"They have purely and simply finished with God!" said Friedrich Engels.
More than an ism, it's modern age's statement. Perhaps much more -- now it's almost a religion. And, as abominable as atheism holds religion to be, it too has started adorning itself with similar robes of a holier-than-thou insularism.
"After coming into contact with a religious man I always feel I must wash my hands," Friedrich Nietzsche, like so many other deep thinkers like him before him as after, was compelled to utter such words with a good reason, in all fairness.
In recent times, atheism has mushroomed in the West; largely in Judeo-Christian areas. At the same time, religious fundamentalism has sky-rocketed in regions under Islamic influence. Both trends must alarm a tender heart.
"All thinking men are atheists." said Ernest Hemingway.
In his ground-breaking book "A Brief History of Time", Stephen Hawking wonders, "Why it is that we and the universe exist?" To his own query, he answers out aloud, "If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason, for then we would know the mind of God."
Perhaps humorist Mark Twain pushed buttons a little further and farther, when he tongue-in-cheek remarked, "Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought." Ironically, he made bold a scientific assertion; which, since times immemorial, Eastern spiritualists, yogis and free mystics not only agree with but also hold as the eternal reality of existence.
"To sustain the belief that there is no God, atheism has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, "I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge," says Ravi Zacharias.
Basically, atheism in the Judeo-Christian belt across the world has stemmed from excesses of the church and of its not-so-honourable men of robes. Shoving down unpalatable diktats of Bible in every unwilling throat too gets many a thinking man's goat. And, the extremities of Islam too have had far-reaching consequences; altering the consciousness of not only the classes but also a sizable bulk of masses, against religion as such; rebelling against a perceived unjust God as much.
It is the view of Isaac Asimov that "properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived." Mark Twain too could not resist taking a pot-shot at his inherited ism, commenting - "The Bible has noble poetry in it... and some good morals and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies." In more recent times, Christopher Hitchens says, "As a convinced atheist, I ought to agree with Voltaire that Judaism is not just one more religion, but in its way the root of religious evil. Without the stern, joyless rabbis and their 613 dour prohibitions, we might have avoided the whole nightmare of the Old Testament, and the brutal, crude wrenching of that into prophecy-derived Christianity, and the later plagiarism and mutation of Judaism and Christianity into the various rival forms of Islam."
The idea of an anthropomorphic, human-like god, sitting up there in heaven, ruling this hellish earth with all its cruelties, without respite; churns the fires of intelligent minds, questioning every presumed "godly' intention that seems more and more like malfeasance than divine ordinance. Thus, a sceptical intellect would but agree with what Voltaire said; that "those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities."
Dr. Anne Besant, who worked with the free thought and radical movements in England in her time and later projected Jidu Krishnamurti as the World Teacher, led Theosophical Society and spear-headed the freedom struggle of India against the British until her death in 1933; postulated, "The position of the atheist is a clear and reasonable one. I know nothing about "God' and therefore I do not believe in Him or in it; what you tell me about your God is self"-contradictory, and therefore incredible. I do not deny "God,' which is an unknown tongue to me; I do deny your God, who is an impossibility. I am without God." A compatriot observed that she was "unable to make logic out of Christian traditions, she left the Church in 1872 and became a freethinker, thus ruining her social position through her passion for Truth." However, "it was not the challenge of unfaith but rather of a highly spiritual nature that desired intensely not only to believe but also to understand."
Einstein too confessed that "I came, though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents, to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking." To him "the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously." Most importantly, he led us to a secularist's view of the world, with which many of today's freethinkers could amicably identify; for the renown scientist elaborated that "If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."
According to theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, "My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all." However, this is the ultimate aim and objective of every Yogi, Sufi and Free Mystic too. For, unlike Judeo-Christian-Islamic culture, wherein unquestioning acquiescence and obeisance is expected vis---vis nature of existence or its espoused creator; in free mystical tradition of the East, of India at least, a metaphysical seeker is first and foremost expected to ask, "Ko hum?" -- Who am I?
A brief comparison between the knowledge of present day science and ancient to this day free mysticism is called for here -- about The Nature of Alpha and Omega, of The End Reality.
"We each exist for but a short time, and in that time explore but a small part of the whole universe. " This much Professor Hawking, perhaps one of the greatest minds of modern day and a prominent exponent of atheism, admits. On the other hand, a serious free mystic of the Indian tradition not only wants to know everything about The Ultimate Reality in this very life itself, but now! - In the present moment itself. And, metaphysical philosophy of India insists one can, if so be one's divine destiny, attain enlightenment in this short time available to us in our puny little life.