This was a response to someone's post, but being new to the site, I thought I'd post it here to see if there is anyone who's like-minded.
I don't see Atheism as a step toward enlightenment. I've long viewed atheism in the same light as any absolutist religious belief system with atheism, itself, just being another absolute position and sitting in precisely the same place as any religious faith. I'd bore you to death with a full explanation of my thoughts, but I'll sum it up with...I almost became an astrophysicist. Almost. I do know, though, from what understanding of the universe I have that there's very little that mankind knows about the universe. I know from mathematics there while it's easy to prove that something exists (just show an example) it's significantly harder to prove that it's impossible for something to exist. Between those things and my time walking this Earth, I know that people use words like "God" and have little or no understanding of what they may truly talking about.
In fact, if I walked past a god, I doubt I'd even realize it. Some questions are simply beyond our ability to answer, and we won't know for sure what we are even trying to mean when we say the word "god" until we fully understand the universe. And if that point ever comes, I have to believe that such a monumental achievement will mean that we, ourselves, will not be unlike gods at that point.
I simply accept that some questions are unanswerable and simply seek out what knowledge I can.
And that, I believe, is the first step toward enlightenment.
I'm going to be short (relative to the other posts) and point out just one argument that I don't think was represented well here.
Religion is making a claim. They claim that there is a specific God that behaves in specific ways. It is their claim. They have to prove it for it to be valid. There is no proof for any of the many gods. Therefore it is only reasonable that all claims for gods are invalid and atheism is not only reasonable but the only truly rational choice.
Enlightenment is relative to the reference. The middle ages experienced enlightenment but we know so much more today than we did then. If there is a god that shows themselves to us that might also be an enlightenment. It has to actually happen or it is just make believe. Realizing that it is not going to happen is also enlightenment because it frees you from delusional thinking.
Wow. So ... um interesting? I'm not sure. I have a response to all these, but it's probably not going to be interesting to the main two guys discussing.
A couple things. I don't think that @fyvekatz being willing to admit there are unknown unknowns is embracing ignorance, only willing to admit ignorance. Which we'd have to be pretty arrogant as a species to think that we were not mostly ignorant about the UNIVERSE. I mean, we're just scratching the surface of the one tiny little pinprick in the universe that we exist in.
Then, as to the word enlightenment. That word has absolutely no meaning to me. It's one of those words that can be defined differently by anyone who is saying or reading or hearing it. So I don't spend time talking about it, or debating it. Or certainly arguing about it.
Next, the fact that I feel certain the god of the bible is total bullshit does not change the fact that I put 99% on my "is there a god" because as far as I know, no. But who am I to assume I KNOW?
Finally, I live my life based on what I do know. The reality in which I live and operate. If there's a bunch of stuff I don't know, and neither do other humans, I don't waste any practical thought on it. I imagine and dream. I'm a writer after all. But in the end, all those things have no impact on my actual life. Or, to be circular about it, if they do impact my life, I don't know, so not spending time and energy on it.
I know I said finally, but if you believed that, you really don't know me! Mainly, with discussions like this, I get...not annoyed, that is not the right word, but say we were sitting in a room and you two were going back and forth verbally with this? I would be playing a game on my phone. Because though I admit that thinking is interesting, imagining, I find that going into minute discussions about the meaning of a word before discussing and so on and so on -- meaningless. To me. Obviously not to the people in it.
Did I just write all this to say I didn't care about any of this? Hmm. I don't think so? But this time I mean finally. Finally, don't call people stupid or ignorant, because who the fuck are you? (and as I glazed over some of the stuff on here, I'm saying that to the folks giving @fyvekatz shit for bringing this up.
I think all this depends on how you define everything. Some Buddhist thinkers will say that nirvana or perfection is only reached when you realize there is nothing.
The NYRB had a statement once by a scientist who stated that the christian god as typically defined as all knowing, all powerful, and all seeing and totally benevolent is an impossibility. You only need to be aware of the carnage that happens on daily basis and be minimally informed of history like Henry James said, "history is a bath of blood" to doubt that definition. So my position is that given the daily carnage and historical bath of blood, if I were presented to the actual god or convinced there were a god, I would be overwhelmed with revulsion and disgust that this god had created or allowed what we know to have happened. The definition I like best, I believe is attributed to Nietzsche-god would have to be a crazed criminal lunatic.
So for me, to believe there is nothing is extremely easy and logical and comforting to explain my experience of life.
I don't see how admitting you don't know what you don't know and not putting gods in the gaps is any different from what most atheists argue.
However you do seem kind of overthinking the whole thing. Most atheists also do not claim there is no god. They simply see no justification to believe there is one. Big difference. Knowledge and belief positions influence each other but vary independently.
Are you suggesting that the mental cerebral resource dedicated to a belief system, i.e. religion, is similar for the atheist hence suggesting atheism is also a belief system only because of the fact that there are still things that are unknown hence atheist don't known everything?
are you trying to pass these type of theist arguments:
Wrong! One of the first paths to enlightenment must certainly be lacking a belief in religions and their gods, which is all that atheism is. When I was simply unconvinced of the truth claims of religions, I considered myself agnostic (for 20+ years). It was only through the explosion of information made easily accessible through the internet that the evidence began to mount so high against religion and its claims, that I became overwhelmingly convinced of the utter dubiousness of them. So perhaps you simply are not educated enough on the matter to have arrived at such enlightenment. Having said that, I will allow that perhaps the person raised atheist and not exposed to all the arguments from both sides, and taught skeptical thinking and the scientific method might be less "enlightened" for not having had to take that journey.
You've created a very vague form of "enlightenment", disavowed everyone's definition of a "god" while still creating a physical manifestation of "god" that could in fact be human, accepted our current level of knowledge as the finite line, and embraced that ignorance as "enlightenment".
I think what you're getting at is that there may be a higher power that we don't know of and that we many never understand it, but you're okay with that. I wouldn't equate that to a step towards enlightenment though. I'd say you need to apply some critical thinking to a few of those unanswerable questions to rule some things out such as "gods". Not having an answer doesn't mean you can't create some forward progress.
I agree with much of what you said as I am agnostic as well as atheist.
As Rachel said so well, skepticism is my default position until there is a preponderance of evidence for something. This open mindedness is lacking in theists. If an atheist is open to hearing evidence they cannot be absolutist.
Being evidence based instead of faith based is a step toward enlightenment.
" atheism, itself, just being another absolute position and sitting in precisely the same place as any religious faith."
You seem to be under a severely mistaken view of what it means to be an atheist if you can put the words faith and atheism together in such a sentence.
In no way shape or form is atheism anything but the total antithesis of faith.
I believe in the null. Meaning, I don't believe it exists until it is proven to exist. If at some point there is proof of a god then I will change my thinking. The difference with me is that I am more than willing to change my thinking when being presented with proof. Until such time I am sure there is not a god.