Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On Atheist Belief...

In my World Religion Class we were told to write a paper on any topic related to religion in anyway. I chose Atheist belief for whatever reason. It's a rough draft and I feel as though it's not saying what I want it to say. In fact, at times I feel like it's saying things I DONT want it to say, but I figured I'd post it on here for the hell of it. It sucks that Blogger cannot copy and paste indentations, italics, bold-face and all that other cool shit, because I'm too lazy to go back into this and put them in there.

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Atheism is the disbelief in a God or all deities. People who hold these beliefs are known as Atheists. I would like to address the fact that I myself do not claim the label of Atheism, although the ideas and writings behind it all deeply fascinate me. I suppose society would label me as an "agnostic" due to the fact that I am very skeptical about most common religious belief, yet at the same time, I do not doubt the idea of a superior being. I have always felt a strong pull and fascination with most atheist writings and thinkers, because I myself am a factual and scientific thinker. This paper will cover the main ideas and famous figures behind what is now known as Atheism. I will briefly dig into the lives and famous ideas of writers such as Fredrick Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Karl Marx, and Richard Dawkins. Most people who hold these ideas are very proud of their ways of 'free-thinking', and the idea of having zero restrictions on the way that they live. Most atheists choose to defy any belief or institution that is designed in a way that restricts them intellectually. They believe that the following of such things will prevent them from creating their own ideas on what they believe to be considered truth.
The thought that God is merely an idea created by man to fall to in times of struggle or confusion, is relevant in all of atheist belief. Karl Marx once stated that "Religion is the Opium of the masses", which in his time, was a very controversial statement to make. Not many people in his times questioned faith or the ways of the Church. This statement alone went on to have a heavy impact on a new progressive way of thinking. What Marx is implying is that people tend to fall into this idea and delusional realm of what we call God, only to escape the reality of what is occurring in their personal lives. Religion (in his mind) is viewed as a drug, a crutch or an escape from what is real. The atheist also assumes that the belief in God is a diminishment on an individual's intelligence. They believe that the person who claims to be religious is significantly limiting his or herself from their full potential as a human being. Marx, a European writer, was one of the first to introduce these beliefs into the nineteenth-century. Marx is mainly known for his political and social writings, especially in his book The Communist Manifesto, which puts a very critical eye on how society truly functions and how it affects us as people. Marx gave socialism its intellectual respectability as well as its theoretical self-confidence.
Fredrick Nietzsche, son of a Lutheran pastor was a groundbreaking German philosopher in the late-nineteenth-century. As a child he was seen as a withdrawn yet deeply pensive person. He was an excellent student, and by the age of 14, he won a scholarship to Schulpforta, the most prestigious private school in Germany at that time. He took much influence from Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer had absolute faith in the nonexistence of God, and Nietzsche felt himself agreeing with all aspects of his writings. Nietzsche goes on to write books such as Thus Spoke Tharasutra, The Genealogy Of Morals, Beyond Good And Evil, Human, All-Too Human, and more. He led a very interesting life that seemed to be continually on the brink of insanity and mental-stability. He was a man who relied strictly upon himself and only himself, therefore leading himself into a life of mainly loneliness and despair. Although, this is seen in a negative light, I find something strangely honorable and admirable in the way he chose to live. Most would not only claim Nietzsche as an atheist, but also a nihilist. At times, he attempts to prove the idea that life is meaningless. His famous statement that "God is dead" resides in one of his fictional stories, in which mankind had successfully destroyed the idea of God from his mind and was finally able to live in peace. It is ideas like these that defined him as groundbreaking, yet incredibly controversial (even still to this day). His essays, novels and life story have had an immense amount of influence on modern belief and writings. It is important to state that although Nietzsche is seen as a sort of nihilistic, self-loathing, destructive figure, it is not exactly the case. In fact, I used to find incredible amounts of strength and self-reliance by reading his books. In 1870, he volunteered himself for service as a medical orderly in the Franco-Prussian war. Nietzsche also is known for the powerful quote of "Fear is the mother of morals", meaning that morals are only an imaginative idea created by man to prevent us from what we don't understand. He disbelieves in a divide between good and evil and believes in that an action is just an action, and has no moral substance of good or wrong. Nietzsche is seen as one of the world's deepest thinkers, yet in his time he was alone with most of his thoughts. He died in a hospital, deemed as clinically insane. This was soon after his release of his essay The Anti-Christ, which is one of the most aggressive attacks on all believers ever written.
