The Atheistic approach to God

… or how to bridge the gap between Atheists and Theists

I’m a materialist…yet there is something beyond the material, or not entirely consistent with it, what you could call the Numinous, the Transcendent, or at its best the Ecstatic. […] It’s in certain music, landscape, certain creative work, without this we really would merely be primates. It’s important to appreciate the finesse of that, and religion has done a very good job of enshrining it in music and architecture.
Christopher Hitchens

How shall we define a god? Expressed in psychological terms (which are primary-there is no getting behind them) a god is something that gives us the peculiar kind of feeling which Professor Otto has called “numinous”. Numinous feelings are the original god-stuff from which the theory-making mind extracts the individualised gods of the pantheon.
Aldous Huxley

An Atheistic perspective on Consciousness

We know from evolutionary biology that multi-celled organisms evolved from single-celled organisms. It is unclear to what degree single-celled organisms gave up their autonomy to be able to act as a single organism and it is reasonable to suggest that our individual cells have maintained some degree of autonomy (consciousness) that we are totally unaware of.

A lot of human behavior is associated with subconscious processes in the prefrontal cortex that psycho-analysts refer to as the super-ego. This super-ego reflects the internalization of cultural rules in the form of memes. Such memes often influence human behavior in ways individuals barely realize and can be considered a form of collective consciousness.

A group of humans that is connected by means of memes can act as a single conscious organism, much like a cell of our body can act as a single conscious organism (= the way the cells of our body interact with their environment is the same as the way single cell organisms interact with their environment — and yes, the cells of our body can’t survive on their own… but neither can an individual bee or ant). This and many other factoids directly imply that consciousness is not so much a product of our brains but rather a product of complexity and connectivity.

From that perspective, the concept of consciousness can both be reduced to the molecular level and expanded to the universe as a whole, with the universe as a very complex holographic quantum computer.

The relationship with Hinduism and Animism

In Hinduism, death is understood as the collapse of the Ātman (individual consciousness) and its dissolution into many different other components that make up the Brahman (universal consciousness).

If you consider the Trimurti (the Hindu trinity), one can clearly see them as anthropomorphic representations of nature (Vishnu) and its two fundamental opposite forces: emergence (Brahma) and entropy (Shiva). Similarly, many other Devas (Gods) are mere anthropomorphic representations of lesser natural phenomena.

The same applies to the Kami of Shinto religion or equivalents in other “polytheistic” religions. One could easily argue that all “polytheistic” religions are really Animistic religions, which are perfectly compatible with the Atheistic framework depending on how one defines concepts like “Consciousness” or “Soul”.

Pantheism and Shamanism as forms of Animism

Pantheism is a simplified version of animism, which removes all “Gods” from the picture except Vishnu (nature). Advaita Vedanta is a form of Hinduism that belongs to this category. Many other religions (eg. Germanic paganism) have a Pantheistic variation, although these advanced forms of religion are rarely known beyond a small esoteric circle of initiates. The Traditionalist School is a school of philosophers from the early 20th century that attempted to explore these esoteric religions and discover a perennial philosophy running throughout all religions. Like Animism, Pantheism is also perfectly compatible with Atheism, again depending on how one defines concepts like “Consciousness” or “Soul”.

Shamanism is a variation of animism that involves the notion that the chemical modification of one’s consciousness provides access to higher knowledge that is otherwise filtered from our perception. Shamanic practices do not require a belief in any “Gods” and are not uncommon among Atheist intellectuals, especially since the popularization of LSD and Mescaline in the ’60s. Aldous Huxley, Ernst Jünger, Alexander Shulgin, Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna are among the more prominent shamans in Western culture, although not all of them would use the term “shamanism” in reference to their chemically induced self-exploratory consciousness expanding sessions.

The link between Shamanism and Hinduism

Much of Hindu belief and practice grew out of the use of Soma, a god, plant, and drink which is the focus of the Rigveda.

The continued entheogenic use of drugs such as Cannabis is not uncommon among various Hindu sects. Cannabis is connected with the god Shiva who is said to have rested in the shade of the Cannabis plant on a particularly hot day. In gratitude Shiva gave the plant to mankind.

Often the drink Bhang is drunk in Shiva’s honor, it is a tea typically cooked with milk, spices, cannabis leaves and flowers. The leaves of the Kratom tree have also been used traditionally as an ingredient in a tea with mild stimulant and opioid properties.

The Pantheistic “God” concept from the Atheist’s perspective

The Atheistic naturalistic position of the universe as a very complex quantum computer is pretty much the same as the Pantheistic position of the universe as one highly advanced mind. The differences between Atheist naturalism and Pantheism are really more a matter of different semantics and different cultural bias than a difference in concept.

If one considers the notion that the clock ticks of a computer and awareness are basicly of the same nature (which is a perfectly reasonable consideration), the following statements would mean the exact same thing :

  • The universe is God. By being a part of God, all matter and living beings are essentially divine. Time is our perception of his thinking process. God’s thinking processes comprise of all our thinking processes and all other processes of the universe combined. Our awareness is a tiny fraction of divine awareness.
  • The universe is a giant computer. By being operating systems somewhat autonomicly operating a part of that computer, all living beings are components of the same computer. Time is our perception of the giant computer sequentially processing information. The computer’s sequential processing comprises of all our thinking processes and all other processes in the universe combined. Our awareness is but a tiny fraction of the universe’s operating system.

So if time = awareness = clock ticks, I can’t distinguish between those two statements. Conceptually they mean exactly the same.

The disconnect between Atheists and Theists largely stems from using very different semantical contexts to really describe the same perspective. If we were to adjust our semantics more to each other, many of us might see more similarities than they ever held possible.

I think everybody has had the experience at some point when they feel that there’s more to life than just matter. But I think it’s very important to keep that under control and not to hand it over to be exploited by […] those who think that God has given them instructions.
Christopher Hitchens

We could call order by the name of God, but it would be an impersonal God. There’s not much personal about the laws of physics.
Stephen Hawking

I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.
Albert Einstein