Opinion
Diving through the internal impacts of theology
Old Gold & Black
By
Sports Editor
Thursday, November 2, 2017

I was sitting and thinking, when it occurred to me that I inhabit a kind of ideological conflict, and that there exists something peculiar in the way I operate my thoughts about the world. They are bifurcated.

I cannot say I am a full-throated atheist, because I lack the self-confidence or knowledge to present a robust argument or rebuttal to theism (although, most atheists say it is on the theist to prove, not the atheist.). I have read numerous texts, performed various exegeses, but still find myself strait-jacketed by my own insecurity and self-doubt when I try to think about articulating religion’s deteriorative aspects or God’s non-existence. My qualms towards expressing unpopular views leads me to fret about dialectical incompetence. I can but think of quick emotions, red faces and abdominal tightening. But my gut does lean towards atheism and a naturalist’s point of view when thinking about the world. Humans are incredibly self-absorbed, and at my cynical core I find it hard to ever usurp the evidence of our own life-affirming, purpose-generating “phantasmagoria,” as Nietzsche calls it.

There is though, a sort of emotional parasite that comes with calculation and reason. Science sometimes leads me to ride the tidal of glazed emotions, the sweeping sentiments whose shallowness feels somehow unsatisfactory. My mind resents it and tries to change it because, for me ,emotion also is an absolute that makes life glow not under hospital lights but under the intense heat of raucous feeling. Emotion breathes into life’s pregnant experience, fills the word itself, “life,” with conviction and impetus. Life, in a sense, begins to surge with our urges, and it becomes exciting. So it is because of this beauty that I have different, a-scientific thoughts as well.

Atheistic sentiments riot against the other salient thoughts in my mind, the atoms of the romantic, the absurdly poetic musings on love and life and vocation that parallel the furthest thing from the natural.  These feelings stand in flamboyant opposition to the austerity of the rational, the sterile pipetting of ideas blown up by my brain’s emotional corollas. It’s a juxtaposition between monolithic, empirical truths, and my soul’s instinct to lunge towards emotionally pregnant and favorable untruths. At Joyce puts it (although he is talking of religion, but I believe it could apply to science): “he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing sensible world … than from the contemplation of the inner world of individual emotions.” You get the point.

But how did these feelings come about? The answer is art. It is through art that these misappropriated realities have surfaced, have become rampant. But I have tried to reconcile them with “scientific thought” because although they exist in opposition to one another, there is, I think, a balance that can come about. To rationalize artistic thought sometimes helps me to find it more achievable, and incites a self-awareness that is helpful for slinking through the halls of reality amid my cloudy romanticisms. And, conversely, to coat reason in an artistic lacquer helps to soften the brutal edges of clinical thought.

When I first began to think of these two universes, I thought of them as parted, like the red sea, like two old-fashioned legions about to charge at one another, seething with antinomy, waiting for one do to something that would justify the other’s lethal strike. But now I try to think of them as sabred, as inhabiting a healthy connectedness. It the worldview version of Tesla and Einstein. On the surface, they are in strict opposition, but more deeply they vampirize the benefits of each other, grounding the absurdly romantic and warming the scientific with a humanistic gleam.

I am not saying I have perfectly reconciled these two ideologies, for even though I spawned a way for them to coexist, they still resist cooperation and return to their entrenchment in extremes. Why be a mix of the two, one says? That is wishy-washy agnosticism, pointless and tenuous. My response, per Oscar Wilde: “everything in moderation, even moderation.”

  • “I cannot say I am a full-throated atheist, because I lack the self-confidence or knowledge to present a robust argument or rebuttal to theism…”

    Being an atheist only requires that you don’t believe in a god. It doesn’t require you to make arguments or rebuttals, nor does it require you to make a statement of faith in atheism. Do you believe in a god or do you not? It’s a binary question about belief in a god or gods. You’re either a theist or an atheist.

    “Atheistic sentiments riot against the other salient thoughts in my mind, the atoms of the romantic, the absurdly poetic musings on love and life…”

    “Atheistic sentiments”? What are those? There is only one sentiment in atheism – non-belief in a god or gods. Also, there is nothing about atheism that makes it incompatible with romanticism, or with poetic musings on love or life. It seems to me that you’re overcomplicating things and falling into the straw man argument that says atheism is an ideology that promotes science and rationality at the expense of fantasy and emotion. It’s not. All it is is non-belief in a god or gods. There are atheists who believe in ghosts, Bigfoot, alien visitation and the Loch Ness Monster.

    “I am not saying I have perfectly reconciled these two ideologies…”

    Again – atheism is NOT AN IDEOLOGY.

    “Why be a mix of the two, one says? That is wishy-washy agnosticism, pointless and tenuous.”

    Wrong again. Agnosticism is not a middle-ground between belief and non-belief, or between emotion and pure rationality. Agnosticism is an issue of knowledge about a god or gods; it has nothing to do with belief. You can be an atheist and an agnostic. Most atheists are agnostics.

    So if you’re not an atheist, which god do you believe in?