Saturday, December 26, 2009

Spiritual Atheists

Cārvāka (pronounced Charvaka) started the religion which came to bear his name, and we know of it (despite the fact that its literature has been lost to history) as a result of what their contemporaries (and mostly their opponents!) said about them. One of the earliest examples of Materialists that I've heard of, the Carvakans did not believe in anything that could not be sensed (seen, heard, touched, tasted, etc.). So, they did not believe in the myriad gods in the Indian Subcontinent. YET, this was their spiritual practice and a religion that lasted for centuries.

I find great spiritual challenge in depending on just myself, my own effort, and not surrendering my agency to some sky god.

It strikes me as weak to have to rely on some other-worldly power to solve my problems. I should solve my own, as must our society.

Aime Cesaire: "A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization.
A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization.
A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization."

In fact, in some ways even Yoga can be seen as "practically" speaking atheistic. Though the ultimate goal is union with the divine (Jesus called this either The Heavenly Kingdom or The Father), this divine is not necessarily worshipped or fetishized or even visualized, rather a kind of goal to be reached and something to be joined to (yoked to).

Buddha was quite clear on this issue. He said that the gods will not help you, in fact, even HE would not help you! It is up to your own effort. (This is represented in the Theravadan Tradition, but rejected by later Mahayanists who suggested there were Bodhisattvas that would help you and that you could pray to for help.)

Confucius in his time was in charge of the courtly rituals at the temple. This meant that on spiritual matters he would have been THE expert throughout the empire. Yet when his disciples approached him one day begging him to tell them about the gods and heaven, he reproached them suggesting, "You do not even know yourselves or how to treat one another and yet you ask about the gods. First learn how to live, let the heavens worry about itself!"

In Islam, they are iconoclastic because, they believe that no idol or icon could possibly depict the god (Allah) that is beyond this earthly world.

In Hinduism a distinction is made between the Saguna (w/ a face) and Nirguna (w/o a face) Brahman. That is, the god with a face (Saguna) such as an idol or a specific god itself like Krsna, was finally only representative of the ultimate god which has no face (Nirguna) nor even one particular identity (Brahman).

In Corinthians Paul came across an altar "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD". It is an altar to worship god, but that this god is not, presumably could not, be known!

Neo-atheist Christopher Hitchens challenges the apologists of theism: What is it that your religion tells you about living ethically that I shouldn't already know?! (Such as murder is wrong, etc. - I don't need a god or a religion to tell me that!)

In my own personal experience I've never known someone who claims to be an atheist to be sociopaths hellbent on anarchy! However, those who claim to be the most fervent can almost reliably exhibit delusional and psychopathic forms of violence. In fact, most atheists I know conclude that there probably is no higher power, because they have a very pronounced sense of justice, and feel that any higher power would be cruel to create such a horrific and arbitrarily unfair world. And they have trouble believing that a god worthy to be worshipped and praised cannot be so cruel as to allow such evil to persist and even flourish. Furthermore most followers of most religions give religions a disastrously bad name, reputation, and legacy (statistically a very bloody one!)

According to Yoga, the spiritual path is an individual and accountable one, where the adept must through his own effort, dedication, sincerity, and sacrifice must unite (or "yoke") with the divine. The so-called Neo-atheists do not disagree with this. In fact Sam Harris is clearly a crypto-Buddhist and somewhat explicitly suggest exactly such a yogic practice as a substitute to the delusional and violent religions we have inherited today.

-- The Brain Demon

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