There are polls suggesting that atheism is on the rise. I just read through a list of ‘famous atheists’ and noticed that many of these people (there are a lot of celebrities on this particular list) consider themselves atheists because they equate God with organized religion. Heck, I’d probably be one too if I made that connection. I wish more people realized that God and organized religion (as it is today) are about as mutually exclusive as you can get. And although Pope Francis tried to bridge the gap between believers and non-believers, the Vatican still holds that if you don’t follow the Church’s teachings you are going to hell. Talk about lousy public relations. And to dare contradict what the Pope said shows how afraid the Vatican is of losing control over the masses. The interesting thing, though, is that atheism, organized religion, and the material world share a common bond; they are all born and live in duality.
Organized religions attempt to take something that is formless and give it form or structure. To believe that God, the Absolute, which is pure Consciousness, has no form is a tough concept to get, so religions give God a form or face. The form that people use as their personal God is called their Ishwara. There is nothing wrong with having an Ishwara – it certainly helps with bhakti (devotion) – but there will come a time when all form needs to be discarded. Form perpetuates duality (God is separate from who I am) and to be stuck in form will keep you stuck in duality (separation).
A major reason atheists reject the notion of the Divine, is their assumption that religions contradict each other with the assertion that theirs embody the only true God. Sri Ramakrishna, probably the greatest saint India has ever produced, studied all religions, including Christianity and Islam (yes, Islam) and found they all lead to the same God, having truth at their heart. Unfortunately, that truth gets lost under the layers of dogma, rules, control, and fear mongering, which bastardize the teachings and give rise to the divisive right-wing fanaticism we see today. And while I understand the reasoning behind rejecting organized religion, I don’t get rejecting the notion of the Sacred because of it. That’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, if you ask me.
The rest of the people on the list of “famous atheists” are either scientists or some other sort of academic, which use curiosity as the driving force. Curiosity is important; it is the spark that propels the search for truth, but scientific research is limited and words are limited, as they attempt to explain something that essentially defies explanation in the material world. It’s not that they’re useless in searching, but the seeker should not pin his or her hopes of finding Truth on either.
When you engage in philosophical discussion, even if the discussion is about non-duality, eventually you get caught up in the illusion of the ego as it becomes buried under a mountain of thoughts. When you engage in scientific research, you are bound by a methodology that also keeps you stuck in the illusion. So, a laboratory or philosophical debate can never yield Truth because the medium used to find the answers is based in duality – the unreal. You’re either stuck in a lab or in the mind and you can never find the real in the unreal. In these scenarios, the best you can hope for is a direction for your seeking or an intellectual understanding of some sort, which is not entirely a bad thing because it keeps you asking questions. Also, let me add that science is beginning to recognize that there may be more to what we see as the ‘material’ world, which leads me to the next point.
As I see it, the basic problem with atheism is the unwillingness to consider the idea that anything exists outside of the material world. And even though science is making some headway in this area, i.e. the world as a hologram, it will be a bitter pill for many to swallow. Not only because old habits (beliefs) die hard, but also because it will be difficult to fully comprehend the ramifications such discoveries have on our perception of the world and our lives in it. This would mean bridging the gap between duality and non-duality, acknowledging that the idea of a world with form (duality) will need to be discarded in favor of the idea of a world composed of One Consciousness (non-duality). Shifting paradigms is no easy task – just ask Copernicus.
I found it interesting that some of the atheists listed said (I’m paraphrasing here) that what is important is that we be kind to each other. If they only realize that we should be kind to each other because we are each other, then they will have captured Truth – without following any dogma or doctrine. Imagine that!