While America has a plethora of groups and organisations associated with Atheism and related ideas – with some of the groups having membership in the millions from out of 30 million American atheists and a global population of at least 500 million Atheists – Trinidad and Tobago (with a population of 1.3million) is hardly aware of the subject except as a fringe entry of alien etymology in our lexicon.
My awakening to this reality comes on the heel of my recently published book, “Conversations with an Atheist”- which has generally been received as if it might be something evil, satanic -as if to just utter the word atheism would incur the wrath of God resulting in one being struck down by lightning or worse.
A dictionary meaning of atheism is: a denial of God or of the gods. Atheism is not a new-age belief of today’s avant garde, but it is an idea that is thousands of years old going back to even before its most famous exponent Gautama the Buddha. While India worships 33 million gods, atheism was the belief of many denominational groups of ancient India other than Buddhism e.g. Hinduism itself and Jainism. Today 3% or 2.9 million of India’s 1.3 billion population are convinced atheists while many unbelievers do not commit themselves – for fear of one kind or another – to their status of being religious unbelievers.
To those who think Atheism is another crusading street-corner, under-the-tent religion, it must be explained that it is really an academic, intellectual, scientific understanding of our metaphysical and existential reality in the world – of whether it was Creation or the Big Bang that made it all happen.
Because atheism has evolved from the laboratory facts of cosmic activity and not out of the figment of man’s imagination, it is the most sanitized, the least corrupted of all the arguments and thoughts upon which mankind bases its belief relating to our existence.
Science provides us with the evidence we need to support our assumptions and presumptions while religion is powered by emotions and blind faith – of storytelling, hearsay and cinematic, pyrotechnical melodrama. So if Cecil B de Mills makes Moses part the red sea by the outstretch of his arms in the Ten Commandments, that for believers is enough evidence that God is manifest and omnipotent. But according to archaeologist Neil Ascher Silberman, the Bible story was not a miraculous revelation but a brilliant product of the human imagination; that the Red Sea was really a sea of reed and what happened was an atmospheric phenomenon called a wind setdown caused by a storm surge and which have been replicated by computer simulation to show the parting.
What is ironical about Atheism being seen as something demonic, as something practiced in hell, is the fact that almost all of mankind are atheists; for whenever we or our child feel ill and we rush off to the doctor and the hospital instead of seeking out our priest and the church, we relegate to a state of nothing the existence of the gods; for at the back of our minds, in our subconscious, we know the medical world of science is greater than all the prayers we know; we know that since the beginning of time, the promise of God coming to save us, save the world is only a promise we made up just to have something comforting to hold on to as a child sucks on a pacifier until feed time when it wants its real bottle and knows the difference.
The fact that my good and loyal friends have snubbed me, well my book, since its publication, is testimony to the fact that a little (or no knowledge) is a dangerous thing indeed; that I am too be avoided even though these are the same persons who previously would shower me with praise when I wrote on other issues such as politics and sport.
But I understand them based on the fact that like a new shoe which has first to be broken in, so new ideas often find it hard to find welcoming minds receptive to change; so when couple of years ago I heard one of my relatives had become an atheist my first response to the news was almost no response. I so saw it as a non-issue that I just dismissed as something characteristic of his idiosyncrasies, a desire of him to be a spiritual fashionista.
It didn’t occur to me at all that he might have been on to something, something more intellectually transcendental than how I understood the world, but later as I embarked upon my own similar journey, I came to fully understand what is meant by the aphorism, when knowledge goes up, religion goes down and that Marx was also right when he said religion was the opium of the masses; that like the child pacifier it keeps us in our comfort zone, happy to believe in something that is non-existent and which explains why today all the high priests of the world are advising us to take the Covid vaccine if we know what is good for us.