When a person claims a belief in atheism for themselves and then proceeds to revile or lambast the beliefs of others as “bad” or “wrong” – they are not acting like an atheist – they are acting like a religious zealot with their own expression of religion. Consistent atheism is grim as rot. It has binned the context for all interesting questions – save one. It has also tossed the context for judging the accuracy of any transcendental claim and often refuses to judge its own because, like I said… grim as rot. The only interesting question the consistent atheist has left is that quote from Hamlet “to be or not to be”.
Just because someone tells me they are an atheist does not mean I think them a rapist or a serial killer. It does mean that I think they have the forsaken the context by which to judge the evil of rape or murder. All the consistent atheist can offer is an appeal to personal preference. I understand that the atheist does not wish to be raped or murdered – I share that personal preference. But the atheist has no context by which to argue that I *should* share their personal preference. Just because a person does not wish to be murdered, does not imply that they do not wish to murder another. Sure, sometimes these fall in sync, but the very definition of “serial killer” suggests they prefer to be alive in order to kill. Now I know many atheists appeal to the “good of civilization” as the standard by which to judge the actions or inactions of another – but if the system has ditched the context for “evil” – it has also ditched the context for “good”.
There are many economies we might engage in. The most fundamental – the most base economy is pleasure and pain. For the most part is it in our nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain – although this can get twisted up. “Good” is another economy altogether. We might relate it to pleasure but there is a key distinction. Pleasure is immediate, sublunary, mundane even. Good is transcendental. While pleasure (or pain) may certainly lead to transcendent experience – it is not dependent upon it. Using “Good” as an economy, on the other hand, is dependent upon crossing over to a realm where perfect good is apparent and in free supply. Plato suggested that we only see shadows of goodness – but the fact that we see shadows means there is a light being cast, and an obstacle blocking a clear and apparent view. He suggested the idea of ultimate good – a thing we could not fully grasp and yet the shadows we cling to make no sense without it. He took the idea too far perhaps – suggesting that because we have the idea of a “chair” that there must be a transcendent chair beyond our reach. Like I said… a fridge too far.
But we deal in the economies of the transcendents all the time. When we fight for justice we appeal to a concept for which we only have shadows – the true ideal in its full bloom is hidden from us and yet we feel we have enough of a grasp to implement it or demand it. Anytime someone talks about their “rights” they are appealing to a transcendent. We have no real rights except those which power over us are willing to give. If the powers (government, boss, teacher, etc) refuse us a right we desire (like maybe the right to live, or freedom, or the pursuit of happiness) then the immediate response is to appeal to the transcendent – the “perfect” ideal of right.
An atheist, by definition, rejects the very notion of the transcendent. Any atheists which continue to appeal to transcendents are either ignorant or lazy or lying. It is my conviction that that the atheistic conviction requires what I call “small thinking”. Many religious people are guilty of “small thinking” as well. What I mean by “small thinking” is the inability or the refusal to allow anything they cannot comprehend. Toss the concept of a personal being with power to design and create matter and structure and law – and you have to toss a shit-ton of other stuff along with it. I support a persons freedom to think however they like – but I also support the freedom to call small ideas into question.
Someone made up Chutes & Ladders. If you don’t know, it is a game. A board game to be more precise. By calling it a “board game” I imply it has the context of a board with spaces on it and rules which determine how one can and cannot move among the spaces. If there was no board – the rules would be meaningless. Likewise, without the rules the board and its spaces would have no significance. Someone also made up Monopoly – also a board game, with spaces and rules for how to move among them. Monopoly and Chutes & Ladders have different spaces and different rules but they share the same context – they are both games.
Most things are games really. Logic is a game. It has a board with spaces and rules for how to move among them. Within the context of logic, you can move correctly or incorrectly. Logic is not The Theory of Everything – meaning not everything that is fits into the context of the game of logic. Economies are likewise a game of sorts – we can play but only if we remain in context of the spaces and rules. Nothing says we have to play – as Hamlet suggested… To be or not to be – that is the question.
When someone, theist or atheist, ignores the rules for how to move about the spaces they are playing incorrectly – they are being inconsistent. Like the evangelical pastor who rails against homosexuals Sunday after Sunday and then is caught engaged with another naked man – it is hypocrisy. You might even say it is like using the rules of Chutes & Ladders when the board open before you is Monopoly. There is nothing that says the person *must* be consistent with the games rules they have chosen to play – nothing really to enforce the rules enough to prevent them from being broken – only the indication after the fact. An atheist that says theism (or theists) are “bad” or “wrong” is just as inconsistent (whether they know it or not) as the gay anti-homosexual.
The theist believes there is a designer and a rule-maker. Most theists (though surely not all) cling to the idea that the designer and rule-maker is “good” in an ultimate sort of way – and that it is from that good that we can play in economies of goodness such as justice and fairness and compassion. This does not enforce that they play accordingly however – the rules can be broken by cheaters. The atheist claims there is no such designer or rule-maker. This does not prevent them from playing accordingly. They can still follow the rules of goodness. The difference is… the theist can say “hey, we are not playing the game according to the rules” in order words – there are things which are which should not be. The atheist can only say “hey, we are not playing the game according to my personal preferences”. The atheist does not have a transcendent source of rules available to them which allow them to appeal to a transcendent “good” by which to judge the play of others (or even themselves) and therefore trying to call a thing “bad”, like rape or murder, requires that they borrow rules from someone else’s game board.
At bottom – I think the truth is that most all of us are neither theist nor atheist – I suspect the truth is that we are at heart, “metheists”. That is to say – we perceive ourselves the rule-makers and the arbiters of those rules. This is why pleasure and pain is in fact the primary economy. Metheism does not preclude us from having empathy or compassion for another – but neither does it require it (or enforce it). It does not outlaw the golden rule, but neither is it philosophically committed to it. Metheism is the corruption that makes theistic religions toxic. It is what leads governing leaders to abuse or take advantage of those in their care. Metheism says “I will play with whatever board, and whichever rules, suits my whims in the moment”. The atheists board game is extremely difficult and complex and contradicts the very ethos of humanity. Theism is also a very difficult board game – it also rubs hard against the grain of humanities prevailing tendencies. Metheism, however, is the goldilocks porridge.
But is what is what should be?