being a brief compilation of nontraditional & multicultural sources
regarding atheism according to Christianity, classical atheists,
liberation theology, and religious atheists
edited by tpkunesh

... the criticism of religion is the presupposition of all criticism.
- Karl Marx

Eco & Martini, Belief or Nonbelief? a confrontation One wonders occasionally whatever happened to the once audacious voices of American atheism like those of Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll. The best we have done in recent years was the late lamented Madalyn Murray O'Hair, that stalwart citizen who introduced the first successful legal complaint against school prayer. But O'Hair was hardly a credible tribune for nonbelievers. Her short, tumultuous public career succeeded mainly in demonstrating that in these matters stridency is no substitute for thoughtfulness.

- Harvey Cox, Professor of Divinity, Harvard University,
introduction (pp 12-13) to Umberto Eco and Cardinal Martini,
Belief or Nonbelief? a confrontation (Arcade: New York 2000)

preface


Typologies

WESTERN/Euro-American
Judaism
Classical Greece
Christianity
    Modern Christians on atheism
    Christian Atheism
    Liberation Theology
Islam
Inside modern atheisms
Atheism of Suspicion:
    psychology, economics, sociology
Academic study of atheism
Religious atheism

EASTERN
Daoism
Indian/Hindu philosophy
Confucianism
Buddhism

NATIVE American

AFRICAN

Definitions
modern Western Literature & atheism
Metaphors of atheism
contemporary Songs about atheism & religion

questions i've been working on:
Must an atheism actively & absolutely reject
    the existence of god/s to be atheism?

No. Neither daoism nor buddhism actively reject the existence of gods, and the first texts in these religions are silent on the issue of gods, yet both are considered to be atheistic religions. Atheism is living without gods, which also encompasses agnosticism as a passive form of atheism. Active and absolute rejection of gods is a positivistic belief and a tenet of militant anti-theism, not atheism.

Why is militant anti-theism so prevalent
    in the West but not the East?

Anti-theism, along with science, has offered the only bastions of freethought and active resistance to the 1,200 years of Christian philosophical and cultural hegemony in the West. Anti-theistic atheism can be considered reactionary in its attempts to remove from society what it considers to be a progressive theistic cancer in the human body politic that is naturally devoid of theism, or revolutionary in presuming that theism is inherent to the human animal of the past but not of the future.
Interestingly, one of the greatest reforms of Soviet anti-theism was once to be the active reconstruction of humanist gods (Lunacharsky's "God-building") for the new society that had been 'cleansed' of its old gods.

Can a Western atheist not deny the
    existence of god/s & remain atheist?

Yes. There have been many Western atheists - people referred to socially as "atheist" and legally defined as "atheist" and found guilty in civil courts of being "atheist" - in several generations (eg, attic Greece, imperial Rome, the Third-World of today's American empire) - who have actually affirmed the existence of god/s (but always deity/s different from the State's). Any Dictionary definition that doesn't make reference to these State-defined atheists is lacking historical context of the term and their ideological leanings should be questioned. And any anti-theistic atheist who rejects these historic facts and/or chooses to dismiss them does so either arbitrarily and capriciously or for their own personal political reason: to avoid having to deal with historic facts that do not fit the very tidy current definitions of atheism that are exclusive of god-believers.
- Secondly, definitions for gods change. Abstract concepts and ideals have frequently been - and are - gods. Human beings often say they believe in one or another god but by their actions appear to be either god-less or to worship gods other than the one/s in their churches. There is no inherent logical contradiction preventing an atheist from understanding the term "god" in the same way that the atheist understands an actor, a fictional character, fantasy beings, utopias, etc.
- Thirdly, rejection of the idea or reality of most gods' existence is more conclusively based on the lack of experience (empiricism) than through logical positivism which by itself cannot describe human reality muchless any other. Internal logical contradictions within religious stories indicate faulty logic in their conception or the superfluousness of logic in questions of human meaning.
- Fourthly, humans are continually hyper-valuing abstract ideals and material items as gods. Modern atheisms need to (1) acknowledge both the meaningfulness and existence of these idealized abstractions and material items, and (2) recognize their existence as gods to some people.
-In sum, there is no inherent contradiction to say that (1) i am atheist, and (2) i believe that other people have some pretty real gods, eg, sex, drugs, money, and (3) these things or ideals do exist as gods in contemporary society.

