“Gratheism”

Nov 27 2011 @ 9:32pm

A reader writes:

I sit with those who as of this moment cannot believe. When I was 20 I had a perhaps-mushroom-influenced mental breakdown around the belief I had discovered the nature of God – core to my discovery being that no single path is better than another, as the son of a now agnostic Christian-American and a spiritually Hindu Indian immigrant, it was clear to me there was no one right way.

As I descended (or ascended?) back into rationalism I sit with an increased sensation that we as humans must make deep efforts on one another's behalf, because we may be all we have. Articles like Dali_Crucifixion_hypercubeother, that there is no nihilism in that, and that empathy for others borne of the lack of surety that there will be some other accounting, later, is in fact required.

Said differently, the notion that the universe loves us, that all will be okay, might diminish our incentives to live this life with a healthy respect for it's randomness, with the humility that there may be only one shot, with a deep appreciation for empathy as the cornerstone of our humanity without requiring religious underpinning, and a belief that no further belief system is required, with its concomitant anti-intellectual and non-empirical remnants, to influence that sheer love of each other.

At the same time, I support and personally feel belief in the mystery of it all, recognizing that we don't know what we don't know; and I have a strong sense that the teachings of Buddha, of karma, of Judaism, of Mohammed, and of Christ have a great deal to offer – that these world views all are directionally healthy if interpreted without literalism, that they all imply reasons for gratitude and that they all help build social fabric as shared belief systems, and that those things are good things which probably outweigh the obvious downsides of groupthink and the devastating divisions they also cause with humans who otherwise have so much in common.

For lack of a better term I call this world-view Gratheism, aka Grateful Atheism, and believe it's a needed antidote to the condescending atheism of writers whose bravery I admire, like Hitchens and Dawkins, but who are – I don't think – building much social fabric, and who I suspect are not winning any converts.