On the Meta-Cosmic Rights, Duties, and Limitations of Atheism
In a way, theism and atheism have a mutually supporting relationship; for just as dopey religions and religious arguments can prompt one to become an atheist, likewise, the intellectually negligible arguments of Bill Maher or Richard "Vanilla Thunder" Dawkins are often the most compelling case for theism.
And since neither can be proved -- at least with the weapons of rationalism -- we are back to the unavoidable leap of faith: the very faith the rationalist finds so offensive.
Now, atheism has its rights. That being the case, it not only has corresponding duties, but the duties are necessarily prior to the rights. The duty, of course, is to Truth -- not just the lower case truth of rationalism, but the Truth of which rationalism is a prolongation or echo.
What are we supposed to do with our reason in the face of an unreasonable or frankly idiotic religion? Schuon writes that man has "legitimate needs for causality raised by certain dogmas, at least when these are taken literally..."
As such, one can scarcely "begrudge anyone for being scandalized by the stupidities and the crimes perpetrated in the name of religion," or even by the outward "antinomies between the different creeds."
However, an intellectually honest atheist will not only concede that "excesses and abuses are a part of human nature," but acknowledge with embarrassment that the apostles of pure reason -- e.g., "scientific socialism" -- have an even worse track record of excesses and abuses.
Is there a way to arbitrate between an absurcular atheism and an extravagant theism? Both camps sacrifice consistency to completeness (a la Gödel), but is there an approach to reality that is both consistent and complete?
Yes and no. Think about the fact that we can even know and understand Gödel's theorems, something a computer cannot do in principle:
1) Computing machines are essentially formal systems.
2) Gödel has shown that there are sentences—Gödel sentences—that can't be proven within a formal system, but that humans can see to be true.
3) Therefore, humans can do something that computers can't do, namely, recognise the truth of Gödel sentences.
To the extent that a rationalist understands Gödel and still clings to his rationalism, he has rendered himself an irrationalist.
In this context, you could say that religions are "theories," so to speak (or visions), of the Complete and Consistent Object that reason can only know partially, or "through a glass, darkly," as the gag goes.
But fortunately, there are ways of knowing that transcend mere (lower case) reason. Indeed, I would say that man is entitled to an explanation that satisfies the demands of his Total Intelligence.
But as Schuon writes, "Only metaphysics can resolve [the] enigmas which faith imposes upon the believer," a faith which at the same time reflects "a certain instinct for the essential and for the supernatural."
To be continued...