the most fantastically egoic form of afterlife imaginable, it would still not be reliable because we cannot ‘prove’ that empiricism actually produces meaningful results. While the central tenet of modern scientism, the sect of atheism most adherents belong to, is that only science (the empirical method) can provide meaningful, valid statements about existence – empiricism cannot even validate itself. You cannot use the empirical method to prove the validity of the empirical method, so such thinking is circular logic built upon faith and not reason.

This does not mean that science is useless. It just means that like every other human endeavor, it is limited, and that its value comes from subjective human experience and not some objective source. There is no external source. We are using our subjective consciousness to make supposedly objective statements about reality, which is a lot like using tinted glasses to prove that all colors within the wearers perception contain the hue used in the glasses tint.

However the biggest unacknowledged claim made by atheists, and the one they are most likely to avoid using even more denial and circular logic, is that the fundamental nature is primarily physical and all mental contents are just fantastic illusions magically emerging from the complexity of matter. But the adherents of this belief, materialism (physicalism, naturalism, dualism, etc.), are gonna need more than one free miracle.

Buried in this claim is a metaphysical premise, or rather, a whole set of metaphysical premises. In order to make the claim that physical existence is primary, you must be willing to claim that you have come to this conclusion using your consciousness. And if you believe that your consciousness is an illusory side effect of matter, than you have already marked it as unreliable as a tool for making such claims.  This would be like a cake recipe that claimed that only cakes exist, and that cake recipes are just illusory side effects that arise out of cakes. A rational person would put this cookbook down and find another. The hardcore atheist would take a picture of the recipe and snidely share it online with their friends that enjoy baking.

One simply cannot escape metaphysical premises. They underlie every single human question and answer. Rather than acknowledge their metaphysical premises, such as the nature of reality and methodological validity, atheists will just outright deny metaphysics altogether. This is the secular version of claiming that “God planted dinosaur bones to tempt the unfaithful away from His truth.”

Atheism Is A Belief

Again we are caught in the circular logic of denial. While the atheist likes to think that their account of reality is just a retelling of ‘proven’ knowledge, they fail to understand what ‘proof’ means and that objectivity is what is being attempted – not what is being produced.

The attempt at objectivity, while impossible and often misused, is indeed a noble attempt. Trying to understand what is ‘true’ outside of our individual experience has a lot of utility purpose. Yet an ability to produce results does not prove the validity of a method.

For instance – even though people believed that the earth was at the center of the universe, their model of the universe aided human navigation for centuries. The premise of geocentrism was later determined to be false, but the models it created still provided the desired results in an efficient manner.

Or let us consider gravity. The Newtonian model of gravity was the basis for the entire branch of classical physics for a few hundred years. Then some smart ass patent clerk came up with the Theory of Special Relativity which rendered the Newtonian model of gravity obsolete. Just kidding. Newtons model of gravity is still used by physicists and engineers to produce results – even though it has been usurped by a model that relegated it to recycle bin of scientific accuracy.

In order for the atheist version of reality to escape its confines as a belief, it would have to be validated by a completely infallible source. And since atheists firmly deny the existence of such an entity, even if such a source did exists, they would either be forced to deny it or dismiss the rest of their claims.

Whatever you think is true is a belief. Whatever you think is not true is a belief. Whatever you think is probably partially true or almost completely false is a belief. Pretty much the only statement that can be made which does not express a belief is – ‘I don’t know’. And even then you are expressing a belief that your intuition and guesses are false.

Modern religion can certainly be a drag. It is used by opportunists to manipulate people of all faiths. The worst offenses are those in which it claims absolute authority over all knowledge forever, which is exactly what both most modern religions and atheists do exactly alike. The only difference is that while the former makes absolute claims about what is, the latter makes similar statements about what is not. Both ideologies are equally flawed for nearly the same reasons.

Yet the atheist, in modern intellectual circles, enjoys a position of superiority. While it is pretty easy to dismiss an ideology that an all-loving omnipotent being wants you to hate people who use their genitals in ways that do not gain it new subscribers, most people are unable to navigate the claims of hard-lined atheists simply because they do not understand the flaws in their argument. Which is the result of a recursive feedback loop created not from rational skepticism, but from a denial rooted in faith in premises and assumptions that go unacknowledged in the foundation of atheists arguments.

