Theism and Atheism – Governing Dynamics and Perceptions

A Compilation of Discussion

For Private Use Only – Strictly Confidential

Preface
Dear Member, The following paper is a compilation of the minutes of the discussion. I have made an attempt to provide the same in an essay format with headings for coherence. This paper is strictly meant for Private Use of the members only. This paper is not an academic or research paper and hence you are strictly advised not to quote anything outside. The objective of the paper is to only provide a summary of what has been discussed. This means that the topic is still open for discussion, debate and deliberation in the online forum/ blog. Theism and Atheism are two sensitive topics in the society today. While each individual decides his stance, predominantly we brand the other side with stereotypes as being “absurd”, “dumb” etc without understanding the perspectives. The Society for Intellectual Thinking (hereinafter referred to as „SIT‟) sat down to discuss the varying perceptions and dynamics in these two aspects. The discussion covered the following:      Theism– An understanding, perceptions involved Atheism - An understanding, perceptions involved The Grey Area – A life of Contradictions The Up Bringing- Does it decide your stance? Proof – The varying perceptions

Date: 21/12/ 08 Venue: Gandhi Statue, Marina Beach, Chennai Participants 1. Srinath Varadarajan – Moderator and Philosophic 2. Prashanth Krishnaswami - Agnostic 3. Harish Sampath Kumar - Purist 4. Akshay Madhavan – Core Atheist 5. Srinath Veeraraghavan - Purist 6. Dr. Mohan Rao - Spiritual 7. Shyleshwari Rao - Spiritual 8. Sairam Gopalan - Religious 9. Rajaraman Subramaniam – Theist 10. Aparajith Jayaraman - Theist 11. Sundar Velan – Core Atheist 12. Srinath Chakravarthi - Agnostic Regards, Srinath Varadarajan Member, SIT

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Theism – An Understanding
Theism and the idea of God arise out of man‟s innate nature to question things beyond his understanding and perception. These could include inability to reason out fate, phenomena in nature, randomness and chaotic nature of the functioning of life and hedging the prevailing uncertainty. This creates and also reinstates the theists that there is something that is eternal, constant, a superior phenomenon beyond human senses, etc In a complete state of abstractness and randomness, the entire world is transient and ever changing. To bring in realism or tangibility or hedge against such a phenomenon, we have developed systems, logical thought process, lifestyles and the like. A complete ideal and in fact natural phenomenon is where man has none of these and is in a total chaotic state. That is the reason why theists believe in a new born baby and a child as manifestations of the Godhood, meaning that it is pure and natural. The idea of theism besides being “worship of God”, “rituals”, and the possible “superstitions” , also lays emphasis on the “attainment of godhood” which is a state where one does not distinguish anything from anything, understanding the constancy in the transient, does not go by systems, etc, in short, becomes what a new born baby is! Some theists also believe in the worship of nature per se, meaning rain, sun, wind etc, which have a direct bearing to our living. Another manifestation or rather a separate body all together is Spirituality which believes in the existence of a soul and the realization of the same as the task of mankind. Predominantly, all the prevailing and famous religions of today believe in this concept. This concept believes in an eternal cosmic energy (by whatever name you call) that is identifiable in all creations and universe and creation is a manifestation of that cosmic energy, which is termed as the “soul” (In Hinduism, Atman) and the whole energy as such is called the “Universal soul” (In Hinduism, Brahman). The idea of life is to wake up the soul and identify it with the universal soul, the state being called Self Realization. Attaining that state would involve a concentration which is very powerful and a self introspection that is deep and to the core in the literal sense of the term. Under spirituality, that concentration and introspection should be beyond ones senses as they are believed to divert the focus or move a person from identifying within him, the “reality”. Hence the lifestyle, attitude and practices were suggested and later became “doctrines” to enable a person to achieve that ideal or at least provide the means to achieve the same. Some suggest meditation and constant introspection , the term called as “Jnana” and some use indirect approach where the feeling of “I” is bowed down to something superior, the approach being called “Bhakthi” or a lifestyle called “Karma” that intrinsically enables one to achieve that goal.

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Atheism – An Understanding
Atheism unlike theism, does not believe in the existence of God. While the atheists believe in the chaotic nature, randomness and uncertainty, they tend to relate the same with the nature of the world and not attribute the same to a superior force, say God. According to atheists, the idea of God is only a hypothesis that has arisen due to man‟s innate nature to question things but something that is not proven. The atheists believe that a baby is a born atheist and the idea of theism and God unless instilled in the mind, the baby does not relate anything to God. The idea of God is only to support himself, give him a self confidence, to vent out emotions, an artificial companion, etc. While the theists believe that life and death and the power to reason is a boon for man to think beyond and reach the ideal, the atheists look at it as a biological and evolutionary phenomenon and man as a “social animal”. The idea of God being only an hypothesis, though the atheists agree that there “could be a possibility”, they refuse to accept or digest the same as the same has not proven and the atheists attach their belief on things that are proven by science, as the same is “more likely” and “dependable”. Though proofs are not always rite and can be negated over time, the atheists alter their beliefs on the basis of proofs as they occur. Another similar ideology is being agnostic. An agnostic person is one who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience. The difference between atheism and being agnostic, is that the atheist negates the existence of God while the agnostic person holds the view that though may be possible, it would not be possible to know, however, the lifestyle of the atheist and agnostic person are more or less similar. The various happenings are related to luck, chance and probability.

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The Grey Area – Life of Contradictions
This was one view that came up the discussions. While we find that each individual has his own stance on the same, many a times we find that people live in contradictions meaning that though are theists, they are atheists for certain situations and vice versa. For example, under complete theism, the feeling of I or the ego is negated and unselfishness is agreed to be God. However, people in some situations in the guise of saying it is “practical” many a times get to go against the theist ideology and are atheists for that particular situation. In the same sense, at the time of a crisis, we could find that those who do not believe in God also have a hope that a miracle could take place! Hence, the common man today is more or less in the “grey” and not really extreme theist or extreme atheist.

Up Bringing – Does it decide your stance?
There was a contention that theism arises only by up bringing, else the child grows to be an atheist. While this could be true, after a point of time, as one grows, one could find that at a phase of life, self thinking and quest really moves a person to sustain the belief or faith or transition into another philosophy. This is so true with people who convert to other religions, to atheism, from atheism to theism, etc. (This is however for people who transition purely out of choice and not persuasion or coercion).

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Proof – The Varying Perceptions
The entire discussion on Atheism Vs Theism can be summarized as Proof Vs Belief. Hence it would be essential to understand the perceptions with reference to the term “proof”. It would be difficult to say exactly what is proof because on the discussion one could sense that the idea of proof for each person was different from what was commonly accepted as a “Proof”. The following are some suggestions made by the members. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. A physical existence A precedent A credible source Adherence to set of commonly accepted ways of logical thinking Science as such is proof Anything written is proof Proof of emotions can only be felt Proof has to be clinical and should be experimented rather than being emotive Proof is consistency

The idea of proof for the participants were so different and it only brings to a doubt if there is a common accepted proof at all, or is it just proof for the outside while each individual chooses his own way of defining proof for himself! This is again highly debatable!

What did we conclude?
We could not really conclude on whether theism or atheism is right. However, we realized that it was proof vs belief and there are so many perspectives involved and it is essential to respect both the sides rather than living with unreasonable prejudice. It was a good learning to all and the discussion is still open!

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