Atheism & religions

I saw someone on social media say: “an atheist is someone who sees all religions as bullshit”. He then proceeded to go on a rant about religions.

That may be the case for some who call themselves atheist, but it’s not inherent in atheism at all.

We can have an atheist outlook and still find a great deal of value in religions. We can appreciate that they serve important functions at social and individual levels.

Also, we can turn the table and recognize that atheism itself can function as a kind of religion. If it’s based on the idea that “there is no God”, that’s a belief and something we have to take on faith. It cannot be proven. Some atheists also become zealots and proselytize on behalf of atheism.

Personally, I find value and validity in aspects of atheism, all the main religions, and many spiritual traditions as well.

Atheism tends to highlight the very real problems in religions and how they are sometimes used. Religions can help organize society, give comfort, and have valuable pointers and practices. And most spiritual traditions also have valuable pointers and practices. I have written about all of this in other articles, and most articles here show some of the practical value found in religions and spirituality.

To me, it seems that atheism often is a reaction to something more specific. Atheists often reject a particular image of God, and in particular the image of God as a being – or even more crudely a particular being like an old bearded man or young blue shepherd. They also often react to aspects to how religions tend to function, and how they are used to perpetuate power structures and social injustice. I wholeheartedly agree with both of those. A traditional theistic view of God easily seems a bit naive these days, and religions do have inherent problems.

Non-religious, or pan-religious?

It’s popular these days to say I am spiritual but not religious.

That partly fits me too. I don’t belong to any particular religion but I am interested in spirituality. (Of course, the word spirituality is something that means different things to different people.) 

Something else fits me as well, and that’s pan-religious. I am interested in insights, pointers, and practices of any religion. I have explored quite a few religions and their pointers and practices over time and found something beneficial in each one. 

Just to keep it fluid, I can keep going (!). 

I very much resonate with atheism. I was a self-professed atheist in elementary school since it seemed that the Christians I saw (a) believed something just because they wanted to or were told it was so, and often (b) did it for social reasons or for comfort. And although I understand the appeal, neither made much sense to me. 

I resonate with the recognition we can find in the more mature versions of any religion or spiritual tradition: Our images of God or the divine are our images. They are not what they (mean to) point to. 

And I see the value in staying within one religion or spiritual tradition over time and perhaps for life. There is a beauty in the deepening that can offer. It just happened to not be my path in this life.