jeffers' petroglyph, pre-dakota, minnesota the Shaman Atheist
the Dao of Atheism

81 chapters of the Dao de jing with commentary
86 pages (00-85) in this "sa##.html" series
Or is it,
that as
in essence
is not so much a color
as the visible
absence of color,
and at the same time
the concrete
of all colors;
is it for these reasons
that there is such
a dumb blankness,
full of meaning,
in a wide landscape
of snow
-- a colorless,
of atheism
from which
we shrink?

- Herman Melville
Moby Dick

"From the beginning [a] central problem [in discussing "Religion and Modernity" has] turned out to be the relation between atheism and religion, and more particularly the problem whether those terms are incompatible or not. If they are not, one may ask in what ways and under what conditions they can be combined and fertilize each other. To put it even stronger: is it true that atheism and religion are just two different appearances of the same phenomenon? ...
Finally [...] this [discussion] illustrates how dangerous the use of the rhetorical device of constructing oppositions [and] incompatibilities is. In that way one can put generations of men up against each other for the reason that people honestly think that both terms of the opposition are factly and even logically incompatible, while in fact they are in some cases just different appearances of the same phenomenon. As far as the religion:atheism opposition is concerned, we believe to have such an example. Furthermore, religion, atheism, religious atheism, etc., are also important in the struggle for the liberation of mankind, of humanity. We hope that this [dialogue] will help to bring people together and let them struggle hand in hand for liberation instead of fighting each other."

-- the editors, Leo Apostel, Rik Pinxten, R. Thibau, F. VanDamme,
Religious atheism? (E. Story-Scientia: Gent, Belgium 1982)


the Dao of atheism :: the Shaman atheist

There is a new definition of atheism not found among the current orthodox: it is the non-experience of deity. It is not anti-theist, it is supportive of the natural quest for meaning in myth, symbol and practice, and challenges any construct that places itself in the position of worship or unquestioning obedience, whether it be called deity or law. Atheism is substantiated by the experience of no-god, or the lack of experience, not by belief or rational counter-arguments to theism. This definition comes, in part, from Pascal who conceives of a person so made that s/he cannot believe - a person who by nature is experientially limited to atheism. (Pensées, translated by W. F. Trotter, Chicago 1952)

Long before we concern ourselves with the problem of deity's existence or non-existence, we need to ask the fundamental question of epistemology: how do we know what we know? There are several methods that we commonly use to arrive at what we call knowledge, but most frequent is communal experience. Yet even communal experience as a source of knowledge is only a barometer of public opinion at the time taken, and ultimately leaves us no closer to the truth of deity's existence or non-existence. Communal rationalism and logic in religion can get us no closer to certainty. Thus we are left without any shared knowledge of deity's objective reality. Personal experience as a source of knowledge, however, has never been pursued by atheist thinkers. In fact, subjective experience is considered antithetical to atheists who want to prove that deity is objectively false.

Personally, i do not know whether the existence of deity is objectively true or false. I do know that i live my life without a conscious relationship to a supernatural being, that i am entirely ignorant about the existence of any supernatural being, and that i am content living without this experience of deity.

chapter 1
middle :: last
cover :: endnotes


critical mass publishing
est. 1986
Starr King School for Religious Leadership
Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California
Marc Estrin, Jaco ten Hove, tom kunesh

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graphics: speared indian by unknown person some 3,000 years ago,
from the pre-Dakota petroglyphs at Jeffers in southwestern Minnesota