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Einleitung III

Atheistic enlightenment is more necessary today than ever before

(1) Yes, nowadays atheism is undergoing fundamental change.

Without question, there is a strong secularisation process in our society.  In Germany the number of people without denominational ties has increased to over 30 percent in the last years. A third of the population has broken away from the churches. The once strong Protestant Christianity that included over 50 percent of the population will at best be linked to a projected 15 percent of the population in 2030. Many Protestant churches have been closed – in Hamburg alone 24 have closed in two years.  The number of church closures in broad Catholic areas is much higher. The number of pastor and even Catholic priest positions is being dramatically reduced, administrative structures are being radically slashed under the pressure of dwindling tax receipts. The churches would have long ago met their end as the people’s churches without the in part high subsidies that the secular state gives to the churches for social obligations.

Many people flee from the paternalistic authority of the churches:  they reject the traditional obedience in faith vis-à-vis institutional religious authority. They are averse to a god that externally determines life, that controls and punishes everything, that first deems mankind to be sinners so that he can then forgive them. They mistrust the ecclesiastical officials all the way up to the bishops who themselves get divorced even though they require their faithful to swear to eternal matrimonial fidelity at the altar in the name of God; who abuse children even though they preach trust; who themselves do not believe in the commitments that church discipline demands of them.  In many respects the modern man and woman are today in open or secret conflict with the church and its traditions and rituals.

Ulrich Beck – One’s own god

Ulrich Beck - One's own god

However, increasingly people are searching for themselves in accordance with a guiding authority: within the general individualisation process of modern society they feel responsible for themselves. The question of God is for them no longer a question of an otherworldly person, but rather a question of themselves. Even in the statement, I imagine God as… or For me God is… there is a step toward liberalisation, yes, toward the dissolution of a divine central power proclaimed by the churches. Man himself imagines God, which means he creates his own god. Thus begins the egress from religious paternalism, the first step to the dissolution of divine central power, which can lead to an atheistic dissociation from church and religion.

(2) In view of this development, modern atheism is not at the intellectual height of its possibilities.

Much too often atheism remains stuck in religious criticism. Religious criticism alone is not a positive or a constructive answer to people’s dissociation process from church and religion and the resulting open life issues. Naturally, it must be clearly stated what atheism is against. However, this does not state what atheism stands for.  It does not state how one should or can really live as an atheist. In this regard Richard Dawkin’s THE GOD DELUSION in particular tended to cause damage. He reduced atheism to often mean religious criticism without making apparent the positive life force of atheism. Such religious criticism does not give any sort of positive answer.

Accordingly, atheism is generally not perceived as a desirable model of life, not understood as positive self-awareness. For people looking for a new life orientation beyond religion, this means that they do not holistically see a path to thinking and living without God. Thus, atheism is for them primarily negation and not affirmation, especially if they are approached while out having fun.  That may be amusing, but it has no sustainable existential effect.  People – especially religiously doubtful people – then lack the reasons to explain that life and reason is a positive power of existence without God, with a constructive lifestyle as a substitute for God.

(3) The intellectual crisis of contemporary atheism lies in the lack of positive informative value.

There are too few convincing attempts to positively present the meaning of an atheistic life. There is a lack of convincing explanations regarding why it really is worth it to think and live without God.  Of course, there is an abundance of individual statements. Some authors have produced good books and received quite a lot of attention for it, with the reaction expressing how necessary and valuable such orientation support is for people. On the other hand however, there is an abundance of inadequate individual statements in conversations and discussions that often speak about atheism without logical legitimation of the overall picture. Such statements show how easy freedom of thought is curtailed or even misused as a private libertinage without God, as if atheism allowed one complete freedom to think and say whatever one wants.  Naturally, one can do this. However, one misses the actual power of atheism thereby. It loses the power to convince for everyone who is existentially looking for a truly new orientation.

Contemporary atheism suffers from a contextual lack of structure, fails overall on the claim of logical legitimation and existential credibility. Thus, in our day and age atheism is generally almost ineffective as a life concept. To be an atheist still seems less like an intellectual home and much more like an intellectual exile, the atheist not as a proud owner of intellectual freedom but as the dispossessed. As long as this is so, a life without God cannot find a sustainable foothold as a convincing life model. Because who looks for a home in someone who supposedly does not have one? Who find witticisms interesting, when it is really about finding conviction? Only with personal conviction can one really provide orientation, or be a guide.

