27. The Paradox of Atheism

Atheism may seem infallible to many: it relies neither on a set of already established moral and social codes; it cannot be criticised for its inherent morality or immorality; it is subject to alteration and change; it does not abide by a codex of belief written thousands of years ago; it cannot find itself caught out of temporal context as religious beliefs can; it is not based in superstition, but on rational consideration. Despite this ‘infallibility’ however, aspects of its nature could be considered paradoxical.

Atheism as such, can be ascertained a direct product of religion. In fact, its existence is entirely dependent on religion. The inherent belief in the absence of an omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent God stems from a disagreement with the illustration of God defined, presented, illustrated by religion. This denying of God’s existence is thus, in itself, an absolute belief in religion itself — an atheist can be said to have such a faith in religion as illustrative of God and of God’s intentions, that he is wiling to reject the existence of God on the basis of religion’s faults and ultimately manipulative nature.

Of course, atheism exists in opposition to God as portrayed by religion, and yet it fundamentally finds its origin in the very religion it invalidates. In such a position, atheism is not the lack of belief in a God, it is the assertion of the inexistent nature of God. Therefore, it can be determined a faith in itself. The depiction of atheism as ultimately rational is in this sense fallacious: the inherent dependence of atheism upon religion transforms it into a belief system just as any other. Or so theists have put it.

Although this aspect of the nature of atheism seems absurdly contradictory upon first consideration, the relationship between atheism and religion is easily comparable to that between orthodox and revisionist historiographical interpretations. Of course, the revisionist view depends on the orthodox — the former exists as a mere result of the latter. But does this diminish its credibility? Surely, no.

This said, if atheism is veritably founded upon the belief that God is inexistent and that religion is therefore deceptive, a mere instrument for widespread social control, then why is it that religion is assumed to be a truthful depiction of God, proof of his inexistence?

Image: M.C. Escher, Relativity, 1953.

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One thought on “27. The Paradox of Atheism

  1. Very nice! Beliefs are beliefs, nothing more. To believe that God exists or to believe that God does not exist are both on the same footing in terms of them being beliefs, because neither can be substantiated. This is independent of the fact that humans have, from their very beginnings as thinking beings, believed a wide range of things, most of which could not and cannot be substantiated still. Does this prevent us from believing them? This is true today as it was 50 thousand years ago, although significantly less since we entered the scientific era of our evolution in which we generally tend to seek demonstrations and supporting facts. But while beliefs are just beliefs, all of them are influential on our behaviour and actions to different degrees, and some can lead to very good things, while others can lead to horrific deeds. I think it is most lucid to see this clearly and not give as much importance or weight to beliefs, other peoples beliefs as well as our own beliefs. They can be useful or detrimental, but if we keep our eyes clear, we will less often be prone to do stupid, hurtful, damaging things based on these beliefs, and, at the same time, be more flexible and intelligent in reshaping these beliefs when new, additional, more accurate information comes our way.

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