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A Brief History of Atheism III
A Brief History of Atheism III
A Brief History of Atheism Part III
Ancient and Continuing
Charles J Hunsinger
In the main philosophies of China, Tao and Confucious, as mentioned in Part II, which date to 1500 BCE and possibly earlier, there is no mention of a supernatural creator or other such deities. There are no gods of war, as seen in the writings of the Jews, which, in all probability, emerged into Egypt in the 13th century BCE, as the Apiru and/or Hapiru, later becoming the Hebrew. There is much indication that these tribes were no more than marauding bands of escaped criminals
From India we find a great diversity of thought and a tremendous insight into the human character. Of the three Atheistic philosophies that arose; Jain, Buddhism and Carvaka (Lokayata), Jain has the oldest claim of origin; Buddhism and Carvaka were in response to the perceived savagery of the Hindu theistic religions and to the caste system.
The Jain claim of origin dates to eight million years, but the best claimed proof of origin possibly dates to around 3000 BCE in the Indus Valley where the Jain swastika and Jain statues were said to be found. Historical documentation dates to around the 8th century BCE
Jain continues to survive with a following of around twelve (12) million people. The Jain are among the wealthiest people in India and are the administrators of hospitals, colleges and schools. They are international venture capitalists with world wide offices.
Everything has a soul
All souls have the potential to be a god
Have benevolence for all
Every soul is its own life architect
Control your senses
Every being responsible for his own life
The Jain Code of Ethics
Brahmachary---Celibacy This is a Jain option and not required
Buddhism is a world wide belief system of over 300 million adherents. With Buddhism there is no guessing with reference to origin: it began in 525 B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama who was called the Buddha. Although Buddhism promotes the idea of reincarnation, that life is a cycle of trials and errors it is essentially Atheistic, as the three essential god deities are missing.
“The basic doctrines of early Buddhism, which remain common to all Buddhism, include the four noble truths: existence is suffering (dukhka); suffering has a cause, namely craving and attachment (trishna); there is a cessation of suffering, which is nirvana; and there is a path to the cessation of suffering, the eightfold path of right views, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Buddhism characteristically describes reality in terms of process and relation rather than entity or substance”
Carvaka was an Atheistic movement and possibly died out in the 1500 CE, and does not exist today. That we know this belief system existed from around 600 BCE can be traced to the criticisms contained in Hindu (Vedic) texts. Carvaka was the founder of this system, which was materialistic, naturalistic and it is said pleasure prone, but, perhaps, more importantly is the overall thinking of the Carvaka movement, which is embodied in the second quote. Quotes from Wikipedeia.
The earliest positive statement of skepticism is preserved from the epic period, in the Ramayana
“--regard only that which is an object of perception, and cast behind your back whatever is beyond the reach of your senses.”
"It may be said from the available material that Cārvākas hold truth, integrity, consistency, and freedom of thought in the highest esteem."
It is said that Greece is the foundation of Western thought and this, I believe to be true. The greatness of human thought and achievement however, cannot be summed up in one culture, but rather it is an accumulation of knowledge from the mixture of cultures. That Greece played a positive and pivotal role in human thinking is unquestionable, but it did so with exposure to the ideas of India, Egypt and Assyrian cultures.
The gods of Greece were many and, as all things evolve, evolved from more ancient beliefs into deities that best suited the needs of the Greeks. So too, the gods of today are the off spring of these ancient and archaic gods.
It was from Greece however, that Western thinking and philosophy emerged; critical thinking and deductive reasoning opened the door to the modern world. Democracy is, without question, a Greek invention, the invention, you might say, of Pagans or even Atheists. Greek democracy was much different then American democracy, as each male, adult land owner had one vote.
The first of the great Greek, Atheistic thinkers to redefine existence was a fellow by the name of Thales, 636-646 BCE. Although his work (written) does not exist; credit is given to him by succeeding Greek philosophers. Thales was the first recorded to refute and to refuse explanations of existence through mythological (god) beliefs. All things, he asserted, have a natural cause. Thales is also credited with the introduction of geometry into Greek thought, but that geometry came by virtue of India. Thales is also credited with the idea that all of nature is composed of one basic element (stuff); a theory later expounded upon by Anaximenes, another Greek philosopher. He is also credited with the prediction of a solar eclipse in 585 BCE. It is doubtful that Thales was the first Greek Atheist, but it is safe to say that he is the first notable. Many more would come however and with them their clarity and objectivity.
Part IV to follow
Rome through Ayn Rand