Observation, 13.

I don’t believe in God. I have no faith in the divine. However, I can’t label myself as an atheist, either. That would be too sentimental. For even without the presence of whatever God may be within my doubtful bosom, I would still, as a devout atheist, be yearning for the (essentially untouchable) touch of the divine. Which, to say the least, would be the case only monstrously perfunctorily: at the level of my communication with the divine. Discursively, that is. But that would still count as some twisted sort of believing in the utterly ineffable. Theism can only be the positive reversal of atheism as the latter can only indeed be the negatively charged reversal of the former, which everybody discounts as socially inadequate, religiously promiscuous, theologically (or dogmatically) blasphemous and, perhaps, intellectually hypocritical. Emotionally hypocritical, too.

So I just can’t be an atheist. That would be, regardless of circumstances, too hazardous no matter what face I cut in the world—no matter how stark the contrast between what I am and what I seem is to this always judging world.

If, for all these reasons, I can’t be an atheist, what else should I try to be?

The state of irreligiousness is equally perilous. If I were to be irreligious, the world would instantly see me, as it would all too hastily have seen me had I ever been an atheist, as too socially inadequate, and religiously promiscuous, and theologically (or dogmatically) blasphemous, and, perhaps, both intellectually and emotionally hypocritical. This is precisely how the entire world would see me mainly because almost none of the participants in its goings-on are unequivocally capable of perceiving the difference, which is quite important, between atheism and irreligion.

I won’t be trying to get too philosophical when it comes—especially when it comes to the somewhat mind-minded—if I may say so—throbbing of my bosom. Consciously unscholarly as I will be endeavouring to be, I won’t be able to turn my back fully on everything bookish.

So the difference between atheism and irreligion is actually quite easy to guess. Basically it is the difference between faith (or lack thereof) and the theological structures of faith (or lack thereof). Another way of putting it, though perhaps mildly insulting to some and equally mildly extolling to others, would be that, while atheism is for the illiterate, irreligion is for the (highly) educated. Though it is not a religion per se (or lack thereof), the illiterate would naturally tend to perceive atheism as some sort of religion (the religion of the godless few). Similarly, though it is not a faith per se (or lack there of), the (highly) educated would equally naturally tend to perceive irreligion as some sort of faith (the faith of the godless few).

Thus, while atheism is the religion of the godless few, irreligion is the faith of the godless few. But then neither atheism nor irreligion is understood correctly by either party. The illiterate mistake atheism for some sort of religion on account of their lack of education—and the educated mistake irreligion for some sort of faith on account of their lack of naive sentimentality. While the former have no mind to think with, the latter have no heart to feel with.

This reductionism seems, however, predictably dangerous. Can it be true that the illiterate, though mostly unschooled, cannot put their minds to good thinking use? Can it be true that the educated, though mostly perhaps insensitive to the sensible, cannot put their hearts to good feeling use? I for one can’t for anything in the world believe in such an aberrant, two-dimensionally sketched portrait of the human being. It is absolutely impossible for man to be that schematized—that squeezed out of all human profundity and depth. And, for that matter, entanglement, too. For man’s complexity does not consist in just a vast number of precisely aligned human departments that are also precisely ordered and consecutive in relation to each other: these neatly arranged human compartments of everything must also be unruly with each other, and at random with each other, and completely disorganized in relation to each other. Man’s complexity, then, must be a total mess.

Then, if I’m neither an atheist nor an irreligious person, why am I still talking about God? If I have no faith in God—if I don’t believe in God, why am I still preoccupied with the divine?

I don’t know. I don’t know yet. Perhaps I simply needed to reaffirm my position on this matter. Maybe by writing this convincingly about God, I’ve been adding an extra coating of unabated undoubting to my heart. To my mind, too.

For now, I’m simply content to have been able to state my current position on the matter of the divine, which these words I have been using in formulating it have made permanent and unassailable. I hope.

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About Patrick Călinescu

Being is being read. Being read is being a writer.

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