(4) In contrast, orientation authority means: The atheist has something very essential to say about life. He has much to clarify, to explain. He offers substance, meaning and vitality.

Thus, we stand at a new dawn. The atheist must show his colours. He must make it clear why it humanly makes sense to think and live without God. The atheist must reason in a completely different way in order to give positive answers to other people. Therefore, he does not just need to remember the reasons that moved him, but must also generally have the main reasons for atheism ready to be able to properly answer those with questions. Knowledge about atheism as a subject is absolutely necessary. The liberating power of a conscious life without God, without church or religion, lies primarily in the fact that the atheist – as opposed to the religiously faithful – can make use of the entire ambit of mankind’s reasoning and knowledge without limitations and without his reason being threatened or limited by bans on thought. The corresponding opportunities and insights can be made apparent and put to full use in all aspects of life. Without church, without religion, without God – what freedom, what opportunities!

(5) ATHEODOC, the new ATHEIST ENCYCLOPEDIA, takes on this task. It wants to begin anew.

The goal of its enlightenment is to show reasoning and life without God as a liberated, autonomous existence.

Here are a handful of concrete arguments as an introduction:

ATHEODOC. Partner for reasoning and life without God

1. Man can do much more with his reason that religion has always told him is possible. He can take responsibility for himself. He can love and be loved. He can completely and meaningfully live life for himself and with others.  He can properly buckle down and work. He can be self-sacrificing and be there for others. He can rejoice and be happy. He can affectionately rear his children. He can also just sit back and relax. He can say goodbye with dignity. He can die consciously and humanely. With his reason, man is open and capable in all situations. He just has to clearly and consciously assert himself against those who talk him out of his reason and life without God, who even want to defame him for it or render him harmless.

2. Man may do more than church morals ever allowed him to do. Without divine authority, the finality of all divine commandments is annulled for man. Only the legal regulations of the state apply to him. In many ways this legal framework allows the individual person to have much more leeway for his private life than the cramped religious moral code.

In this clearly expanded living environment man must learn to think and act with the greatest possible personal responsibility. A first standard for this is the counsel of the old Epicurus:  live your life! Do everything that makes you happy. But do not do anything that you will regret tomorrow. This applies to life situations in the face of happiness or adversity, in particular also with regard to lust for life and fleeting temptations.

3. Man must know a lot less for salvation than church and religion have always imposed on him. An atheist can simply forget everything that is religiously compulsory. When he truly thinks freely, he no longer needs to think about God, about religion, about church. Whether and why Maria was a virgin, whether Jesus was or is a member of any sort of Trinity, whether original sin exists – this is all nothing more than dogmatic theological acrobatics. It is a lot easier to live without it, and the world continues to spin.

The Orion Nebula. Fascinating science

4. Man can completely engage himself with the secular. He can and may see the world as the secular unfolds before him. With ever increasing security he will find his way in atheistic realism, because beyond religious boundaries of faith the whole world is also out there in secular: Splendid thoughts and ideas, fascinating sciences. Excellent literature. Deeply moving music. Wonderful or thrilling art. Grand moments. Profound love. Exciting situations and success. Trust. Solace. Closeness and support. Of course all human misery – and the will to fight against it with all human power.

Basic knowledge about our reality

5.  Atheistic realism can make clear that the most beautiful story   of the world6 is the evolutionary formation of the universe, with its tremendous unfolding of structures, forms and orders. 13.7 billion years of the development of an endless abundance of power and beauty in fascinating images, thoughts and theories, all the way to people on Earth in the middle of wonderful nature. – What is the notion of some anthropomorphous being having created the world in seven days really worth in contrast with that? It is really just a very blasé personality story.

6. Atheistic realism can facilitate understanding of the fact that nature is also a natural human dimension. Man can absolutely understand nature’s life cycle of being and dying with birth – unfolding of life – and death. In the process, man can gain deep insight into the fact that death is the absolute nothing, eternal peace. This liberating thought stands and is effective against the idea of the eternal foreign domination of God over mankind with purgatory, Hell or the heavenly praise of the angels and all of the heavenly host.  Who really wants that?

7.  Atheistic realism can show that human friendship with one another in general and in particular is the highest quality of human society, a humane balance of sensed closeness and respectful distance through which power hierarchy, religious and faith-based boundaries, gender and age differences, and ownership and education advantages can be broken down.  The basis for secular humanism lies in friendship: Not God is love, but rather love occurs where people communicate and live with each other in friendship.