The gifts of atheism

Being from a country where most are atheists or agnostics, I am familiar with the gifts of those views.

The different main -isms reflect aspects of reality. There is some truth to each of them.

Here are some examples.

Atheism. Our images of God are not it. Reality is more than and different from our ideas, images, maps, and theories.

Agnosticism. We don’t know. We cannot know anything for certain.

Non-theism. Spirit is all there is. Everything happens within and as Spirit. The divine is not a separate being.

Panentheism. The universe is Spirit, and Spirit is more than that.

Of course, this is very simplistic. But it can be interesting – and fun – to explore the grain of truth in any views, as it appears to us.

What other gifts may there be in, for instance, atheism? This is what comes up for me. It reminds me to not automatically believe something just because someone told me it’s true. It reminds me to have a healthy skepticism towards religions. It reminds me of the downsides of religions. (Their main purpose is, almost inevitably, to maintain themselves. They can get mired in dogma. They are sometimes used for a few to gain and maintain power. And so on.) It reminds me, as mentioned above, that me images of something are images and not reality itself. And militant atheists remind me that any idea or ideology can be made into a religion, and that I don’t know anything for certain.

For me, these reminders are not so much about religions since I have never really been drawn to them, but other areas of life. Which areas of life do each of these reminders apply to for me? Where can they be a healthy reminder and correction? Where do I tend to believe something someone else said? Or make something, any idea at all, into a religion for myself? What are my own most cherished beliefs or ideas? Where do I get defensive? (As if I am trying to protect an idea or identity.)

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Theism & Nontheism

In many views today, there is less and less difference – if there every was any – between theism and nontheism. Existence as a whole, beyond and including all polarities, is seen as God. So is this theism or nontheism, both or neither?

One way of looking at it is through first, second and third person relationships with God.

In a third person relationship, we relate to God as an “it”. This is more of an analytical relationship, and can be found in both theistic and nontheistic approaches.

In the second person relationship, we relate to God as “you”. This creates the appearance of a more theistic approach.

And in the first person relationship, we discover our ground of being – and all of Existence – as God. If this is what is mainly or exclusively emphasized, it creates the impression of a nontheistic approach. It can also appear within the context of a mainly theistic tradition, as mysticism.

And of course, it is quite possible to move fluidly among these three: A third person view in talking about God. A second person relationship through prayer and certain forms of meditation. A first person view through inquiry, prayer and meditation.

In this way, the rigid distinction between theistic and nontheistic approaches falls away. Each one appears at different times and in different ways, more fluidly.