Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
Before we can delve into various world religions and belief systems, it would seem most reasonable for us to first address the prospect of the non-existence of God or gods. In light of determining what is true as we seek for answers, we must include the notion that God may not even exist. With this as a starting point we will need to determine, based on what we can gather, analyze, test and verify, whether we can reasonably conclude that we can move forward beyond this point in our quest. So, we first begin with the concept of no God, commonly referred to as "atheism". For some atheism is a belief system. For others it represents no belief system at all.
Atheism today is often defined as not believing there is a god, or not believing in God, and atheists as those who deny God exists. It is not unusual for such individuals whom adhere to this definition to do so based on, in their mind, intellectual grounds. They consider a belief and a faith in God, or in a god, to be based on ignorance and that such belief is for the simple minded, the emotionally needy or those who have not achieved a higher level of criticism, education or culture. For those individuals who view themselves as of an academic mind, having achieved a further scholastic level of knowledge, understanding and enlightenment, religion is relegated to the realms of fairy tales, fiction, superstition, manmade population control, foolishness and the like.
Others reject the idea of a God based on personal grounds. The notion being that if there was a God, He wouldn't allow such misery and suffering, evil and wickedness in the world. And since we have those things, then there must not be some loving God "out there." Our imperfect world demonstrates the non-existence of a perfect God.
This was the stumbling block for Albert Einstein. He stated himself he did not believe in a "personal" God, mainly due to this "belief". In developing the theory of relativity, Einstein understood that his equations could only lead to one conclusion... if there was an initial beginning, then there was a God who created that beginning. That idea he didn't like so he added a cosmological constant to his calculation in the attempt to rid himself of this initial beginning. An action he later said was one of the worst mistakes of his life. Later it would be confirmed that the universe was in fact expanding and did have a beginning at one point. This is something atheists are still in denial over and evolutionists can't adequately explain. Einstein went from atheist to deist.
"I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings."
The second part of his comment actually reveals his reasons for rejecting a personal God. He could not get past seeing the harmony and beauty of creation and then attempt to reconcile that with the evil and suffering he saw in humanity. How could an all-powerful God allow this?
This is often the issue with atheists and agnostics who may reject a personal God (it is more often than not, the Christian God), and for them proof that God does not exist. Yet, as brilliant a man as Einstein was (and many atheists truly are), somehow he was not able to comprehend the simple answers to this. Answers we will walk through in another part of our journey.
There are those that do not believe in the existence of God. Others that feel God is the creative product of man, with religion established for the weak and ignorant. Fairy tales and myths of the superstitious. Some believe that we are the product of natural evolution. No soul, no afterlife, no future, just now. We live, we die and then nothing. Others have faith only in themselves, in their abilities, their own strength, wisdom and power, and do I dare say "pride". Yet, others who worship nature, Mother Earth and Sister Sky. Then there are individuals that believe God exists, as well as those who believe all faiths teach the same thing with all roads leading to the same God.
But what are these statement based upon? What facts can be pointed to, if any?
Are these subjective truths, each one having equal merit? Or, can we find objective truth and facts that will direct us to a final answer?
Which is right? Which is correct? Is there only one truth?
Yikes! So many questions to address. I'm sure you have a few of your own as well.
The fun is about to begin, so let's get on with it then!
It must be noted that there actually exists two definitions for atheism. The second is one that is less often used but rather preferred by a growing number of atheists themselves. This being the absence of theism, with theism being defined as a belief in the existence of God. Therefore, it is stressed that an atheist is one that basically has an absence of a belief in God and in rejecting any theistic belief system. With no theistic viewpoint, there is no view of God. Simply put, atheism attempts to be neutral, having neither a belief system in God, nor being guilty of having a belief system that says there is no God. Once you do have a belief system, you are then placed in a position to demonstrate its validity. Atheists do not want to be subjected to proving there is no God, so we will walk through the exercise for them.
To better understand this view we defer to noted atheists themselves who have expressed their views:
B.C. Johnson, author of The Atheist Debater's Handbook, states that:
"The atheist, for his part, does not necessarily offer an explanation; he simply does not accept the theist's explanation. Therefore, the atheist need only demonstrate that the theist has failed to justify his position."
Dan Barker, a former fundamentalist preacher who became an activist for atheism, as well as for the separation of church and state, wrote in his book, Losing Faith in Faith; From Preacher to Atheist:
"It turns out that the word atheism means much less than I had thought. It is merely the lack of theism [...] Basic atheism is not a belief, it is the lack of belief. There is a difference between believing there is no god and not believing there is a god - both are atheistic, though popular usage has ignored the latter [...]."
Anthony G.H. Flew, An atheist philosopher from Britain, said that ".... nowadays the usual meaning of "atheist" in English is "someone who asserts there is no such being as God." I want the word to be understood not positively but negatively. I want the originally Greek prefix "a" to be read in the same way in "atheist" as it customarily is read in such other Greco-English words as "amoral", "atypical", and "asymmetrical". In this interpretation an atheist becomes: someone who is simply not a theist."
George Smith, author of the book, Atheism: The Case Against God, had this to say:
"Atheism, properly considered, is simply the absence or lack of theistic belief... you will often hear it said that an atheist actually denies the existence of a god or gods. This is true; many atheists do but not all. This kind of overt denial of the existence of a god or gods is a sub-category of a broader kind of approach, which should in a general sense be known as atheism. This gets quite complex to go into all of the reasons why some atheists would not wish to deny that any gods exist."
(This raises the question as to why it is so complex for atheists. We'll look into it later.)
