The standard premise that atheism rests on is the absence of evidence for the existence of God or a god. Oxfordictionaries.com gives the meaning of the word atheism as “Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.” Let’s define the word “god” or “deity”. The same site defines god as follows: “a superhuman being or spirit worshipped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity.”
The operative words here, if we ignore the nature or corporeal make-up of “god” would be the words “having power over nature or human fortunes.” Atheists certainly have no qualm with the existence of entities that possess immense power to affect nature and the fortunes of people. The only problem they have is that a “superhuman being or spirit” should possess such powers. We can therefore expand on the definition of an atheist as one who “disregards the existence of superhuman or spiritual being” but does not deny the existence of power over nature or human fortunes.
Now let’s have a closer look at the atheistic position and the words “power over nature and human fortunes.” Who, according to the atheist, currently wields such power? This power, says the atheist, lies in nature itself and the hands of people themselves. Nature is governed by the physical laws of nature, which has evolved by itself, while people make the rules affecting them, based on their own best interest. The mechanisms that people establish to collectively make the rules, represent the seats of power therefore, whether it is parliament, international treaties or any other recognized decision-making forum.
In days of old, pagan people delegated many a grave decision to the flipping of a coin. It is reported from ancient pagan Arabia that many crucial questions were often settled by drawing lots, akin to today flipping a coin. In other pagan societies the shape of the moon, the intensity of the thunder or an eclipse of the sun would be given similar importance in influencing their important life decisions. It is this sort of flippant invalid approach to settling serious human questions that religion came to dispel. Revealed religion de-legitimated the power of the “coin”, or the moon or the sun.
Now what if all decisions were simply referred to a mighty king or a guru of sorts? This was the case in mediaeval Europe and in many other pre-modern societies. In fact it’s still the method used in Saudi Arabia. Would power that is vested in such a king or guru be more legitimate? Authentically revealed religion says no.
Modern societies have shifted this power to a “people’s assembly” or a parliament and to international treaties such as the United Nations. Atheism will certainly agree with, and embrace a belief in these mentioned modern sources of power. They hold a “belief” in the validity and legitimacy of such means of acquiring guidance on the questions that vex us.
What the atheist perhaps fails to realize is that the issue of power and authority to influence the voluntary actions of people goes more to the heart of revealed religion, and NOT the corporeal essence of God. Muslims are in fact called on to refrain from contemplating the essence of God, and to rather occupy themselves with pondering His attributes. If we suspend the question of the corporeal make-up of God, then there is not so much difference between the atheist and the pagan. The atheist, as with the pagan, requires tangible, real world sources of power; whether it is (falsely) regarded as the sun, a stone or a congressional or parliamentary committee.
A knower of God sees the flipping of a coin, the edict of a king or guru or a parliamentary legislated piece of law all as devoid of reliability and legitimacy to a greater or lesser extent. The knower of God holds that there is an objective truth out there. Just as there was a proof to Fermat’s Last Theorem, conjectured by Fermat in 1637, and only discovered in 1994 by Andew Wiles, there is always a perfect solution to any vexing human problem, which may not necessarily be obtainable at a given moment. Knowers of God believe that an objective truth, independent of any created phenomenon, exists somewhere in the universe. We define God (no matter what the corporeal essence is that He possesses) as the source and maintainer of such truth.
Can such truth be accessed? How do we access such truth? The knower of God sees the mind of a true Prophet, such as Jesus, or Moses or Abraham as the recipient and holder of such perfect and unadulterated wisdom. However, we are not calling to blind obedience. Divine truth is like pristine water which can undergo contamination the moment it drops on the earth. But rain water can also be kept pure and wholesome for human use. Just as we have a duty to verify that the tap water we drink is safe, when we travel abroad, so we have to make sure the truths we take from anyone is safe to uphold. For that purpose we are given a healthy mind and some good survival instincts. When Israel’s foreign minister speaks on CNN, or when an ad for getting rich quickly comes on the radio, our bullshit sensors are activated immediately, just as our senses are activated when we obtain water with a foul smell. We are further convinced of the foulness of promoted truths when gullible people start dying after embracing such false truth claims.
Knowers of God hold that a divine stream of pure wisdom has reached humanity for thousands of years via the magnificent prophets; that they clearly used such wisdom to touch humanity in a very positive way; and that they left behind a sufficient legacy for us to continue to distill pure truth for our own salvation.
The atheist is a denier of universal and perfect truths, more than he is a denier of God. As with the pagan, the atheist prefers his truth from a tangible source. For the atheist, truth is the product of a human mind, not the inspired cosmic wisdom that enters the mind of a Prophet. Is the atheist not more of a pagan than the knower of God then? The knower of God is less cynical about the profound universal possibilities that exist for humanity. We find our direction from the deeply sublime, while atheists seek theirs in the mere mundane. Most fundamental to the definition of religion is not what the essence and make-up of God is, but rather what the ultimate source of power and authority should be for humanity. We hold that such power and authority should emanate from an elevated, sublime source, propagated through and manifested in sublime agents, while the atheist holds that the “here and now” is the best source of truth.