Why Truth-Seeking Atheists Are Not Going to Hell
A review of Christ the Eternal Tao
Merry Christmas everyone!
I’ve been dwelling on the topics in this post for the past few months and it’s been difficult to write about, but I think Christmas is a great window of opportunity to just get the ideas out there and get the discussions going even if not everything is fully fleshed out.
For me, 2016 was the year when I became much more empathic and understanding of conservatives and 2020 was the year when I became much more empathic and understanding of liberals. Prior to 2016, I was mostly ignorant of all things political and religious. I think I’ve finally arrived at a very calming and stable balanced point when it comes to both politics and religion. I can see where all sides are coming from even when I disagree and not get emotionally attached to any side.
However, this is not to say I became a milquetoast centrist agnostic. Rather, I’ve captured convexity at a local maximum. When you’re at the mountain peak, you become less invested in the affairs of these in the valleys. It’s not even looking down at them, more that they are in a different environment, so that they have to live the way that’s optimized for their environment and that they aren’t in a position to see the bigger picture, and it’s fine that they are that way.
This year, I have primarily interacted with people of these categories of religious views:
Highly educated non-dogmatic Protestants
Buddhists and Hindus
I started out the year mostly being around a moderate Catholic friend who has a great professional life and a great family life. Then, when Covid hit, I moved to live with a Protestant friend who was also a mimetic theory connoisseur. He was very chill and very confident, and nothing seems to bother him, including opposing religious views. Then I moved again to be around some traditional Catholic friends. It seems like they were aiming for the lifestyle my moderate Catholic friend already has, but they were more insecure and closed off to anyone with opposing views. I also continued to interact with friends and strangers who held materialist atheist, Buddhist, and Hindu views throughout the whole year.
I would not say I’ve had a “religious conversion” moment this year… In fact, a “religious conversion” is just another way of saying a paradigm shift in your metaphysics. I’ve played around with so many metaphysical views that it’s impossible to have a religious conversion anymore.
It only follows that man is free to change his conception of the universe as often as he changes his boots or his gloves, and that constancy of principle belongs only to one's relationships with other people, in order that they may know where and to what extent they may depend on us. Therefore, on principle man should respect order in the external world and complete chaos in the inner. And for those who find it difficult to bear such a duality, some internal order might also be provided. Only, they should not pride themselves on it, but always remember that it is a sign of their weakness, pettiness, dullness.
This Shestov quote remains timelessly true for me. My shift is that I’ve been criticizing the weakness, pettiness, and dullness of materialist atheists for so long that I no longer find it enjoyable. There’s no need to bring others down to make myself feel better. They are on their own journey sorting through their own problems in life and it’s okay that they take their time. I also see such weakness and rigidity in religious fundamentalists, so it would be hypocritical for me to not criticize them just as much as I’ve criticized the atheists. But at the same time, it’s also okay that they take their time. It’s possible for both atheists and religious fundamentalists to be earnestly seeking the truth simultaneously yet disagree with each other. They are like the blind men touching the elephant. If a blind man is jerking off elephants, it’s not my role to tell him to stop. He needs to learn that lesson on his own. I only need to take a step back and not get involved in that mess.
The book that has influenced my views the most this year is Christ The Eternal Tao. I’ve had this book for ages, but never got around to reading it. In fact, a quote from that book inspired this whole post:
In speaking to the Greek polytheists of his time, St. Justin called upon the testimony of the pre-Christian Greek philosophers and poets who, like Lao Tzu, taught that there are not many gods, but only one God: the Uncreated Cause and Creator of the universe, omnipotent, eternal, and infinite. Each of these writers, Justin affirmed, “spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the Logos disseminated among people, seeing what was related to it… For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted Logos that was in them.” Elsewhere, Justin went so far as to call the pre-Christian sages by the name of Christian: “Those who lived in accordance with the Logos are Christians, even though they were called godless, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus and others like them… So also those who lived before Christ and did not live by the Logos were ungracious and enemies of Christ, and murderers of those who lived by the Logos. But those who lived by the Logos, and those who so live now, are Christians, fearless and unperturbed.”
