Deepak Chopra: The problem with atheism

Atheist RON Act 6 America without God_00005218
Atheist RON Act 6 America without God_00005218

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Story highlights

  • We all fall somewhere on the sliding scale of belief and unbelief, Deepak Chopra says
  • Skepticism is a way station on the way to a higher, more fulfilling kind of spirituality, he says

Dr. Deepak Chopra is founder of the Chopra Foundation and author of "The13th Disciple: A Spiritual Adventure​." The opinions expressed in this column belong to him.

(CNN)No doubt faith is in crisis. But this applies, as is painfully shown in the CNN documentary on American atheism that broadcast last week, to the personal agony of families.

Standing back a bit, faith is on a rheostat, not an on-off switch. Putting God into the position of yes/no, belief/unbelief doesn't really reflect the modern state of faith. There are gradations of belief. In fact, 17% of people who identify as atheists still go to church -- they have social and family reasons for their choice rather than religious ones.
We all fall somewhere on the sliding scale of belief and unbelief. Secular society has sharpened our demand for truth. To me, this is a positive development. If belief in God can't stand up to proof, it won't sustain a person through difficult times.
    Deepak Chopra
    I consider skepticism a way station on the way to a higher, more fulfilling kind of spirituality.
    Millions of people have walked away from organized religion to become more spiritual, not less. They call themselves seekers; their disbelief is a starting point for starting their own investigations.
    Where the census form asks what faith they belong to, they might not have a ready answer, but that's not important. What's important is walking your own spiritual path. As a lifelong goal, it's one of the most rewarding.
    What's not rewarding is to base your belief or unbelief on secondhand opinion. Being a knee-jerk skeptic is as limiting as being a knee-jerk fundamentalist. In both cases, the mind is being conditioned by others.
    In my own conception of God as the source of consciousness, creativity, intelligence, love and evolution, the reason to be spiritual is to increase all of those qualities.
    Unfortunately, the goal of many faiths is to obey dogma and accept a cultural mythology. Atheism can do good by casting a skeptical light on cultural mythologies, but believing in nothing but the material world is cold comfort.
    Strong-minded, vocal atheists claim that God isn't science and science isn't God. But the implication that faith is irrational and only science knows the truth has no basis in fact.
    Rationality is a specialized aspect of the higher brain, but it's not the end-all and be-all of life as anyone can tell you who has experienced love, music, art, compassion, self-sacrifice, altruism, inspiration, intuition -- indeed, most of the things that make life worth living. Some studies indicate that scientists actually go to church more than the general population. They have found a way to be scientific in their work without turning it into a moral dogma.
    I feel for people who get stuck in any belief system, including rigid skepticism. They are signing up for the suppression of curiosity. As painful as it may be to question the faith you were brought up in, it's worse to be stuck. The human story is about growth and evolution. That will remain true no matter who shouts loudest about God or the absence of God.