Should pantheists be considered theists or atheists
Atheism as a theological model
God and man, gods and man: a relationship that has existed since time immemorial and has produced countless works of art, buildings and stories, but also served as a pretext for wars. While most religious beliefs see man as a divine creation, atheists are convinced of the opposite: it is God or it is the gods that were created by man. At least that is the conviction of Wilfried Apfalter, board member of the Atheistic Religious Society in Austria.
When Apfalter speaks about his convictions, he expresses himself precisely and deliberately. He cannot accept the objection that atheism is not a religion and that an atheistic religious society is a contradiction in terms: "Nobody has yet been able to explain to me to what extent this is supposed to be a contradiction. The opposite of atheism in my eyes would be theism, and that Opposite of religion would be non-religion. If someone is religious, the opposite of him or her is someone who is not religious. "
He regards his conviction that gods are made by men as a theological model for the relationship between God and man, as a kind of creed. The philosopher and zoologist specifies: "Of course this is a kind of belief, because I don't know all deities and I can't check in every single case that it was really the people who invented these gods or deities. But based on what I've learned about the world so far, I guess that's the way it is. " However, Apfalter emphasizes that he is always open to proof to the contrary.
The atheistic religious society in Austria does not claim to speak for all atheists. Apfalter can well imagine that many atheists do not want to be part of an organization: "There are different types of religion and certainly also different types of atheisms. I admit that every atheist does not want to have anything to do with an organization like ours . "
In the long term, the atheist religious society is concerned with equality with other religious beliefs. Such legal recognition as a denominational community and subsequently as a corporation under public law would open up opportunities for public participation for atheists. "We look forward to equal rights," says Apfalter, knowing full well that this kind of participation is a long way off. In order to be officially recognized as a denominational community, the atheist religious society would have to have at least 300 members. According to the homepage, there are currently 150 members missing.
But what would such equality mean in concrete terms? One possibility would be state-funded denominational atheist religious instruction. According to Apfalter, there are no concrete ideas yet because it is too early. But basically it is a matter of conveying a respectful handling of other views and learning to develop ethical behavior yourself without relying on sacrosanct sources.
Rituals and community experiences
Baptism, confirmation, wedding, burial: These are rituals accompanying life and death that most religious communities practice in one form or another and for which - to put it in terms of the market - there is still demand around the world. How can the atheists keep up in this "market"? Apfalter explains: "Rituals are important, they can be very relieving, in the event of a death or when you want to greet a new person in the world or when there is something to celebrate. There is nothing against performing atheistic rituals to enjoy a community experience create."
A precious life
In one point, however, unlike established religions, atheists cannot offer consolation to their "fellow believers", namely in relation to the afterlife. Apfalter: "After death, I think it's over. One can speculate at what point in development consciousness arises. But I think that when a person dies, he only lives in memories and in the traces that he has left , go on. We have a life, a precious life. " (Mascha Dabić, daStandard.at, January 29, 2013)
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