In my last post I sketched out an existential perspective in which an atheist could take spiritual comfort in, without losing his anti-supernaturalistic principles. This vision of man, as embodied and existentially engaged in the environment, is one which has resonated with many modern and contemporary philosophers, philosophers who struck out to enrich the human vocabulary in such a way as to re-orient the human mind towards his or her own experience. It is the anti-optimistic and anti-pessimistic spirit to these writings which paints the human experience in richer colors, infusing their language with a curious and highly relevant mix of metaphorical expressions of that which matters to us: our own finitude, anxiety, and the absence or presence of God.
As an atheist and has a naturalist, I do not feel the “sensus divinitas” of Calvin and the reform epistemologists. To feel otherwise, would be to beg the question against naturalism and the naturalistic interpretation of divine phenomenology. I say this because such a subjective argumentation for the presence of God in man’s heart is the only escape from the rationalistic perspective, a perspective which rules out the proposition “God exists” as meaningless. What is left is a shell of experience, filled with meaning for those surrounded by Christian imagery and symbolization, but empty for those of us who reject the divinity surrounding such religiosity. For us, it is impossible to have faith in the propositions of God’s existence, for our rationality compels us to reject metaphysical speculation in the same way that we reject Zeus, Ra, and the Invisible Pink Unicorn. We see Christian belief in terms of psychology and irrationality, despite the attempts of Christian theologians to present their system of beliefs in terms of “rational epistemic rights” and other philosophical cop-outs. For atheists, it isn’t the rational coherence of a system which compels us to believe in it, it is the truth which drives our search for knowledge and understanding.
Some would say this is a faith in science and a faith in the finite, yet hungry, man as man. But this is not my faith. My faith cannot be described in terms of a single propositional object, such as “science.” No, this will not do at all, for my faith is an ultimate concern with my own being, my life as lived through a physical body in a physical environment. I am nothing but the motion of matter and yet I am more than this, because I have an experience, an experience which is rich phenomenologically. Through this experience I have understoodd the essential importance of existence, as a human, as a philosopher, an atheist, a friend, and a lover. I live my life with a dynamic faith which places my ultimate concern in the hands of the present moment, a moment which jumps through time and space, compelling me forward towards my death.
Such a perspective might sound morbid for the Christian who has visions of heaven, but my bliss will be in the silence of non-being, satisfied with a life well lived. This faith of mine is rooted in physicality, in the reality of my own being, situated and embodied. It doesn’t require knowledge, it only requires existence, which is the essence of man.