We followers of Spinoza see our God in the wonderful order and lawfulness of all that exists and in its soul (“Beseeltheit”) as it reveals itself in man and animal.
In my unfortunate encounters with pathological skeptics I’ve observed that most of them also call themselves atheists. I suppose that’s fitting since atheism involves either an entirely unfounded belief that God does not exist or a false belief that there is no evidence that God exists. The former type of atheism is called positive atheism while the latter is negative atheism.
Positive atheism is a wholly irrational faith-based belief because it is not possible to prove or even provide evidence that every concept of God does not exist. The negative atheists are not as irrational since they simply don’t believe that God exists. Negative atheists are however indistinguishable from agnostics. Agnosticism is the position that the existence of a deity is unknown or unknowable. In other words, there is no evidence to support or deny the existence of a deity or that such a notion is untestable (unfalsifiable). Presumably negative atheists don’t believe God exists because they believe there is no evidence of God’s existence or any way to obtain evidence. Therefore, to both the negative atheist and the agnostic, the existence of God is unknowable. To say negative atheism is somehow fundamentally different than agnosticism is to split infinitely fine hairs.
It’s important to understand though what the term “definition” implies. A definition is not what a small determined group wants a term to mean. A definition denotes how the majority use the term. In the beginning atheism referred to the belief that there was no God. Atheism is a French word that comes from the Greek word “atheos”. “A” mean no and “theos” means God. The original French definition of the term atheism means a belief that there is no God. So the “no God” definition is the original definition and is the definition still used by the majority of people today. Atheists presumably realized how irrational their position was so they are in the process of attempting to subtly change the original definition towards that of negative atheism.
Atheism requires that no god exists or that there is no belief that a god exits. It doesn’t limit the concept of god in any way. Atheism doesn’t deal only with the Christian concept of god or even merely a personal god. Therefore, to show that negative atheism is also false, all that must be done is to show that some form of god exists. If the Universe were a sentient thinking entity that would count. Since the Universe is the totality of all existence, a sentient thinking Universe would be omnipresent and omniscient.
The notion of a thinking conscious Universe is referred to as pantheism or panpsychism. Now, what is thought? Thought is simply awareness of ideas or awareness of information. Thought also involves combining simple ideas to create more complex ideas. We use thought to get things done and when things get done other thoughts are generated. Consciousness is awareness of your self or body.
Many people seem to believe that thought magically arose out of nowhere at a certain point in the evolutionary process and at a certain point in human development. They believe that mental states magically arise from nowhere when neurons simply pass electro-chemical signals to one another. They believe that mental states magically arise when atoms making up the brain interact with one another. There is however absolutely no evidence that anything at any time can magically arise out of nowhere. We do know that complex things like people are made of simpler things like cells, which are made of simpler things like atoms and so on. We know that complex matter does not magically arise out of nowhere. Complex matter is simply created over time by arranging simpler forms of matter. Why shouldn’t we assume then that the capacity for complex thought is similarly composed of simpler thinking components. I mean we do acknowledge that our own complex thoughts are made of many smaller thoughts.
This is a very difficult topic for certain people to grasp. Try thinking in terms of a growing human embryo. At the early stages the embryo has no nose. At a certain point the embryo develops a nose. The nose doesn’t magically appear out of nowhere. We can see the progression. The nose is created by the process of simple physical systems arranging to create a more complex system. With mental states we can’t see the progression yet but we should assume it happens the same way: systems with simple mental capabilities combine to form complex systems with complex mental capabilities. If there isn’t this progression, mental faculties have to magically arise out of nowhere at some point which is impossible.
If you’re still having trouble try thinking at the atomic level. Your body including the brain is made entirely out of atoms and nothing more. If you believe atoms don’t have awareness then this means that you believe awareness magically arises out of nowhere when atoms in a certain configuration interact with one another. This is impossible. The only possible alternative is to see atoms as having a simple awareness. When simple atoms are highly organized you get a complex structure like a human. Similarly, highly organized units of simple awareness beget human-level awareness.
Since an atheist does not believe any type of God exists, including the pantheistic conscious Universe, the atheist must believe that thoughts magically arise out of nowhere. The only way for thought to not magically arise out of nothing is if thought is a fundamental property of the building blocks of matter. Note that energy is the ultimate building block of matter. The Universe is just energy and nothing more. If thought is a fundamental property of the building blocks of matter then this proves the God of pantheism is a fact. Since the pantheistic God is a fact this proves that negative atheism is also a false irrational belief.
The great majority use atheism to denote the belief that there is no God. Yes definitions can change over time but it hasn’t fully happened yet with atheism. Though the process is started and may eventually succeed. Rejection of belief is the same thing as not knowing. We already have a word for not knowing God exists, agnosticism. This suggests that the less used meaning of disbelief in God is a contemporary bastardization used by those atheists that seek to hide their true irrational position. Like all religions, atheism is meant to distract people away from the truth. In doubting the existence of God, the atheist requires holding the entirely absurd notion of mental states arising out of nowhere. In essence, atheism predicts an impossibility which actually falsifies it. So the atheist horse is dead but faulty faith-based thinking will keep atheists fervently beating that horse to the ends of all irrationality.
1. “Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology” (1999) by Max Jammer ISBN 069110297X
2. “English recusant literature, 1558–1640”. A Replie to Mr Calfhills Blasphemous Answer Made Against the Treatise of the Cross. 203. p. 51. Martiall, John (1566).
3. Many like to cite the Lawrence M. Krauss book “A Universe from Nothing” for evidence of particles arising out of nothing. The problem is that the book’s misleading title equivocates the ordinary meaning of nothing being “not anything” with the quantum vacuum which is definitely not empty. Those who have actually read and understood his book will realize that Krauss in fact states that the quantum vacuum is not nothing.
Michael Fullerton is a software designer based in Vernon BC Canada. His writing explores and exposes pathological skepticism and the corporate pseudo-science it tends to serve. He also has an intense interest in organizational psychopathy, or how psychopaths rise up in organizational structures of all kinds. As a pantheist he strives to be part of the movement to unify spirituality and science.