the Dao of Atheism :jeffers' petroglyph, pre-dakota, minnesota : the Shaman Atheist 11/81


Engine and alternator and U-joint and tires and accelerator and steering wheel and headlights and bucket seats
all together make a car,
but it is the space within
inside the empty seats
that makes it

Clay and glass and plastic are molded to create
jars and vases and cups and bags,
but it is the space inside
that is empty
that makes them

Houses and skyscrapers are built
and cut open with doors and windows
because it is the space inside
that is empty
that makes the buildings

Being and profit come from
what is there,
usefulness from
what is not.

In Europe, cultural homogeneity has been a religious as well as political goal. Since religious beliefs supported belief in the State itself, any and all religious dissent was declared a-theistic and eliminated. These theistic atheists were those who, like Socrates and the first Christians, pursued a thoughtful and spiritual life apart from the state religion. Later the term 'atheism' came to signify a codified form of religion antagonistic to the established privileged structures and apolitical mysticism.

Atheisms in both the East and West pursued the liberation of humanity from what it perceived to be a corruptive domination: Western atheism pursued liberation from socio-religious structure, while Eastern atheism pursued liberation from materialistic and relational attachment.
Regardless of the cultural source, the goal of every atheism is liberation. Agnosticism seeks to free the adherent from conflicting claims of knowledge, Buddhism seeks to free the adherent from ego attachment, Socrates sought to free his students from conventional thought, the early Christians sought to free adherents from mortal ideas of power, Marxists seek to free the masses from capitalist and class slavery, Freudians seek to free believers from childhood anxiety, American Atheists seek to free themselves from state religion, et cetera, et cetera.
In generic atheism there is no Other place or state to attain, no heaven, no nirvana, no satori, no grace, no cosmic awe. In atheism there is liberation from conventional religion, as in the West, and in atheism there is liberation from material attachment, as in the East. Each of us picks our own way to follow the path.

But there is utopia.

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