★ God Is Not Dead ★ Of God and Atheisms ★ A Lighthouse in a Storm ★
I believe wholeheartedly religion and myth provide immeasurable value to the individual and society, regardless of the belief systems in place. As science seemingly outpaces religion’s ability to explain the universe, its influence on society is waning and this is responsible for much of the demoralization we see today. It seems there are too many people out there who hold nothing sacred, except perhaps their own reflection or accumulated material wealth.
This is the first of a three part series, in which I hope to convince you that religion is more relevant than ever in the 21st century. Its resurgeance is powered by the need for various roles left unfulfilled by science and magnified by the instability of its ever-shifting basis. Modern societies construct a common foundation from scientific ideas from which we extrapolate other ideas, including policy decisions. Because of these increasingly unsteady grounds, it’s clear we’re winding further down into nihilism, against which Nietzsche envisioned our eventual travail.
Our impending departure towards the singularity precipitates unparalleled capacity for processing and storing information. This spirals into self-reducing metaphysical accretion, propelling us towards transcendence. Each discovered symmetry compresses its complexity, folding the structure back onto itself, thus amplifying angular momentum. It’s closure expands, manifesting more exotic immaterial as precocious condensation, shimmering briefly around the horizon. These flecks flare inwards, their descent into assimilation protracted into an irridescent halo, as if a pulsar of pure glitter wandered too close to a black hole.
Anchored to the material realm, this nebulous approximation of the preeminent metaphysical is the universe virtualizing a reflection of it’s own unreachable metaphysical forms. If the significance behind the evolution of life was partly so the universe could observe it’s own beauty, then the following completes a profound trifecta. It is only possible for the universe to virtualize an approximated reflection of its complete metaphysical forms if, first, it produces an awareness of its material realm. And secondly, that awareness must also develop enough mastery over a partial set of those metaphysical forms. And, finally, if that awareness develops sufficient cognizance of the metaphysical laws of physics to be capable of transfiguring the material realm to maximize information processing, then at last, the universe can totally virtualize itself within itself. Turtles all the way down.
And finally, that astral vortex can accelerate towards eternal convergence with the all-encompassing and innumerably complex metaphysical representation of the entireity of existence, including its infinite self-convolutions. There is only one metaphysical omneity towards which to converge. And this single, realized artificial übermenschlich entity – to clarify – will pale in comparison to my notion of God. But, it is an undeniably powerful convergent being birthed by technology, that circumvents the need for faith which Nietzsche noticed as waning in the age of science. Therefore:
God Is NOT Dead!
Yet, I’m wary of the arguments above – first of all, I don’t believe faith is precluded – as I don’t want people blindly chasing some artificial entity as though it were God or forget that technology has consequences when implemented without forethought or patience. Maybe that sounds ironic coming from me, but look at where I am in life. Please, tell me how my skills and muse deserve to be so poorly positioned. The truth is, the more life sought my diminishment, the hotter my passion burned to share my creativity.
As I will continue to demonstrate in this article, there are a plethora of more appealing arguments indicating that religion will regain prominence. The exponential progress wherein science contributed so greatly then yields subsequent generations more vulnerable to detachment from previous generations. The fabric holding us together begins to fray, weakening interpersonal and interfamily support networks. And each decade that goes by, fewer cultural artifacts remain steady and most evolve or dissipate with technology. Furthermore, the more visibly changes take place, the less we pay attention to everything that remains steady. For things that shift beneath our feet, resulting in negative change at a slow rate, we may not notice until it’s too late.
I don’t mean to completely attack atheism, as it doesn’t do anything wrong. Nor do most non-political atheists. It is that we are in dire need of stable social structures over the next twenty years. We cannot count on the government first to fulfill these needs for us. There has been a ton of progress on the social front over the past few years.
Science is just as vulnerable to manipulation as any human institution, perhaps moreso because it doesn’t have a permanent foundation. Science is amazing for explaining the material world, but that’s just about it. It easily describes human and social behavior, but provides no mechanism for accumulating transgenerational knowledge or embuing ethics in our youth. Instead, in the place of no other mechanism, this is left almost entirely to our education system, which is so busy teaching to the test that it, in many cases, doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to fulfill that need. IMO, it’s frustrating that religious schools are mostly only available for wealthy families, although I’m not sure how to work the legal logistics fairly on that one.
It turned out Nietzche feared nihilism as much as I. His work covered the creeping nihilism encroaching on Western society, as God’s impending “death” drew nearer. However, I feel Nietzche jumped the gun on this. Here are a few articles that further describe the metaphysical ideas above.
