10.04.2009

Some Other Varieties of Religious Experience

At the recommendation of a friend, I've been (slowly) reading through Gaudium et Spes, a Catholic constitution that resulted from Vatican II. I thought this one particular discussion of atheism was interesting:
"The word atheism is applied to phenomena which are quite distinct from one another. For while God is expressly denied by some, others believe that man can assert absolutely nothing about Him. Still others use such a method to scrutinize the question of God as to make it seem devoid of meaning. Many, unduly transgressing the limits of the positive sciences, contend that everything can be explained by this kind of scientific reasoning alone, or by contrast, they altogether disallow that there is any absolute truth. Some laud man so extravagantly that their faith in God lapses into a kind of anemia, though they seem more inclined to affirm man than to deny God. Again some form for themselves such a fallacious idea of God that when they repudiate this figment they are by no means rejecting the God of the Gospel. Some never get to the point of raising questions about God, since they seem to experience no religious stirrings nor do they see why they should trouble themselves about religion. Moreover, atheism results not rarely from a violent protest against the evil in this world, or from the absolute character with which certain human values are unduly invested, and which thereby already accords them the stature of God. Modern civilization itself often complicates the approach to God not for any essential reason but because it is so heavily engrossed in earthly affairs."
Some different "varieties" of "atheism" are mentioned: "garden-variety" atheism, logical positivism, relativism, &c. More importantly, however, several different emotional and spiritual factors that contribute to unbelief are enumerated: pride, apathy, materialism (i.e., consumerism), the idolatry of human values, and - most interesting - "violent protest against the evil in the world."

Of course, one could make similar lists, mutatis mutandis, about theism. But it's interesting to think of unbelief as a similarly multifaceted set of phenomena.

1 comments:

Carlos said...

A wonderful post, John. I hope you are enjoying Gaudium et Spes. I guess that the problem of evil will always be the "rock of atheism". Also, the perception that the world is self-sufficient seems to stand in favour of a non-theistic view. But, as we were talking yesterday, there remains the question about the conditions of possibility of the world itself. Here comes God...