What good is atheism?
As a simple (ie, valueless) descriptor, atheism describes the original (by birth) and developed (by social conditioning or individual intellect) condition of people who live without gods.
As a social movement, atheism has promoted the use of reason in all forms of thought, attacked the irrational and merely popular beliefs that societies accrete over time, and promoted the separation of 'church' and state. It has also been the first term used to define "outlaw voices" - people whom the State defines as subversive to the common weal.
As a moral imperative, most atheisms assert that a person should live without gods. To do this effectively an atheist should learn and know about gods - both supernatural and material - and strive to eliminate such external idealizations in their lives. As the saying goes, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him".

What is the purpose of atheism?
Atheism exists (1) as a simple observation of human existence, ie, there is no empirical demonstration of god/s, there is/are no god/s inherent to a human being prior to enculturation, old gods die, gods are constructs of human imagination and serve human purposes such as legalistic justifications, social stratification, ethical mandates and escapes, etc; and (2) as a mission - to consciously live without god/s.
This latter purpose, living without god/s, is not frequently the subject of atheistic discussion.

Does atheism contain a moral imperative?
Yes: to live without gods.
But in order to live without gods, an atheist needs to make an informed decision regarding the type and relative social importance of the gods s/he lives without.

What are god/s that an atheist lives without?
No atheist is really concerned with being atheist to 'dead' gods like Zeus, Isis or Janus, or to 'living' gods in foreign cultures that have little to no impact on an individual atheist's local existence. Conversely, all atheists acknowledge/recognize the prevalent god/s of their own culture ...

Are atheists morally defective?
For rhetorical purposes Blaise Pascal created a person who would argue, "I ... am so made that I cannot believe." origin of morals, origin of religion "lack" of physical ability does not in any way indicate intellectual deprivation. Is a blind person morally defective?

Is lack of knowledge of god/s' existence
    agnosticism or atheism?

Yes. Same thing. Most Western atheists are like most contemporary Western theists (primarily Protestant Christians) who assert that beliefs take rational authority over observed/practiced/physical reality. Agnostic "lack of knowledge of gods" and atheistic "denial of gods' existence" are diverse as intellectual thoughts, but result in the same everyday practical absence: no god/s. (BTW, an agnostic does not necessarily believe that "it is impossible to know" whether god/s exist or not, just that s/he does not have sufficient information on which to make such a determination. -Some- agnostics may believe "it is impossible to know", but not all.) It is assumed here that a practiced atheism - agnostic or antitheist or whatever - is superor to a True Atheistic DisBelief any day.

Are the two concepts - agnosticism and atheism -
    mutually exclusive?

No. Consider the class and political differences between the usage of each word. Huxley created the word "agnostic" in order to have his own religious handle to bandy about in his upperclass London clubs that wouldn't offend or be as confrontive as "atheist", whereas the word "atheist" has always been a political tool to alienate religious outlaws and as a revolutionary call to arms against the State(-as-God).
Agnostics believe in as many gods as do atheists (ie, zero), and both "live without gods", leaving one to surmise that, for all practical purposes, they are effectively equivalent in all but social and philosophical usage.

Is humanism inherently anti-theistic?
No. It's actually inherently theistic. Beyond its pro-human, anti-god rationalism is an ideology of human superiority and deification. It makes no difference whether it's religious humanism or secular humanism, it's still idealization of the homo sapiens species. Several examples of positivist humanist religionists are Comte, Lunacharsky, the Black Square.

What is a "Dictionary Atheist"?
Many contemporary atheists, lacking a background in religious studies and without an established atheist community that instructs new atheists in phenomenology and history, seek justification for their atheistic 'faith' in simple logic and in even more simplistic dictionary definitions of atheism, believing that The Dictionary is the first and final prescriber of the atheist way of being. Atheists, especially new ones, who resort to The Dictionary as an intellectual shortcut for a description of the phenomenon of atheism are called "Dictionary Atheists".
The problems with using The Dictionary to define atheism are several.
Firstly, the phenomenon of atheism cannnot be confined to particular historical or cultural forms, ie, the most accurate definition of atheism should include all historic incidents of the term. Such a definition would necessarily refer to the term "atheist" as found among and within: the great religions of the East - daoism, charwaka hinudism, and buddhism; early 'classical' Greek materialists as well as its legal use by the Attic and Roman states to execute theists like Socrates and early Christians; 18th- to 20th-century rationalists, humanists, scientists; 20th-century Christian theologians both in the Death of God movement and in Latin American liberation theology; Native American Secondly, dictionary definitions proffer 'atheism' almost exclusively as a philosophy from which atheist (and theist) neophytes habitually attempt logical assaults on what is a much broader social phenomenon. As the Atheist Web explains, "logical reasoning is not an absolute law which governs the universe" and "logic is not a set of rules which govern human behavior." There can be no logical contradiction in nature or in fact, but dictionaries rarely if ever present the natural or factual occurrences of atheism.
Thirdly, all dictionaries are limited by their desire for brevity and by the ideologies of their staff in their descriptions of any specific term. The vast majority of dictionaries in the West have had an inherent historical ideological leaning towards theism and the state, making their definitions of any word that is not supportive of these institutions suspect. (For a demonstration of these biases, compare the definitions of 'anarchism', 'atheism' and 'communism' in popular dictionaries from different time periods with their definitions by contemporary ideological supporters. Also consider the current (1999-2000) battle over the definition of the word 'marriage' in the US states of California, Hawaii and Vermont.)