In this part, I make an argument for religion’s value and ask how atheism fulfills its roles. I understand that atheism’s fulfillment of the social responsibilities of an ideology are possible. Yet, since it is defined as the absence of religion and mostly decentralized, atheism doesn’t actually have any embedded mechanisms for passing knowledge through ten or more generations. So, yes, it is possible for other cultural mechanisms besides the non-ideology of atheism to incidentally fulfill that role. I also compare atheism to the inversion of religion, instead of the absence of it. In the second part, I refute a few common arguments of atheism. In the final part, I describe some of my own religious or spiritual beliefs. To clarify, I don’t think atheism is inherently wrong. People are free to choose for themselves, obviously. I just think believe it to be a short-sighted ideology.
Obviously, humanity has struggled to define the world for tens of thousands of years. Mythology and religion enable us to piece together a more robust frame. Often, detractors point out that elements of a story are logically fallible. Yet, These critics miss the mark: these stories attempt to explain the what and how in the world, but lose power when interpreted using a singular, literal interpretation. That said, to those with a strict religious background, some of these arguments could be offensive, though I aim to defend religion and myth.
Cracks and faults in these stories and traditions can be found. Yet far more important, especially for our ancient ancestors striving to survive, myth encoded information vital to that struggle. Even today, myth, whether it is religious or not, encodes vital lessons in these fables. Whether or not you take them to be fact, there is value and to totally disregard it on the basis of factuality is lunacy. For religious proponents, it’s a self-invalidating argument for religion, since to be most effective, a religion must to be taken as absolute truth in all ways, literal and symbolic. It is especially important for those who are too young to understand these concepts to take a religion’s word as truth so that the concepts encoded can inculcate positive values.
Myth and religion have irrefutable value as tools which act as a cultural loom, with which we can weave accumulated knowledge to shape our youth. You simply cannot deny that a good story can be formative in how the next generation constructs their lens and perspective. Myth and religion can act as moulds and dies from which our minds are cast. Our psyche arises from forms emerging from combinated and amalgamated archetypes, acting as fixpoints.
“A fixed point of a function f is a value that doesn’t change under the application of the function f.” - Fixpoint (Wikipedia)
A Fixpoint, from lambda calculus, is a good math metaphor for an archetype, which is like a metaphysical apex that is prototypical for some concept. An archetype can be referenced by, compared with, or meshed with other concepts, yet never equated to or surpassed by a concept, with regard to what that archetype represents. For example, the flood is an archetype for calamity and disaster.
Myth and religion shape how these archetypes are woven together and, in doing so, mould our minds and embed invaluable artifacts and wisdom. It is lunacy to deny the capacity of legend and art as formative, psychologically and sociologically. Though, I’m leaving myself wide open to the argument of whether one should have have the choice over how their minds develop, instead of developing in accord with religion or myth. Yet, at the age where myth has the greatest effect, people are too young to understand that choice. By disregarding religion’s formative capacity or repudiating it throughout our culture, we preclude ourselves from many of the benefits. Just to clarify, I’m not saying that everyone should be indoctrinated to a specific religion. I am making the argument that organized attempts to subdue religion are misguided because there is tremendous social value to be obtained from the embedded wisdom of dozens of generations.
Let Me Rephrase My Argument
If you would dismantle religion, then what other vehicle would you suggest? How many generations of knowledge have been embedded in the content and culture surrounding it?
It’s horrifying to see a concerted effort to discredit religion and its institutions over the course of several generations. This is an effort to disempower the common man by robbing him of the collective knowledge and wisdom accumulated over generations. By studying and adhering to a belief system and code of ethics established by religion, one augments our ability to build a resilient livelihood. In anticipation of an unprecedented storm, the man, woman or family who built the strongest house can rest assured that his/her family will sleep at night.
To disempower religion and its institutions is not simply negligent. It degrades the tools and social networks that help families support each other. And by disempowering religion, you are actually disempowering family and local community. It is an assault on the resilience of social fabric supporting individuals, families and communities.
Yes, these institutions and belief systems are vulnerable to abuse. No, religious institutions are not perfect, but neither could be anything created by man. To their credit, the propensity for benefit is immeasureable to any acclaimed problems.
While atheism is not science and vice versa, we all have a need to explain the world around us. And I’m going to assume that, if atheism is defined as “a lack of belief system,” that an athiest likely seeks out the sciences to understand their world.
Belief systems based on science and the institutions built around them also have flaws and vulnerabilities. The set of knowledge from which other beliefs are extrapolated – the basis – depends on individual knowledge and varies widely. There is also dissonance between what is accepted by the establishment, the individuals within it and sets of those people.
Science today is completely different from science a decade ago. Furthermore, both to the establishment and the individuals, the knowledge sets forming each basis are constantly shifting to include new information, both a strength and a flaw of science. By understanding the dissonance, some groups can choose to suppress information that would lead other groups to wildly different conclusions from each of their bases.