The Quran Drugs

The Quran Drugs

In his upcoming book More Than Allegory: On Religious Myth, Truth and Belief, Bernardo Kastrup continues his fascinating exploration into the depths of the human mind and nature of our existence. His newest work focuses on the importance of religion in creating and weaving together the symbolic narratives of existence into the fabric of our reality. The book will most likely be shunned by the narrow-minded community of atheist intellectuals and adherents of philosophical materialism who so desperately attack religion in the construction and defense of their own worldviews, yet who would benefit most from its ideas. These types are prone to the same thinking as religious fundamentalists, which is that of literal interpretation of the ideas, rituals and texts of the worlds various religions. A tendency to focus so much on explicit religious messages that one tends to lose sight of their implicit ones seemingly renders religion meaningless. But when we focus on the implicit messages in both specific religions and religiosity in general, we find a treasure of symbolic, archetypal and allegorical knowledge. Bernardo lays forth an argument that reconnecting with the more meaningful implicit messages in religion can save us not only from the insanity of religious fundamentalism, but from the follies of new dogmas like materialism.

While I remain a great fan of Bernardo’s work, his academic style and lack of color and humor represent a different path to knowledge than I have chosen, which is the shamanic route. While he elects to understand those old religious narratives in a purely intellectual way, I am more prone to creating my own, or turning the old on their head through satire, absurdist-deconstruction and dadaist recombination.

When the phrase The Quran Drugs came to mind, a play on The War On Drugs, I decided to follow this silliness down the rabbit hole of creative writing and see where it would lead. I ultimately decided that the best way to do that would be to explore the ideas, verses and parables through the Quran, yet replacing certain words and concepts with those you would more likely hear from lotus eaters than suicide bombers.

The first one is from the parable known as The Light of Allah, and in it I replace Allah with Cosmic Mind and Light with Consciousness and then adjust the rest of the language and syntax accordingly, while keeping the logic and linguistic structure intact. What at first looked like a boring old religious text suddenly took on the shape and feel of a late night toke session in a dorm room.

“The Cosmic Mind is the consciousness of the heavens and the earth. The parable of the Cosmic Mind’s consciousness is as if it were a nothingness containing a thought; the thought is in mind, the mind like the sum of all knowledge: imagined by a blessed being – a body that is neither of existence or non-existence, the ideas whereof would well-nigh give consciousness even though thought had not touched it: consciousness within consciousness! The Cosmic Mind guides unto it’s consciousness they that will it; and thus the Cosmic Mind propounds parables unto humankind, since the Cosmic Mind has full knowledge of all things.”

The next parable, The Spider’s Web, describes the sort of anarchism understood by those whose explorations in ego death have brought about the knowledge of the total uncertainty of all things, and the folly of battling that uncertainty through systems of governance. At least it does when I replace the concept Allah with Self, and Idols with Government.

The likeness of those who choose rulers besides the Self , namely government from which they hope to profit, is as the likeness of the spider that makes it’s net it’s nest. And truly the frailest, the weakest, of homes is the home of the spider – for it neither protects it from heat nor cold – likewise, governments cannot benefit those who are caught in them – if they only knew this, they would not get caught in them.

Materialism, physicalism and naturalism are similar ideas. They are all metaphysical propositions stating that our reality is an emergent property of objects or things within a primal physical universe. In the Parable of the Mosquito, we don’t have to do too much bending, since the original meaning will be similar to our remix. I replace Allah with Universal Consciousness and Gnat with Laws of Nature As anyone who has undergone the little death of the self in the psychedelic process can tell you, the apparent universe is not the universe itself, but a virtual narrative of the experiences of the universe and those within it.

Surely the universal consciousness is not ashamed to set forth any parable- neither the laws of nature or any thing above them; then as for those who have tuned in, they know that it is the truth from the universal consciousness, and as for those who are square, they say: What is it that the universal consciousness means by this parable of natures laws: universe causes many to err by it and many consciousnesses are led aright by it! but the universal consciousness does not cause to err by it except by the literalism of the unawakened.

I could continue this exercise indefinitely. I could take any sacred text from any place or time in history and, by skewing a few concepts here and there, use their forms to express knowledge that would be palatable by even the greatest critics of those religions and their supporting texts. That is, if they could keep an open mind long enough to comprehend the artistry of such things. Those who outright reject religious teachings are guilty of the sin of anti-intellectualism. The only things we cannot learn from are those we have decided not to. Religions and their beliefs and parables and holy books are all goldmines of allegorical information. They are full of immense truths that are potentially meaningful to people of any belief system who are willing to go beyond the surface and find the poetry of truth that lies beneath.

While many social critics take every possible opportunity to lash out against religion, they fail to understand that their reactionary response differs little from those religious extremists and radical fundamentalists. Both groups want their truths served up in easy to swallow, bite-sized pieces. Both want to reduce everything to black-and-white absolutes in order to protect themselves from the uncertainty of our existence, a task which is foolish and impossible. Absolutism is the false-sense-of-security-blanket that fools swaddle themselves in to protect themselves from the imaginary monsters in their closets.