How can there be "religious" atheists?
- Consider the group called the Sea of Faith - cultural Christians living in a post-christian world, who find meaning in christian culture, but not inerrant truth in its writings nor its beliefs. The Sea of Faith people believe the Western judeo-christian God to be a human construct ... but the religion and broader culture built around that god to be still meaningful in their lives and others around them.
Consider the main character in Miguel de Unamuno's short novel, San Manuel Bueno, mártir (Madrid 1933) : Father Manuel, a Roman Catholic priest taking care of the people in a small remote spanish village, but without faith in anything but this world ... a Catholic atheist.
Consider Altizer's Radical Theology and the Death of God (1966), Bloch's Atheism in Christianity (1968), Kolenda's Religion without God (1976), Pérez-Esclarín's Atheism and liberation (1978), Apostel, Pinxten et al's Religious atheism? (1982). Add in daoism and buddhism and forms of hinduism for the eastern variety of religious atheists.
Frequently the atheistic admonition "to live without gods" is translated to mean "to live without religion" as well, given that gods are always coterminous with religions. The mental conflict in the West arises as people of the West, indoctrinated for two millenia in the identity equation "Religion = God (= State)", believe that religions require the presence of deity and the supernatural, whereas the ancient religions of the East and the modern religions of the West have none.

Is there any common ideal shared in both atheism and theism?
- Currently the most outspoken critic of the growing materialism of the West is theism. The eastern religious atheisms daoism and buddhism both criticize attachment to things of the world, but Western anti-theistic atheism has been a significant promoter of both scientific and capitalist materialism. ...

Is there such a thing as "atheist spirituality"?
"We Believe In The God That People Who Don't Believe In God Believe In" - Rev. Billy's Church of Stop Shopping http://www.revbilly.com

"American cities are a spiritual wasteland."
"The cities of America are in spiritual shambles [and] are moral war zones."
Do American atheists believe this? Is this what American atheists want?

What do atheists think and do about social justice? Who teaches atheism? - Michael Buckley SJ, Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley CA, 1986, "The Rise and Meaning of Modern Atheism" Atheism 101 http://www.ascensionchurch.org/LightSalt/RandomWalk/rw004.htm Ewing, Katherine. 1994. "Dreams from a Saint: Anthropological Atheism and the Temptation to Believe." American Anthropologist 96:571-583. Who preaches atheism? What is a god? A god is an idealized human being, human characteristic or human creation to which is attributed with super-human powers of giving meaning to human existence. Examples of gods are Jesus, Muhammad, Yahweh, Allah, political power, the State, money, sex, drugs. What is The Ultimate or God The meaning of being human The problem of suffering, esp. innocent suffering Salvation or Liberation



...      indicates work in progress.


revised 13 mar 00 (created 1jun1996)     |     comments on this site? tpkunesh@atheisms.info

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  • site author: thomas peter kunesh tpkunesh@chattanooga.net
    Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with minors in Religious Studies & Foreign Studies, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 1983
    Master of Arts in Religious Studies, minor in Art History, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 1990
    Master of Divinity, Starr King School for the Ministry, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California 1988
    One of 13 siblings; graduate of Cathedral High School, St Cloud, Minnesota; Russian & Farsi linguist in the U.S. Navy after the Shah fell; attended the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, University of Minnesota, Fundación José Ortega y Gasset in Toledo; L'Abri in Huémoz, Switzerland; graduate research in Paris; campus minister at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; monthly minister at the Willmar Unitarian Church, Minnesota; director of religious education at the Michael Servetus Unitarian Society, Fridley MN & Chattanooga Unitarian Universalist Church. Currently teaching Native American religions (and Spanish soon) at the University of Tennessee at Chatttanooga and Council member of the Chattanooga InterTribal Association.