Gordon Stein, described atheism in his, An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism, in this way:
"The average theologian, (there are exceptions, of course) uses "atheist" to mean a person who denies the existence of a God. Even an atheist would agree that some atheists (a small minority) would fit this definition. However, most atheists would strongly dispute the adequacy of this definition. Rather, they would hold that an atheist is a person without a belief in God. The distinction is small (no kidding) but important. Denying something means that you have knowledge of what it is that you are being asked to affirm, but that you have rejected that particular concept. To be without a belief in God merely means that the term "god" has no importance, or possibly no meaning to you. Belief in God is not a factor in your life. Surely this is quite different from denying the existence of God. Atheism is not a belief as such. It is the lack of belief."
"When we examine the components of the word "atheism", we can see this distinction more clearly. The word is made up of "a-" and "-theism". Theism, we will all agree, is a belief in a God or gods. The prefix "a-" can mean "not" (or "no") or "without". If it means "not", then we have as an atheist someone who is not a theist (i.e. someone who does not have a belief in a God or gods.) If it means "without", then an atheist is someone without theism, or without a belief in God".
Valerii A. Kuvakin, in his book, In Search of our Humanity:
"Atheism .... goes back to the ancient Greek (a - a negative prefix, theos - god), evidencing the antiquity of the outlook of those who saw no presence of God (or gods) in their everyday lives, or who even denied the very existence of God (or gods). There are different types of atheism, but atheism in one form or another has existed in every civilization ..."
Allow me to interject here that the statement "every civilization" is not an accurate one. Especially since Valerii himself states that atheism, or at least the definition of it, goes back to the ancient Greeks. Hardly the first civilization on earth, and contrary to written history. This is a subject we will be covering. He continues:
".. It is wrong to identify an atheist as one who denies God, though this is what opponents of atheism usually claim.... I would like to stress that the prefix "a-" does not necessarily mean rejection. It can mean "absence of". For example, "apathy" means "absence of passion."
Please note what is being offered here as a basis for atheism. It is not due to any facts or gained knowledge, but primarily apathy, or lack of passion on the individual. This is hardly a good reason to believe or not believe in something, let alone determining one's eternal destiny.
Let us quickly review the key points being stated by these men.
First, the atheist does not need to offer any explanation for their position, but only reject a theist's, or believer's explanation. An atheist only needs to demonstrate that a theist has failed to justify (defend, validate, give good reason) their position. Good luck finding any who will ever concede that a theist has made any valid point. This would surely be subjective on their part for it is wholly based on whether that atheist has been moved or swayed. Or, how they felt the poor individual did in supporting their view. And it must be noted that atheists are atheists for a reason, for most view the subject of God as not relevant, and most do not want to be bothered with the notion of a god that can interfere with their lives.
They reject God for their conscience sake. Interestingly, what atheists expect from a theist they don't require of themselves. They neither apply the very same criteria, nor feel a need to do so. In fact, atheists overall seem to appear apathetic.
Second, an atheist is simply someone who is not a theist. They are individuals who have an absence of a belief in God. This is, according to them, to be differentiated from having a belief in no God. There is much focus on the "a" found in the word "a" theist to stress this point.
Third, to be without a belief in God merely means that the term "god" has no importance, or possibly no meaning to the individual. Belief in God is not a factor in their life.
Although it would initially seem that the atheistic concept would be a simple one, we find that it is not. In fact, George Smith said so much in his earlier comment, "This gets quite complex to go into all of the reasons why some atheists would not wish to deny that any gods exits."
One needs to ask "Why is it complex?" and "Why would an atheist not wish to deny God's existence?"
You see, to be able to state unequivocally that there is no God, an individual would have to know all that there is to know. Have been every place that one can go. Attained all the knowledge there is to attain. Explored the various dimensions of time, matter and space, in order to be able to make a statement such as this.
In other words, this person would have had to go to the furthest reaches of our universe, existed since the dawn of time and learned all that can be learned to say this with 100% authority and accuracy. And if one could, then that person would be God, yet no one is breaking the door down to hail, "You are God." Even the most conceited, self absorbed, prideful, hardheaded person would have to concede that of all the knowledge there is to possess, it is possible there might be yet 1% they don't know (though some would swear they know everything). And in doing so, would have to honestly acknowledge the possibility that God might exist in that one percent. No true, rational, reasonable intellectual would say otherwise.
So, if by example, an individual could take the circle above and color in how much knowledge they possessed of all that one can possibly acquire, how much of the circle would be colored in? Would it be 3%? A generous 40%?
If the whole circle cannot be colored in, and only a fool would claim to be able to do so, then a person would have to concede that the door is open to the possibility that there is a God, or gods. It's just possible we have not gained that knowledge, information or understanding yet. Or have we? In acknowledging this inability to color in the whole circle, that person has moved from being a self-proclaimed atheist to the more reasonable position of an agnostic. Agnostics are at least willing to admit to the possibility. The point is this, holding to this position would be doing so by ignoring its shortcomings. Willful ignorance does not do away with reality or truth. It only hides from, or avoids it altogether.
TRUTH STATEMENT - Atheism has not brought us to a reasonable, sound conclusion on the non-existence of God. It does not attempt to present anything to demonstrate that believing in the existence of God is not without merit. Nor can it prove otherwise. Atheism has nothing to offer. It offers no answers, no solutions, no facts to be examined or contested. It draws no reasonable conclusions, nor has determined any truths. Rather, it demonstrates willful ignorance, rebellion, pride and a surprisingly shallow, intellectual approach to life and any eternity that may exist.
It is found wanting and empty. Any reality of God is an "inconvenient truth."
We see then that there remains the plausibility that God could exist, and so we must press forward in the attempt to gather more information with which we can analyze and evaluate, for we find none available in this camp.