Another problem is that it becomes more complex to discover and manage information about the belief systems of others, since you have to assert what another individual knows to imagine the related beliefs they might hold. Which, I guess, is just true about life in general. But it means if a religion forms the core of someone’s belief systems, instead of science, there is less propensity for variation and fewer assertions required to pick up on how someone views the basics. In this way, a religion instills a schema of beliefs in its followers. Without being able to assert a schema of information, any assertions of an individuals beliefs in a social situation become intractibly inefficient. This is social physics and religion serves to render both the assertion and consequences of individuals’ belief to be tractible problems by providing a schema for the data structure of beliefs.
It’s interesting to observe how wildly different the core of these belief systems behave. Another difference from science is that religions are more likely to form a basis for how a person views the world and their relationship to it.
One last difference is that, for the most part, the knowledge that forms a religion’s basis won’t change. This makes them both more and less resillient to changing cultural conditions than science, which ostensibly can adapt. Yet, it also makes a person’s basis formed from a religion a bit easier to understand. They are likely to share much of that basis with other believers. Or they could; obviously it’s best not to label anyone. Every person is an individual. And I should note that it is horrible to contort someone’s religious views against them. If I have ever done that to you, I am so incredibly sorry.
Because an individual’s personal system of belief that is extrapolated from a basis can rapidly change in many ways upon the introduction of new knowledge, it’s complex to predict how those beliefs will change. If you can reliably do so, you can capture opportunity and reduce risk in business and politics. If you can control how information is published, disseminated or interpreted, you can control how opportunity and risk are signaled within the system. Larger religious organizations suffer some of the same flaws as science in this regard, where people try to contort publication of information to acquire or preserve power. Both science and religion can be misused, yet I think science has the propensity for being misused in subtle, hard to control ways.
Atheism has a myriad of philosophic consequences for ethics, morality and public policy. The conclusions stemming from atheism include that it is unfair to base policy decisions on religion and that it is misguided to judge others on religious beliefs. This is hypocritical because atheism itself is a belief system. From a Hegelian perspective on metaphysics, it is the minimalist belief system. These consequential beliefs are reached solely by believing that there is no god. Quite simply, atheism is an ideology.
But, if you would argue that “atheism is the absence of any beliefs,” I would say that is false. Atheism requires the belief that there are no god(s) – this is a belief in itself. Therefore, regardless of the philosophic conclusions that one may reach from this single belief, atheism is still a belief system.
And a very shifty belief system at that. Since atheism attests that it is composed of no beliefs and is therefore not a belief system, the philosophy of atheism appears to be irreproachable. This would make atheism moreso the inversion of a religion. A religion where the the handful of adherents seek to dismantle, disempower and destroy all other religions, while maintaining rhetorical invulnerability through statements like “atheism is not a religion,” “atheism is not an ideology,” and “atheism is not a belief system.”
And after zealot-level atheists have dismantled other religions, they do not replace it with anything, for they do not and cannot understand the value of religion. This is disheartening, since atheism, in itself, is incapable of accumulating and propagating transgenerational wisdom. Atheism completely lacks those mechanisms. So does science, outside the educational system, which is specialized towards the development of secular knowledge. This corrodes some cultures that blindly march on, oblivious to the successive demoralization of each generation. We can see this demoralization all around us:
⊅ People are easily distracted from their dreams and goals
⊅ People are quicker to give up on long-term relationships
⊅ They form weaker bonds with their families
⊅ Friendships become more superficial
⊅ Communication with others becomes shallow
⊅ They avoid planning for the future out of fear or thoughtlessness
⊅ With technology, they seek to escape what they don’t understand
⊅ As people drift apart, they become more fearful of each other
⊅ Friendship and family is commoditized and can easily be replaced
⊅ They become drawn to influential people for quick benefit
⊅ They can’t cope when it gets tough
⊅ They don’t think to ask for help or don’t know where to look
⊅ They are less likely to help others in need or care
(Yes, this piece is fairly opinionated)
We’re approaching the extremes of Nietzche’s baseless society haunted by nihilism. God has been declared dead for over a century. We’re seeing a huge shift in culture and IMO it is incredibly negative. Many people might not consider me to be the most moral person, depending on their definition of morality, yet I don’t think you could find anyone that could argue I’m unethical.
The major world religions are waning away via science’s influence, which seems much more capable of demonstrating truth and mastery over the world. Maybe God really did die – but people faintly feel something missing, but can’t really put their finger on it. God will return. By 2030 or 2040, religion will bounce back and become more influential than it has in a hundred years. The next generation of ours will wake up and understand that their unknown missing piece is cultivation of their connection to God or to spirituality or to the cultivation of Atman.
Part 2: Of God and Atheisms
The next section I’ll briefly describe religion’s role in providing the long-term cultural stability which fermented the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment in the West. I’ll describe why society needs the notion of a set of inviolable tenets, which restrain the worst and even the best of mankind. Then I’ll refute several of atheism’s common arguments against religion.