Just who are these atheists we keep hearing about so much? There’s a tricky logical proposition that disproves their very existence and it’s deceptively simple:
“There are no atheists because to be an atheist one first has to have conception of God, and if he has conception of God then he is not an atheist.”
It’s like there’s no meaning to Antichrist without Christ, no anti-communism without existence of communism and so on, down to “no darkness without existence of light”, because darkness means absence of light and so you can’t define it if light didn’t exist at all.
Atheists are not having this, of course, and they enthusiastically attack this logic from each and every angle, convincing themselves of easy victory but, to my knowledge, there are no easy answers to this problem.
One easy refutation goes like this – I have a concept of unicorns but that doesn’t prove they exist, so I might have a concept of God but it doesn’t mean God exist, and so I can remain an atheist. This can be modified to disprove existence of Santa Claus, tooth fairies, and Pokemons, too.
Problem with this explanation is that it assumes that concept of God and concept of unicorns are interchangeable in this construction but they aren’t. To be fair, however, to atheists they are, they think they are both imaginary and so if you can think up something in your mind, like God or a unicorn, it doesn’t make it exist in reality.
This seems solid but even that logic can be challenged, and it has been challenged, by so called “ontological argument” that seeks to prove, using definitions of God, that if you can think of Him in your mind that He must exist for real. There are many variations of this argument but the basic logic goes something like this:
That which exist in reality is greater than that which exists only in the mind and so if God is greater than everything than He is greater than what we can possibly imagine and He can top our imagination only by being real, and we can’t top that in return.
Modern atheist think that this kind of logic is easy to defeat but it puzzled greatest thinkers for hundreds and hundreds of years and big names like Descartes or Leibniz elaborated and solidified it. It wasn’t until Kant that ontological argument has been defeated conclusively, but, interestingly, only within Kant’s own elaborate framework. If you don’t accept it, ontological argument still stands.
There has been no philosophical movement on it since Kant and propagandists like Dawkins simply do not engage with it, preferring to reject it out of hand instead.
So, it is possible to argue that God exists simply because you can have a concept of Him in your mind but ontological argument is not the only way to puzzle atheists here.
Concept of God does not have to be imaginary at all. We can think up unicorns or any other weird creature and so we can imagine God sitting in the clouds and casting bolts of lightning but we don’t have to. In Vedic philosophy no imagination is required at all.
We define God as the cause of all causes, for example, which is not an imaginary concept. Good luck trying to prove that cause of all causes does not exist and if it does – there’s your God.
I guess one could argue that cause of all causes does not exist just like there is no such thing as the smallest number, because you can always divide it by 2 and get something even smaller. Likewise there is no such thing as the greatest number because you can always add 1 and get something greater.
Yet we do have concepts of infinity and if infinity exists so should things like “cause of all causes”.
Or we can define God as absolutely independent being, which is a similar quality to “cause of all causes”. What it practically means is that God is not obliged to follow laws of nature and therefore His existence cannot be proven, because “proof” for us means getting response from the object, be it light reflected of its surface or quarks generated from its bombardment with other particles. Absolutely independent entity is not obliged to react to anything and so it’s impossible to prove its existence in conventional way.
Alternatively, we define God as being inconceivable and beyond perception, which is a direct consequence of being the cause of all causes or being absolutely independent. This, of course, makes people like Dawkins into fools because when they ask for proof of God they don’t even notice that anything that can be “proven” in the way acceptable to them can’t be God by definition. Usually they travel around and agitate ex-Christians but I wonder how they’d do against Islamic scholars whose concept of God is very similar in this regard – Allah can’t be felt, seen or perceived so what Dawkins is asking for is nonsense.
So, this is one feature of atheism – they imagine their own concept of God and then vigorously try to prove that it doesn’t exist. In this sense they aren’t really atheists, just fools, and so the original puzzle still stands.
Another way to explain it is to point out that atheists only reject God’s authority over their own lives, which they can do, but they can’t prove God’s non-existence to the believers nor can they deny God’s authority over those who surrender to Him. In this sense atheism doesn’t exist either just as darkness does not exist on itself, it’s just a localized absence of light. So what atheists actually say is that in their locality God does not manifest Himself but by saying so they admit that He exists elsewhere.
Well, we shouldn’t get fooled by their arguments, they appear clever only on the surface and being atheists is their God given right so we can leave them practice it to their hearts’ content.
As for ourselves – we should build realistic understanding of the Absolute Truth, not something that we imagine in our minds. It’s a bit difficult because we’ve been given so much information about Krishna’s personal qualities and we can easily imagine Him walking in Vrindavana and playing games with His friends but actual realization of this reality must go through the generic stages – liberation, Brahman, and then Bhagavan.
I mean liberation is not just a word we throw around, absolutely meaningless to our lives because, as we’ve been told, devotees are liberated already and mokṣa herself waits to serve us with folded hands but we aren’t devotees yet, just trying, and to attain that status we need to reach actual liberation first.
So, even if all of the above sounds like pseudo-intellectual mambo jumbo, which it probably is, we still can contemplate building our relationship with the “cause of all causes”, īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ.
Best way, as they say, is to listen to the sound of His name.