To me, this means that atheist public intellectuals who seek the truth in an intellectually honest way are following the way of the Logos/Tao, which is in essence, true authentic Christianity. While these who carry out human sacrifice and scapegoating in the name of Christianity are in fact Satanist.
The Tower of Babel is really just another version of blind men touching the elephant. There’s a kernel of truth in every culture, every religion, and every philosophy, but none of them have the full picture. If God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, then He is infinitely patient. We can take our time figuring stuff out.
The proper translation of John 1:1:
In the beginning was the Logos/Tao, and the Logos/Tao was with God, and the Logos/Tao was God.
The Logos is the Tao, and it is what’s meta of everything else. The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao. It’s an abstraction that we cannot fully comprehend yet it is also very concrete. It seems paradoxical, yet has a deeper layer of flawless logic. Historically, Zen was Taoism dressed in Buddhist bureaucracy. Christ was the Tao made flesh, because he embodied nonduality.
Who is the man born of a virgin?
Who is both God and man?
I am the Tao and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Who am I? The gateless gate.
These are Zen koans!
Girard wrote a whole book on Christian mimetic theory and Clausewitz’s On War. Let me offer you this: Sunzi’s Art of War is Clausewitz written from the Taoist perspective. So if true Christianity is consistent with true Taoism and Sunzi is consistent with Clausewitz, then there’s no contradiction.
Another influential book/movie for me over the past few years was Silence. The Japanese Buddhists considered feudal Japan to be a swamp where it’s impossible for Christianity to take root. Even the Japanese Christian martyrs turned out to be sun worshippers. The author, Shusaku Endo, a Japanese Catholic, was skeptical of Asians ever interpreting Christianity in the same way as Westerners. I think Christ The Eternal Tao has successfully integrated the wisdom of the East and the wisdom of Christianity, but in a way that’s difficult for most conservative Western Christians to accept. The author of Christ The Eternal Tao is an Eastern Orthodox monk who had previously studied under Taoist and Zen sages in China, not a typical Western Catholic or Protestant.
All things have Buddha-nature, to be a Buddha is to be awaked to this fact. Buddha simply means “awakened one,” let’s detach the term from any exotic connotations in your mind. The original state of man in the Garden of Eden was Buddha. Man was enlightened before he ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Duality.
According to Christ the Eternal Tao:
Primordial man possessed self-awareness; that is, he was aware of an “I,” of being a unique creation, endowed with freedom of will. “Made in the image of God,” he had an immortal spirit that could draw eternally closer to his Creator. All of this gave him his special sense of personhood.
Unlike the people of today, however, he did not have a sense of individuality. By this, we mean that he did not live under the illusion that, as a unique person, he was sufficient unto himself…
Since he did not have diversified thoughts but only simple, pure awareness, he did not identify himself with such thoughts, as we do today. And since he was not distracted by and enslaved to his senses, he did not identify himself with his physical body, as we do. Thus, for all these reasons, we can say that, while being a person endowed with self-awareness, he was truly selfless.
This excerpt explained the Buddhist/Taoist sayings of “self is an illusion” and “don’t identify with your thoughts” concisely from a Christian point of view. To be a Buddha AKA an awakened one AKA a saved one AKA a Christian, you meditate to put yourself in the state of mind of primordial man in the Garden of Eden. Dostoyevsky, another Eastern Orthodox, wrote about this in “Diary of a Superfluous Man.” Shestov did not identify with any particular organized religion, but he interacted with many Jewish, atheist existentialist, and Eastern Orthodox thinkers.
If you’re identifying with thoughts, you’re worshipping idols, your mind is not aligned effortlessly with the Tao and God. If you identify God with an idea or a thought, you are worshipping an idol. The Tao that can be defined is not the eternal Tao. When your mind isn’t in a state of simple, pure awareness, you are a slave to mimetic desires. God cannot be experienced with a dualistic and attached mind. When you practice real faith, you just let go. You don’t attach your mind or emotions to anything worldly. You can play with everything that’s in the world, but you recognize that nothing has to be obsessively serious and neurotic about anything. The world is your oyster if you just flow with the Tao. It maximizes your optionality. It’s that simple.