Religion, visions of a ghostseer, and the double whammy of metaphysical beliefs…
April 14th, 2018 •
We discussed this article from alternet in the previous post: here we can examine the issue of religion and the new atheists. In fact we have discussed the issue here many times since 2005/2008: http://darwiniana.com/?s=new+atheism and many posts on religion: http://darwiniana.com/?s=religion
The rise of modern atheism is a classic aspect of the reformation, but enters a new phase in the post-hegelian era of feuerbach and the rise of secular humanism which prefigures in some ways the confusions of the new atheists.
One of the strangest muddles of the new atheists lies in their inability to distinguish religion in general from monotheism and a failure to consider the complicated history and diversity of ‘religion’. What does the term mean? We can’t just indulge in blanket rejection of ‘religion’ taken in general and never really defined. Further we can confuse religion with all forms of spiritual belief. We can reject ‘a’ religion or even all religions but that is not the same as rejecting all spiritual belief, e.g. beliefs in a spiritual realm, an after life, a soul, and the question of ‘god’. Atheism has modern momentum because monotheism rapidly became flawed by set of superstitions about ‘god’, pop theism. It is significant, as with the IHVH glyph, that many traditions warn of the abuse of ‘god’ reference and judaism/christianity/islam perpetrate an immense confusion about ‘god’. That is in many ways the strength of modern atheism, if not the ‘new atheism’ of the harris/dawkins/hitchens brands. A close study of a figure like kant might have saved secular humanism from its dogmatism, and its complete rejection of all spiritual beliefs: a new metaphysics of scientism has replaced the older metaphysical systems of philosophy, religion, etc… We should also note both hegel and schopenhauer, the first often charged with atheism despite his musings on ‘geist’, the second a definite atheist but with ‘spiritual’ beliefs as the Will in nature. A close look at early christianity suggests some primordial indic schopenhauer repackaged the indic ‘samkhya’ with a ‘god wrapper’, the cosmic triad became the Will of God. clever legerdemain.
A simple question confounds all parties, point blank, full stop: do ghosts exist? The answer is neither yes nor no but, we don’t know. Kant’s classic opener was his Visions of a Ghostseer (some demand if be called Dreams of a Spirit Seer) as the epistemology of spiritual metaphysics came to a kind of climatic moment of faith/skepticism. Here emerges the issue of faith, not christian faith, or faith in god, but an experimental/hypothetical adoption of particular beliefs, often spiritual beliefs. We can be atheists, yet have spiritual beliefs, like the buddhists, of many kinds. The tibetan book of the dead purports to break the ‘death barrier’ as a witness to the beyond, but nothing of what they said about the bardo has a true basis as factual knowledge. But such beliefs are a different kind of religious belief, but there is no reason why such beliefs ought to be banished from secularism. Such a proposal would be self-defeating despite the adamant denial of beliefs in ghost/souls/bardo states by scientists. Where’s the proof works both ways as a new form of scientific faith comes into existence…Let us note in passing that the true founder of darwinism, Alfred Wallace, came to believe in ghosts, which can’t evolve by natural selection.
The failure of the new atheists to consider the issue of religion in history further undermines their branded atheism. In a very strange set of ironies the realm of polytheism suddenly seems to make more sense than the confused monotheism that came to replace it, a statement to be taken on provision (not that again!), ‘gods’ exist in some realm of higher nature while ‘god’ purports to be beyond nature or existence (???): the buddha gautama insisted on the reality of a god realm, taken in a rational and quite unworshipful sense. Could he prove it? Does his claim for enlightenment override rational skepticism? We don’t know, but many take his assertions on faith.
Let us note the issue of the axial age and its demonstration of the epochal transformations of religion in world history. We can’t lump together all the religions since the paleolthic and reject them out of hand without study as religious archaeology. And in the end the modern secular era is itself a kind of ‘age of revelation’ (being quite wary of such language) from the perspective of religious history and/or our eonic model. Just as buddhism and monotheism were axial age ‘reformations’ so the modern reformation arises promptly in a new epochal shift, one that produces early modern atheism.
The problem with atheism is the inability to define the ‘god that doesn’t exist’: they win all the battles about ‘god’ superstitions, but lose the war because the nature of ‘god’ remains mysterious, and may not have anything to do with ‘existence’ as cosmic personality, the one-god (male) pantheon. Atheists right in their disbelief in this sense but then founder in the larger confusions of (a post-theistic) ‘god’.
Finally, we should consider whether ill-conceived notions/brands of ‘atheism’ aren’t simply prolonging the reign of the axial era religions: the views of the new atheists are so narrow as to make a religious perspective the last refuge for, well, beliefs in ghosts!! A muddle over spirits from the dawn of homo sapiens, the chronic ghostseer. Must be a species characteristic.
Modern secularists need to do better than the ‘new atheism’…
We haven’t discussed the issue of bible belt christianity, as in the alternet article: we must note that ‘religions’ remorph and change and the conservatized brands of historical christianity are often deviations. Also reformation christianity had capitalist and communist brands! the deviated bible belt fundamentalism shows christianity in decline…we might discuss this further later…