Bertrand Russell, a more modern atheist thinker, is mostly well known for his essay titled Why I am Not A Christian. I will say that after reading Why I Am Not A Christian, I was not very impressed or substantially moved by his work. I felt that he did not bring in any new ideas to what has already been stated by previous writers, such as Nietzsche or Marx. Granted, he does write a bit more clearly and in a more simple form for the majority of common-people to grasp, I felt as though he did not break much ground or push any ideas further with the writing in this essay. However, there was one argument that Russell touches upon that caught my attention. In a section of his essay which is mainly an argument against Christianity's belief and worship of Jesus Christ, that there have been many other people throughout history that seem to have lived more humanly, generously and loving then Christ himself. He references the stories and lives of people such as Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa and others. Whether I choose to believe those statements or not, that portion of the essay remained to be the only part inspired from original thought, or something new that I had never heard before.
I think it is fair to say that Richard Dawkins is the most widely read and publicized atheist of today. His recent controversial and brain stimulating book The God Delusion has been burning in the spotlight for quite some time now. Dawkins is a pure scientist. In contrast to Nietzsche's philosophical style of writing, Dawkins constantly revolves around pure fact. Dawkins does a great job at taking old atheist belief, revising it and applying it to modern times. His book The God Delusion is deep and complex. He writes of quantum physics and other things that possibly only top scientists of the world may be able to fully comprehend. He speaks purely from an intellectual's standpoint and never from a spiritual standpoint. He is easily one of the major figures amongst today's atheists.
Okay, so…Why do non-believers seem to care so much of what someone else believes in? Why do these atheists feel the need to denounce other's belief in God? Do they hate seeing other people happy or comforted? The answer is not that easy. The common atheist would believe that supporting delusion or superstition over real truth and cold-hard fact is blasphemous and demeaning to mankind. The common atheist would believe that if all of man were to erase the idea of God from their minds, we as people would have the potential for something much greater, than what we already have. It is not a general feeling of meaninglessness or hopelessness. It is simply the fact that they believe mankind has not scratched the surface of his potential. When someone is completely devoted towards scientific fact and reason, and disregard all ideas of holiness and deem them as superstition, is where the atheist is born. Atheists will not devote their lives towards something that they do not know is certain. This leaves them with only one thing to believe in, and that is science and fact!
It is seen that over time, atheism has become more and more accepted by society, and is being more carefully considered amongst the common-people. Science has revealed an immense amount of new information over the past few decades that may take a lifetime for the common-man to truly understand. Atheism which used to be seen as a blasphemous and offensive way of thinking, is just now beginning to be viewed as what it truly is; the belief of pure fact and nothing more. There is nothing ignorant about that. In fact, it is the absolute opposite of ignorance.
No matter what someone believes or what is true, it is important to see that there is a general good in man, whether he or she decides to believe in a superior being or not. I know that someone can live peacefully and good, without the need to believe in a God. In fact, most atheists I have met over the years are some of the most morally straight and politically correct people I have met in my life. I've seen them organize events to give back to the community through fundraisers, and volunteer work. A lot of atheists I know promote equal rights for people of all backgrounds, lifestyles, and origins. A majority of them are vegetarian and/or vegan, with a strong belief in animal rights. This is very humble, and is all done without the belief of God. I believe that that says something.
On the other side of the fence, it's not rare to see communal money from a local church go towards the support of a political campaign against same-sex marriage, or abortion (this was just recently seen in California). These acts slowly chip away at an individual's right of free choice. It is actions like these that put Churches and religion as a whole, in a bad light. More importantly, Churches that promote these sorts of things are going against the original and underlying aspects of their religion; love and acceptance.
What does this all mean? Is there a progression through generations of tolerance and following of atheist belief? Will Nietzsche's idea of a world without the idea of God someday in the future truly exist? With both religion and science expanding rapidly in their own ways today, it is very hard to say. However, who is to say there will never be a day where both Science and Religion can walk hand in hand? Who is to say that a God does not defy Science? What if both the intellectual and spiritual realms of thinking merged into one another, to form one ultimate truth.
The underlying factor of being alive is to be good to people, as well as learn acceptance of others ideas and lifestyles. These factors are alive and well in both the ideas of theists and atheists. It's just a matter of reminding ourselves as people, that everyone has their own beliefs, and we individually, as well as communally, have to learn to respect each other (this does not mean by respecting someones beliefs we are adapting them as our own). I view the juxtaposition between atheism and theism to be incredibly mentally stimulating. As far as I can see, the debates between the two will continue on for some time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good, solid essay. brought up good, non-biased points. I enjoyed it.


Jess