Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Redemptive Message of Positive Atheism

One of the guiding principles by which we have directed the development of our articles and themes is the avoidance of framing atheism as an alternative dogmatic system to religion. That is, atheism is not an alternative worldview to religion; it is not a dogmatic system. It is a positivist system of reliance on what is empirically known and framing questions that can be answered within the context of the phenomenal world. In addition to this concern, we have also been somewhat discontent with the negative implications of atheism. Atheism is non-belief in God or gods. The atheism platform, so stated, is essentially negative: it is framed on the denial or negation of the supernatural. Though my blog post's title is somewhat a violation of our "no-alternative" axiom, I would like to posit a positive framework for atheism that I feel is essential to the survival and happiness of the human species.

Atheism is a denial of the supernatural. Atheist metaphysics are purely naturalistic—they allow no room for the supernatural; all is material. The most positive assertion for atheism I feel is metaphysical monism. It is metaphysical because it relates to the super-ontology of the cosmos. It is monistic because it denies the presence of pneumatic or supernatural existence. All existence falls into the matter-energy continuum of the cosmos. The matter-energy continuum is monistic; it affirm existence to be in the confines thereof and nowhere else. Metaphysical monism is the key to the redemption and/or preservation of our species.

Religion has conferred on mankind a fundamental sense of dualism in which the human is seen as possessing a bipartite nature consisting an earthly, temporal body and an eternal, ethereal, non-material spirit or soul. This dualistic or dichotomous view of humanity is a deeply ingrained belief in our religious-spiritual lives. Metzner (1996) states, "Spirit, we imagine rises upward, into transcendent realms, whereas nature, which includes bodily sensations and feelings, draws us downward" (p. 65). In this manner the human spirit is deemed to be superior to the "lower nature" or the "flesh." This dualism of the mind or the spirit at war with the flesh is expressed well in Paul's description in Galatians 5:17:

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

So, as Paul asserts, we are besought by two selves, two natures that vie to control the human. On the one hand is the "natural self, which is earthly and sensual, and tends downward," and on the other hand is the "spiritual or mental self, which is airy and ethereal, and tends upward" (Metzner, 1996, p. 66). The human self-ascribed dualism of spirit-matter holds ecologically disastrous consequences for both humanity and all elements of Earth's sensitive biome.

Metzner (1996) states the following:

…this dissociative split in Western humans' identity become clear when we reflect upon the fact that if we feel ourselves mentally and spiritually separate from our own nature (body, instincts, sensations, and so on), then this separation will also be projected outward, so that we think of ourselves as separate from the great realm of nature, the Earth, all around us. If we believe that in order to advance spiritually we have to go against, to inhibit and control, the natural feelings and impulses of our own body, then this same kind of antagonism and control will also be projected outward, supporting the well-known Western 'conquest of nature' ideology (p. 66).

The metaphysical monist is a step ahead of the dualist in this regard. The theory of evolution has broken down the hierarchy of being, the sacred scale on which God sat enthroned and beneath which humanity stands over the animal and plant kingdom as the vicar and image of God. Humanity is part of the animal kingdom; our natures are entirely of the Earth—we are not endowed with a spirit nature that we must pursue and edify. We, metaphysical monists, have the necessary cognitive paradigm to recognize and jettison our inherited life-destroying disassociation between a non-existent supernatural and material.

Metzner, R (1996). The psychopathology of the human-nature relationship. In Roszak, T. and Gomes, M. and Kanner, A. (1996) Ecopsychology: Restoring the earth, healing the mind. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post, Scrip. I posted today's question based on the idea that some people view this materialism as an atheist's rationalization to behave immorally.... what someone once called "Darwinian ethics", as if that phrase had any meaning.

    I think the materialist is potentially more moral than the "supernaturalist" because we understand the consequences of our moral decisions as acting upon real people and things, and not upon invisible voyeurs in the sky.