Beyond Disbelief


Atheism as a label is important, no doubt, as it is in essence a confrontational term in reaction to theism, that is, a belief in god or gods. Thus many people who associate themselves with atheism do so only when they are required to confront with the positive claim, for example, when asked whether he or she believes in a supreme deity. What atheism (with the exception of strong atheism) is not, however, is a position bearing any positive assertion, and so you can say nothing more than that which you deny, just as “unemployed” is not an occupation per se, simply an honest statement of the lack thereof.

I urge almost priestly the need to go beyond disbelief; that atheism should not be seen as an endpoint in itself, and that those still attached to the label do not think it justified to presume intellectual superiority over their dissenters. Am I wrong to say that we can at present know with no certainty that no supreme being exists, in any form, or that those who appertain to a philosophy which expresses obstinately as regards the question, be it the unflagging dogmatist carrying the man-made emblem of his denomination, or perversely the fundamentally positive atheist (as opposed to those assuming the null-hypothesis out of necessity), commits equally the error of mistaking doubt for certain weakness? Our lack of knowledge forbids us from making any claim of certainty beyond the realm of reason, and even reason itself is not immune to critique. This to me encapsulates what I find is fundamentally wrong with faith; it is the slavish willingness of its champions to act with confidence in ways not defendable by reason, a confidence which allows them then to heighten their faith so shamelessly to a level of immunity from critical evaluation. Indeed no person who understands the greatness of doubt could assume, with sincerity, a position that relinquishes opportunity for said doubt, therefore the fundamentally religious person and the fundamental disbeliever are both guilty of the same offence.

The positions laid out above supersede the basic question of the existence of god. In order to advance beyond disbelief, this question itself must come under scrutiny, because, although assumed important by many with a disposition to confidence, we of a doubtful kind must not prevent ourselves to question its synthetic relevancy in the formation of our personal philosophy. To give an example, anyone committed to the humanistic task of improving the welfare of life may find that, to this end, disbelief itself must still be extended to nobler aims; he may understand that if disbelief forms the parentage of his philosophy, it cannot too be its own offspring. As a matter of fact, in humanistic considerations the existence of god would appear a non-issue altogether, for as history shows, human suffering has always persisted regardless of divine presence, often affecting indiscriminately both the believer and the infidel alike, and therefore all problems regarding our present and future condition must still be negotiated at the level of humanity, as opposed to that of the divine. Such reasoning would suggest the question of god’s existence as entirely irrelevant in humanistic matters, at least as far as we can establish by our past experience. So that to a disbelieving person in possession of such perspective, the question of god’s existence becomes to him no longer a requisite, but a continual distraction, and an ageless hindrance, to the detriment of his newfound ‘religion’ of humanity.

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