THE FIVE FACES OF ATHEISM, Part 2
March 25, 2010
As I noted in last week's article modern atheism actually has its root in Rene Descartes, the so-called "Father of Modern Philosophy." He postulated that one can never accept anything for true which is not known to be such. This created the theory of "Cartesian doubt."
Cartesian doubt puts all beliefs, ideas, thoughts and matter in doubt. Descartes showed that any grounds or reasoning for knowledge could just as well be false. Even the thought of God's existence.
From Descartes in France to David Hume in Great Britain doubt in the existence of God grew until God was not longer needed to explain the origins of life or even creation itself. The Scientific Revolution of the 17th and 18th century and ushered in deism and naturalism. These worldviews came to America by the time the United States was born, science had moved from theism (God the Creator), to deism (God of the Gaps). You don't need God to explain the universe. You can use Him to explain the unexplainable.
From Hume to Immanuel Kant, considered one of the greatest German minds of the last three hundred years, we arrive at the worldview that there can be no certainty of God's existence based on reason. By the end of his life (in 1804) ethics becomes the legitimate ground for all knowledge and God is now removed from knowledge, only to be relegated to one's feelings. Kant taught that faith and reason could not cross paths and with the polarization of these two realities, George W. F. Hegel removed God from rational thinking and pushed the existence of God into the emotions. This would come to mean that belief in a Creator God is relegated to the misfits and neurotic members of society.
Hegel's worldview is most prevalent today in five main categories of reality, viz. sociology, economic & political, anthropology, ethics (morality) and psychology. In this article I will sketch and address the first two categories or "Faces."
Auguste Comte is considered the founder of modern sociology and the doctrine of positivism, or scientific positivism. Born in Southern France in 1795, Comte was raised in the era during and following the destruction of social structures. By observing the changes in society, Comte came to postulate evolutionary historiography. He proposed that society undergoes three phases in its quest for truth. This became known as the "Law of Three Stages," namely that each science (including society at large) passes: The Theological; the Metaphysical and the Positive.
The Theological phase was seen from the perspective of 19th century France as preceding the Enlightenment, in which man's place in society and society's restrictions upon man were referenced to God. Man blindly believed in whatever he was taught by his ancestors. He believed in a supernatural power. In a nutshell, the theological, to Comte, was the fictitious stage.
By the "Metaphysical" phase, he referred not to the Metaphysics of Aristotle or other ancient Greek philosophers. Rather, the idea was rooted in the problems of French society subsequent to the French Revolution of 1789. This Metaphysical phase involved the justification of universal rights as being on a vauntedly higher plane than the authority of any human ruler to countermand, or of any individual rights (shades of Obama's ideal for appointing judges). The Metaphysical stage was also known as the abstract stage.
The "positive" or scientific phase came into being after the failure of the French revolution and Napoleon. Comte said that people could find solutions to social problems and bring them into force despite the proclamations of human rights or prophecy of the will of God. Science started to answer questions in full stretch.
Comte's "great discovery" in 1822, based on his three laws, was to become the directive idea for reorganizing society. Science alone, then, was seen as the only source that could rebuild society, not God. Thus: The First Face of Atheism - Scientific Positivism through Sociology.
Karl Marx is the next face of Atheism, or, in particular, Economic & Political Atheism. His was the Communist expression of unbelief.
Following the pattern of George W. F. Hegel and Ludwig Feuerbach, Marx is credited with the founding of genuine materialism and positive science by making the social relationship of 'man to man' the basic principle of theory." The strongest influences on Marx' views was Hegel's dialectical method, French socialist and sociological thought, in particular the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Henri de Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier. He was also influenced by earlier German philosophical materialism, particularly that of Feuerbach and the solidarity with the working class of Friedrich Engels.
Believing, like Hegel, that human history is characterized by the movement from the fragmentary toward the complete and the real (which was also a movement towards greater and greater rationality). This progressive unfolding of the Absolute involves gradual, evolutionary accretion which culminates in revolutionary leaps—episodal upheavals against the existing status quo.
His Communist Manifesto, written in 1848, notes that a form of slavery exists in a society in which instruments of oppression are used, the ultimate enemy being that which he saw as "the enemy of progress" - religion. Stating that "man makes religion, religion does not make man" he rigorously denounced religion, but particularly the "Judeo-Christian religion. Religion, according to Marx and Feuerbach, was for the bourgeois, or the aristocratic classes who, because of their religious beliefs and practices, enslave and abuse the working class.
With religion out of the way, the vacuum left would be filled by materialism. In order to accomplish materialism, man would to overthrow or cast off the shackles of oppression by revolution. Once the overthrow of the upper class is accomplish there would be utopia, i.e. all peoples being equal in material things.
To accomplish utopian equality, all property in land must be abolished, and credit, industry, communication, agriculture and education must be centralized. President Obama's worldview to a tee!
Comte and Marx represent the direction that educators, economists and politicians over the last 60 years would take us and what our current Progressive-Socialist Democratic party has adopted as truth. Yet, there is more! Three more faces will be revealed in the next two articles which will better explain many, if not most, of the current trends in our world and as well as in many of our churches today.
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