By Jay B Gaskill

The anti-god bias that manifests in sophisticated circles is rooted in the fear of the primitive intelligent atheists fear the very possibility that God is real.[1].

Among atheists, this can be a deep aversion bordering on dread; many fear religion. What explains the emotional force that drives the anti-theism among this group? I believe it is the arch-materialism, the narrow rationalism of the post-superstitious. This is a force that is often amplified by the lingering traces of Post Ecclesial Abuse Syndrome (PEAS)[2]. It is no coincidence that most fiercely committed atheists (whom I prefer to call the anti-theists), have experienced an attempted religious formation by some authority figure of the literalist/fundamentalist stripe.

These traumatized minds are repelled by, and actually fear, a set of ideas of God (that to sophisticated modern theologians represent discarded anachronisms, cartoons, and caricatures of deity). A version of these dark images appears in atheist nightmares. It seems they are haunted by a fearsome archetype, a foreboding persona of raw untamable power, an authority beyond reason, a being fitful and often arbitrary, an unanswerable Parent who forces a grim, hierarchical order on all humankind via a single command, a directive that trumps dialogue, discernment and debate with a single word: SUBMIT.

Our naturalist, scientific materialist friends are in rebellion against superstition and ignorance personified. They secretly see themselves as warriors.  As combatants, they are too engaged to stop, smell the roses, and reassess the mission goals. They are caught up in full-on war against the primitive unconscious itself, as if it were the deity-in-charge of Life, the Universe and Everything, the author of existence.

These (typically) moral men and women have gotten themselves trapped in the materialist bubble in which the sole authorized form of existence is found only within the comfortably narrow confines of the mechanistic realm of the natural sciences that can be accessed only via the specialized forms of reason appropriate to its unpacking. Nothing outside that bubble must ever be acknowledged as objectively “real”. Ironically, their moral fervor, which is directed at a phantom deity construct, has deep, but unexamined, spiritual origins. Better, they think, to live without the tooth fairy and also without that religious monster under the bed.

The larger reality views that include meaning, beauty and goodness, are allowed in the door provisionally, and only as admirable human “inventions” or “constructs”.  As a consequence, any understanding of deity as the author of order and reason is rejected (even though it is a more acceptable model to the scientific mind than the fundamentalist boogeyman) on the grounds that the very notion of a priori authorship smacks of superstition.  The corollary notion of Deity as the embodiment of holiness and compassion is also attractive to these same minds. But so was the tooth fairy.


The naturalist-materialist bubble is a self-imposed, philosophical autism. Just as true autistics tend to find the inner conscious, affective life of other persons to be deeply puzzling, the inhabitant of the materialist bubble are puzzled by their own, richly endowed “extra-rational” cognitive faculties (think empathetic, esthetic and spiritual here). The parts of their minds that operate beyond the structures and constraints of “respectable science” are not “real” except as bio-electronic brain processes. An entire cluster of powerful, integrating, inductive, conscious thinking tools includes our capacity for moral, esthetic and spiritual awareness. These capabilities evolved in tandem with the sensorium, memory, and the base reasoning capabilities of the human reality-interface. These our most precious of endowments t This amazing cognitive suite is far, far more valuable than some entertainment algorithm; they transcend the rules-of-conduct strategies that any autistic must learn in order to function socially. These faculties are not only “real”; they are our connection to an immensely important part of reality.

This situation is unexplainable in strictly materialist terms.  …Which is why the materialist-naturalist needs to compartmentalize, anointing as “objective” the “real-real” realm with which the empirical sciences deal, and demoting as “subjective” the “unreal-real” realm, that holds what is most valuable in our human experience of reality.

Albert Einstein gave us a window into this conflicted mindset when he wrote a friend.

You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or an eternal mystery. …Even if the axioms of the theory are proposed by man, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the “miracle” which is being constantly re-enforced as our knowledge expands. There lies the weaknesses of positivists and professional atheists who are elated because they feel that they have not only successfully rid the world of gods but “bared the miracles.” Oddly enough, we must be satisfied to acknowledge the “miracle” without there being any legitimate way for us to approach it. I am forced to add that just to keep you from thinking that –weakened by age–I have fallen prey to the clergy.[3]

“All belief starts with a decision; in this instance we decide to adopt a world view and to live into it while always holding the possibility of correction in reserve.  Our strongest beliefs are anchored in authentic personal experience and in trust of those whom we deem worthy of trust.

“The state of mindedness I have called ‘On Approach’ is rooted in a life-derived heuristic faith stance: that the mystery of shared being is always reconcilable with ‘the world’; that the arch-materialist mindset, the fad of this age, always can be transcended; and that our deepest urgings, that sense of connection with being-as-universal, including our intimations of the numinous, all these things represent our glimpses of that greater reality that transcends the mundane. [This is] a reasonable act of faith, no more or less reasonable than the faith-perceptions that allow us to see into the hearts of other persons, to recognize them as persons and not objects, and to see, in them, something of ourselves.  The very suite of cognitive faculties that allow us to be social and sometimes moral beings, to apprehend and create beauty and to experience awe, and even reverence,  for creation, also allows us to apprehend G-d, by whatever name or no name at all.”[4]


Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Permissions –

[1] The atheist philosopher, Thomas Nagel, has created a stir among his former colleagues by advancing the heresy that the materialist naturalism of his peers is wrong.  His name came up in a conference of famous atheists in the Berkshires, covered by the journalist, Andrew Ferguson. His revealing field report, “The Heretic was published in the Weekly Standard, March 25, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 27.  Fergusen reports that- “In a recent review in the New York Review of Books of Where the Conflict Really Lies, by the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga, Nagel told how instinctively he recoils from theism, and how hungry he is for a reasonable alternative. “If I ever found myself flooded with the conviction that what the Nicene Creed says is true,” he wrote, “the most likely explanation would be that I was losing my mind, not that I was being granted the gift of faith.” He admits that he finds the evident failure of materialism as a worldview alarming—precisely because the alternative is, for a secular intellectual, unthinkable. He calls this intellectual tic “fear of religion.” [NAGEL adds]“I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear. I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isnt just that I dont believe in God and, naturally, hope that Im right in my belief. Its that I hope there is no God! I dont want there to be a God; I dont want the universe to be like that.”


[3] From a letter to Maurice Solovine (1875-1958), a young student of philosophy who wanted to take lessons with Einstein in physics… As quoted by Robert Goldman., Einstein’s God—Albert Einstein’s Quest as a Scientist and as a Jew to Replace a Forsaken God  (Joyce Aronson Inc.; Northvale, New Jersey; 1997) …Also, see Einstein’s Collected Papers at Princeton .


[4] From my short essay, “On Approach”


Leave a Reply