reply to post by 1littlewolf
I find little to argue with in your response. Only a couple of points require comment.
You must admit that there would be very few atheists who are not empiricists.
As you may be aware, I live in a different part of the world from you: a multi-religious society where Christians are a minority even when the various
denominations are all counted together. Many of my fellow-countryfolk are Hindus whose concepts of deity vary wildly. To poor, simple Hindus, the gods
are anthropomorphic or theriomorphic spirits with human emotions and frailties. They walk the earth and intervene directly in human affairs, demanding
sacrifices and penances in exchange for the favours they grant. Hindus who have the education and leisure to think about deeper religious and
spiritual matters often have a concept of divinity similar to the Spinozan one you espouse. Pantheism shades easily from belief in an actual Pantheon
to belief in the essential divinity of everything that is. But beyond that, and in between, Hinduism offers many, many different conceptions of
Atheists in my country often have views that fit within the Hindu-Buddhist world-picture. They are not necessarily empirical in their views, and very
few could be called scientific materialists.
People who practice Buddhism as merely an everyday world view may well be atheists, but those who take it up a few notches will surely leave
the realms of atheism behind and enter into a world that is spiritual.
Actually, it's the exact opposite. 'Everyday' Buddhists are the most superstitious folk in the world, because they belong, officially, to an atheist
'faith' that offers few of the consolations people derive from religion and so must find these elsewhere. In Buddhism, there's no-one to forgive your
sins and make you feel better about yourself, no-one to pray to for protection from harm, danger, misery or death, no-one to beg for favours and
miracles, etc. Therefore the unsophisticated Buddhist often turns to other sources for such consolation. He may worship Hindu gods or local folk
deities (many Buddhist temples in my country house shrines to such deities on their premises, a practice that goes back at least a thousand years),
become a disciple of some Indian 'holy man' (or rather holy fraud) like the late Satya Sai Baba, or indulge in magical practices like astrology,
shamanistic healing or necromancy. It is the more thoughtful and better-educated Buddhists who are content to accept the essential atheism of Buddhist
Most people in my country know little about the theory of evolution and care less. Most atheists I know here (not counting Buddhists, of course) are
atheists because the religion they have been taught (Hinduism, Islam or Christianity) seemed irrational or wicked to them. Very often, they'll have
tried one or more of the other options available before giving up on that, too. One very close friend of mine became an atheist after being caught up
in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. His own conduct at the time was heroic; however, he found afterwards that he could not feel respect or love towards a
God who could permit such terrible destruction and suffering.
Nearly all of what I have written above applies, not only to my small country, but to most of South Asia and much of Southeast Asia, too. China has
its own dynamic between faith and atheism, which is made even more complex by the existence of an atheistic state 'religion', Communism; and Japan
(the world's most atheistic society by some measures) has yet another. The fact is, people who believe in a single, personal God are mostly Jews,
Christians or Muslims, and in a world where the influence of the West is declining, it makes no sense to address religious topics as if only
Christianity, Judaism and Islam existed – or mattered.
edit on 7/2/12 by Astyanax because: of irrelevance.