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A way to atheism through Zen

Updated on August 26, 2012

There is an old Zen saying :

“When you know nothing, trees are just trees and mountains are just mountains.

When you begin to learn, trees are no longer trees and mountains no longer mountains.

But when you have come to know, trees are trees and mountains are mountains. “

Part of what that all means is that when you know nothing you react instinctively. Things just are.

When you begin to learn, you have to think, and thought brings with it all kinds of new insights, both rational and irrational.

But when you know, you have returned to the instinctive, but now it is educated, ready for the process to begin again.

So. When you are very young, you don't believe in god because you have never been told about it. You only know you exist.  Atheism is the default for all babies.

When you have been told you must believe in a god, you usually do out of fear. But you may wonder about whether or not it is true.

When you have seen all the evidence, you may decide it is, or may decide it is not true. But then you may wonder how all this came to be.

If you have been exposed to science and logic you discover that the process of existence is probably your creator. It is god. It is that which always was.  For if ever there was nothing, there would be nothing now. But god is probably not conscious in any way and is certainly not like the god they told you about.

So now you understand that no conscious god is required. It doesn't mean no conscious god exists anyway, just that it doesn't look like one is required. There is now a real alternative to the god you were told about.

Then you accept the fact that you lack belief in conscious gods, but you admit that like with the Bigfoot controversy, or magic invisible pink squirrels, you can not know one way or the other for sure unless one pops its head out of the woods or the sky and says hi. But that's no reason to believe they do exist. Lack of belief makes no claims.

While you can not know, and you must admit you can not know, you know no one else does either. Even those who claim to know, can't know. So you understand that those who told you you must believe, had no way of knowing that. They are all selling speculation as if it is fact.

If they knew that, they would be dishonest. But they don't, so they are just mistaken, and in some cases, delusional. 

After that, if you decide to continue to look for answers, you may realize that belief in anything at all is irrational and not required. You can completely lack belief and still form conditional opinions, based on current known facts. Belief is not required for making educated choices. Lack of belief is not a belief. It is a way of living and understanding.

You are back to the educated instinctive, and ready for the process to continue.


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    • profile image

      Lavigne 2 years ago

      Back in school, I'm doing so much legainnr.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile image

      Ron Hooft 6 years ago from Ottawa

      Thank you. ;)

    • ForgedWarrior profile image

      ForgedWarrior 6 years ago from Earth

      I like this...I would say it describes zen perfectly! Good hub@:)