Religion is not the problem, authoritarianism is. Authoritarianism is the institutionalization of absolutes. No human tragedy seemingly born of religion has occurred outside the auspices of authority. The ideas of religion are only harmless when they are co-opted by authoritarians for maligned purposes. Discarding all human religious notions is not just throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Besides doing that, it discards the bathtub, and leaves us without an important vessel for cleansing ourselves in the healing waters of allegorical truth. Those who believe that the only meaningful truths are the literal ones are like existential whores who have forsaken bathing for a sickly overabundance of perfumes. When death removes the clothing of the ego and spreads the folds concealing our most intimate parts, eternity can smell right through us.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Employs Same Reasoning As Every Bigot In History

neil degrasse tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a household name. His is one of the most well known faces in the western world. He is an icon for those who prefer to get their understanding of science through television and internet memes and pop science tropes. People hold him and his word as final truths on just about any topic he speaks on, regardless of how little he knows about or understands it himself. He is the Jerry Falwell of Telescientism. An infallible demigod for the pious and faithful.

He also happens to be almost entirely full of shit. On a number of occasions he has made disparaging remarks about the discipline of philosophy, claiming that it is meaningless and unnecessary, in no uncertain terms. This is always done with the insinuation that science and empiricism are superior methods opposed to, and competing with, philosophy. So let’s talk about the first area where NdGT has no idea whatsoever what he is talking about.

The history of science clearly illustrates that empirical methodology emerged from philosophy itself. Science is just an extension or branch of philosophy. In fact, pioneers of science such as DaVinci referred to their discipline not as science, but as natural philosophy. Going back even further, it was Greek philosophers who brought to the western world the foundation of reason and logic upon which modern science eventually was formed. So to say that philosophy is in competition with, threatens or is opposed to science is like saying that ice is opposed to the water from which it formed.

In order to make any estimation of the value of science, one has to use the forms laid out by philosophy. The reason that we know the empirical method is meaningful and useful to begin with comes from premises that emerge from philosophical thought. Even further, for NdGT to make any statements about the relation of philosophy and science is itself a philosophical activity. His assertions have no basis in the empirical method whatsoever. They are philosophical statements, albeit, really low quality ones easily dismissed with simple logic. In fact, empiricism itself is unable to demonstrate the validity of empiricism. Therefore the mindless scientism, the idea that only science can provide meaningful answers about nature and reality, spouted by NdGT is self-refuting. Perhaps his real problem with philosophy is just that he is abysmally terrible at it.

Yet the biggest issue with the wonky worldview of NdGT and his followers is that they beat their fists on their pious pulpit dismissing metaphysics wholesale. Metaphysics is the philosophical study of what precedes, or lies below, physical phenomena. According to NdGT and his followers, philosophy and religion and everything besides science is just fluffy crap for scandalous metaphysicians, whose method they feel should be discarded entirely. Again, the irony is almost too much. NdGT does not eve recognize that his own worldview and the ideas he espouses are based on a metaphysical model. To say that nothing caused or is primary to physical phenomena is itself a metaphysical statement. Just a very naive and ignorant one.

The idea that the qualities of all physical phenomena are emergent properties of matter and physical states is the metaphysical position of physicalism, materialism or naturalism. NdGT’s espoused ideologies are all dependent on the superiority of this metaphysical premise. This makes him just as ideologically dangerous as religious figures who make pseudo-scientific claims. Claiming authority over ideas that one fails to understand their own self, while using their public position to spread these misguided dogmas, is exactly everything he claims to be opposed to.

The physicalist position is that a phenomena’s physical properties are the only ones worth considering. Physicalism is the idea that the entire truth of a thing rests solely on it’s measurable physical properties. This is, in fact, the same reasoning employed by every racist, sexist, homophobic and otherwise bigoted belief system ever. The Nazi scientists went to great lengths to attempt to illustrate the superiority of the Aryan descendants based solely on the physical differences between ‘races’. The most backward hillbilly klansmen similarly justify their own superiority via claims that the physical differences between ‘races’ define them. Every backwards thinking, arrogant and dogmatic bigotry in history was predicated upon the same physicalism that underlies NdGT’s entire ideology.

The persistent cultural ideology that this Telescientismist is a beacon and champion of human progress fails to recognize that he contributes almost more than any other living being (Go away, Bill Nye, nobody is talking to you.) to the greatest hurdle to scientific/human discovery and progress in modern times.

