Jejudo, South Korea
I'm not convinced that aetheism is the culprit here. Recent statistics in the US show that a whopping 88% of Americans go to Church regularly and over 90% believe in the devil (even more believe in some kind of afterlife).
And, of course, statistics don't lie, do they?
Well, statistics don't lie but people do. I don't think anybody reading this forum actually believes the above numbers -- it doesn't feel right (Yeah, I said feel ).
It doesn't mesh with the world that we see and live in from day to day.
So, why are people lying?
Because believing in God or spirit or saying you believe in God or spirit is part of the tapestry of American life (anybody remember 'Contact'?). There is tremendous amount of pressure to say you believe even if you don't, even if you're not sure. As long as you say you believe in God, you are seen as a better person. I was reading an article that showed that Americans won't vote for a professed aetheist as president; I can't find it right now but I'll keep looking. But even more than this, it feels better to believe in God, it feels comforting, it feels somehow right.
Regardless of how you live.
Indeed, by making religion ever more spiritual and less mundane, spiritualists of whatever stripe are making it less and less important to the everyday lives of real people. Many people see this but they don't really take up a reasoned aetheist position, they take up a disenchanted, betrayed spiritualist position.
They feel cheated.
But what's worse is that, at the same time, they are taught, come to feel, that they are an individual, a special, unique individual whose feelings and thoughts aren't just important, they are more important than those around them. They have a right to an opinion, a right to feel, a right to ignore, a right to excitement, a right to success, a right to choose, a right to a divine gift, a right to destiny, a right to permanence . . . .
I hope it goes without saying that, at this point, they still maintain the divinity of self. They reject the divinity of religion for the divinity of individuality. If there's nothing out there, then I exist for myself and no other.
This is an incredibly jump but one that I think is made quite often.
And that, to my mind, is the predicament.
An aetheist has no such option. He/She cannot believe in the divinity of self or of permanence or of being separate from those around them (if you think you are separate, where did you come from?). An aetheist doesn't see the need to explain his/her feelings or thoughts in terms of some spiritual world, of some higher world, these same feelings and thoughts are the result of a matrix of influences (linguistic, social, cultural, familial, genetic, historical etc.).
An aetheist doesn't negate morals, purposes, values or anything else that a spiritualist usually says is his or her reason for believing; an aetheist doesn't need to put it on a higher plane is all. The tree's still there and it still has roots but it was cultivated by men, not by something you can't see.
Sure, some aetheists want to chop the tree down. Some self-proclaimed aetheists pump their chests like some kind of alpha-male gorilla and spout the modern me-ism that Jim talks about.
They just haven't sufficiently considered the position that they're taking yet.
Now, I don't really consider myself an aetheist (to me, still another system of beliefs) but by most people's standards I'm pretty damn close . I'm not against spiritual beliefs; I just don't think it matters.
It is often said that if you don't believe in God, you'll believe anything. I agree with Christopher Hitchens though, if you believe in God, you already believe in anything.
I still love my wife, my baby, my family, my friends. I still love to teach, to learn, to write, to think. I don't need validation from a higher plane to love these things though. I'm not a perfect person -- I drink far too much for one -- but I don't see much difference in what I do from others who are more spiritual than I am.
Of course, if I don't accept permanence as a position, you never know. I may end up waving a Bible at you some day.
That's the fun part of living.