Do Atheism and Religion rely on ignorance?

Last night I attended a philosophers' meeting, in which the merits of atheism was discussed.

There was a talk given on "The new atheists" - as the email alert of the event explained, "The new atheists are Dawkins along with Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. The Four Horsemen they call themselves and they can be found on the web. Adding in Michel Onfray and his recent publication, The Atheist Manifesto only extends the concern that they are all barking up a dead end canal."

By and large it seemed to me the audience was comprised of members sympathetic to atheism, and/or agnosticism. Not surprising given the nature of the email invitation, and the subject matter.

What was of particular interest to me was the belief-systems held by those present (who presumably were mostly atheists and agnostics). At one point I asked a (rhetorical) question of the presenter, and then again later of the audience. I referred to Sir John Templeton's question "If God is infinite, what can be separate?"

The purpose of the question was to probe the assumptions of atheism - the assumption that we exist in some sort of universe whereby things exist "perfectly" independently (whatever that means), and that things happen "by chance".

With the proof of nonlocality, we now know that we exist in a "radically interconnected and interdependent world, one so essentially connected at a deep level that the interconnections are more fundamental, more real than the independent existence of the parts."1

That is to say, there's now sufficient evidence, understanding and conceptual frameworks to appreciate that we live within a radically interconnected, self-organising, participatory universe. With this in mind, I asked a few audience members privately what they knew of Bell's Theorem ("the most profound discovery of science"2) or of the experimental evidence for nonlocality.

None were familiar with either. I wondered how much of atheistic belief is reliant on ignorance of, or avoidance of the fundamental interconnectedness of life. As explained, irrespective of what one believes about God, and even if one believes there is no God, taking God to mean the whole of All, we are necessarily God-as-Us.

Within the context of living within a radically interconnected, participatory universe, atheism is akin to an Australian disbelieving in an 'Australian culture', or an American disbelieving in an 'American culture'. Both are intangibles, just as is 'God', 'Oneness', 'community' and so on. It's odd that atheists might acknowledge the validity of a 'oneness' of a group of individuals (in the form of 'community' or 'culture'), but not a deeper, ubiquitous nonlocal interconnectedness, a oneness of all.

This is where I've found the abrupt disconnects to occur in people's thinking and conceptual understanding. While accepting their individuality with a community, I often get a blank stare, or avoidance of the validity of the metaphors when rationally extended to include One within All.

Update: So what has all this got to do with achievement, or the process of achievement? In my experience, when we believe in an underlying interconnectedness, we remain open to the connections that can provide solutions to problems - we know them in the form of gut feelings.

Any biography of any half-decent entrepreneur will make mention of them having trusted their gut feelings. It's an invaluable business tool. What most don't understand or dwell too much on is how those gut-feelings work. That "I just know" is crucial to not just important business matters, but important and sometimes life-changing personal decisions as well. Sure sometimes they're wrong, but that's for a whole other reason beyond the veracity and usefulness of intuition and gut-feeling - it's because we allow our habitual beliefs to hijack the subtle messages.

It's when we second-guess our intuitions that things go astray. After all, the connections are real. The science is in. We're all interconnected, whether we like it or not.3 The challenge is in listening, or more correctly feeling the connections and intuitions, and acting on them to get us that which we seek.

  • 1. Victor Mansfield, Synchronicity, science and soul-making, Chicago, 1995, Open Court, page 226.
    The fuller context of Mansfield quote is:
    "Nonlocality or nonseparability in our participatory quantum universe has especially dazzled those working on the philosophical foundations of quantum theory. This recent work presents us with a radically interconnected and interdependent world, one so essentially connected at a deep level that the interconnections are more fundamental, more real than the independent existence of the parts of the quantum system. The great beauty of this result is that it emerges from experiment and analysis that are independent of the theoretical structure of quantum mechanics . . . Therefore we know that nonlocality and acausality must be found in any empirically adequate theory of nature."
  • 2. Bell's Theorem "is the most profound discovery of science." — Henry Stapp, "Bell's Theorem and World Process" Nuovo Cimento, 29B, 270-276 (1975).
  • 3. Denying the underlying interconnectedness of life, and the benefits thereof, is akin to keeping our eyes closed and complaining that we can't see the light while bumping into things all over the place (having "accidents"). There's little mileage or value in maintaining such closed mindedness, particularly in the face of such glaring evidence (excuse the puns, they just flow. :)