Physicalism is the geocentrism of our times. It impedes ideological progress both culturally and scientifically. An emerging paradigm of philosophers and scientists are beginning to reject that notion. These mavericks are pioneering new theories and models that are able to hold up to scientific scrutiny far better than physicalism, while also being more consistent with other methodologies like philosophy and psychology. While the public are still enraptured by the pervasive physicalism that has endured since the dawn of industrialism, the new ideas that lead to even greater human progress are under construction. People like NdGT are dangerous charlatans pinning people to the past and impeding the evolution of human civilization. And while he does so, strutting around with the self-assurance and conceit of a celebrity, he is profiting from and rubbing elbows with people (Koch brothers, FOXtv) whom his followers generally tend to be ideologically opposed to. NdGT stands for something in the public eye that he is not. He is not an anti-establisment champion of reason and progress, he is a spokesman for that establishments ideas and agendas, and a barricade against the reason and progress that would expose them.

It is time to stop putting Neil on a pedestal. He has not earned that position, nor is he using it to lead to the human and scientific progress that the people who put him on it claim to be seeking. It is not just that he is so completely and utterly full of shit, it is that he is a dangerous megalomaniac peddling garbage that reinforces the greatest threats to humanity.

The Problem of Predeterminism

From Wikipedia ‘Predeterminism’:

“Predeterminism is the idea that all events are determined in advance. Predeterminism is the philosophy that all events of history, past, present and future, have been already decided or are already known (by God, fate, or some other force), including human actions.”

The question of predeterminism is a very old one, prevalent throughout the history of philosophy, religion and science. In a general sense, the opposite of predeterminism is ‘free will’, which is the idea that individuals are capable of determining future events and making choices of their own agency and accord.

Through Catholicism the prevalent thinking in the western world was that man was given free will to exercise in all matters, whether or not they chose to exercise it. The Protestant movement through Calvin and other theologians marked the widespread rejection of free will and the advancement of predeterminist notions.

This thinking has been extended in the modern western world to even the secular worldviews in the forms of naturalism, physicalism, materialism and others. This is not the only example of Protestant beliefs creeping their way into secularism and science. For instance, the Big Bang is a repetition of the philosophy that the universe is mechanistic, linear, causal and has a finite beginning and end. For this reason, the Big Bang was rejected by scientists at the time of its inception for being too similar to Judeo-Christian theological notions. It was, in fact, a man of the clothe who originated the idea.

Scientistic materialism continues to rehash predeterministic notions even to this day. The fields of genetic biology and neurology are ripe with the idea that our every thought, perception, reaction and decision have been determined by forces independent of human consciousness itself. This thinking extends itself to the idea that human consciousness itself is nothing more than a circumstantial byproduct of material substances which were themselves the result of another coincidence, ad infinitum.

However, both the religious and scientific claims of predeterminism carry self refuting statements. For the religious, determinism endangers both the doctrines of faith and acts, for which all religions depend upon one or the other.

In science, determinism violates logical principles, the same logical principles that uphold the veracity of the scientific method. It is of little wonder that the adherents of determinism in either science or religion tend to be the most literal minded fanatics whose truths are often accompanied by hypocrisy. Predeterminsim is a toxic foundation for any ideology or worldview because of its inherent inconsistency, as we shall soon see.

The problem with predeterminism is that it is self-refuting. Whatever basis is used to make a claim of predeterminism would itself be rendered invalid by predeterminism. Predeterminism would become the cause of the claim itself. Let me be more specific.

In religion, faith and/or acts form the basis for salvation. Yet we must choose to act or have faith. This choice determines our eternal fate. However, if our lives are already written and known by a divine force prior to the creation of the universe, even our faith is predetermined and we are able to make no choices of our own agency or accord, even those of faith or deeds. This eliminates the entire purpose of religion, unless, we were to suppose that a God of infinite love and wisdom created the majority of people for no reason other than to experience eternal suffering or agony. I cannot take the suggestion of such an omnipotent sadistic force very seriously.

Scientifically, predeterminism is self-refuting in the following way. If our genetic and neurological patterns produce a consciousness determined by biology, than any claim to predeterminism would be said to originate from biology, and therefore it cannot be claimed that predeterminism has logical or empirical causation. If you say that our thoughts are caused by our physical bodies, then you cannot claim that the thought that predeterminism is correct is caused by anything except the same biology. Logic and empiricism are removed as factors by the necessities of predeterminism.

Simply put, if you believe that everything is predetermined, so is your belief. You can no longer claim that belief has a basis in rationale or faith. Predeterminism erodes faith and rationality equally alike. The fundamentalism of religion and materialism are products of the incongruency intrinsic to predeterminism. While both groups, the religious and the scientistic materialists, make radical claims that the other side is responsible for all that ails humanity; they may do much better to focus on their common problem, on that which they are both wrong. The problem of the world is not religion nor science, but the idea that our choices and agency are limited or do not exist, so that all the problems of the world become somebody else’s fault. We are crippled by the blindness and repetition allowed by a species who does not believe that individual responsibility or accountability are amongst the most meaningful values.