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Atheism in Stages
Atheistic mutations

By the Reverend Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos & Saint Vlassios
Source:   http://oodegr.com




Every event and every spiritual state has its stages.  Man develops in stages and he can also experience various situations in stages. One can also distinguish stages in sin, as well as in virtue. As such, we can likewise speak of stages in atheism.

When speaking of atheism, one must exercise some caution, because the one whom we may perceive as an atheist may not be one in reality. A person may live an entirely different way of life than ours, but that cannot be labelled atheism.  There is theoretical atheism and practical atheism; we can even assert that there is also religious atheism, which can be found in those who live within the sphere of the Church very superficially, without attaining any personal awareness of divine Grace, or a personal knowledge of God. 

The Pharisees in Christ’s time displayed such a peculiar atheism; that is, they upheld and taught the Law, and yet they overlooked the Lawgiver. In fact, they did not simply overlook Him; they even crucified Him.

This is why it is difficult for one to draw a dividing line between faith and faithlessness.  One can appear faithful, and yet, eventually end up in complete atheism and agnosticism, while another can externally resemble an atheist and yet, eventually find complete faith.

In spite of the difficulty, I would now like to present the stages of atheism, the way that Clement describes them. He basically discerns three stages in atheism.

“The first stage is anti-theism – the revolt against God in the name of freedom and justice. Anti-theism is born of the decomposition of Christianity, which, as it silently dies is transformed into an ideology, and absolutism is sought as a substitute to the lost force of the whole.” 

An institutionalized religion which has turned into an ideology disappoints people, who, disappointed also by other worldview motives, openly oppose the dead and emaciated religion.  Reactions are strong. Everything about religion is made fun of - and in fact, in the name of justice and freedom. In other words, anti-theism is rebellious and adversative.

The second stage is a follow-up to the first.  After becoming tired of mocking and confronting, they arrive at another state.

“Rebellious and militant atheism is enfeebled by its very victory. While the masses slide into indifference, or slide into escape and the “entertainment” of a “society of spectacles”, those of them who are more demanding find themselves up against the finite, so they relinquish optimism, then develop philosophies of the illogical and of nausea”. 

Thus, indifference and despair are the things that characterize this second stage of atheism. From a religious experience it becomes a sociological one.  Wearied by his struggle, man falls into despair – which heals absolutely nothing. Instead of converting this into despair according to God (that is, into repentance), he converts it into despair according to the world.  He is disillusioned by everything. And he strives to find ways to alleviate his pain but is unable to achieve it.

When he has become completely desperate, he ends up in a peculiar stage of atheism.

“A third type of atheism is already taking shape, which we could call “mystical”. In searching for antidotes for the “red desert” of science and of technique, they strive to internalize them - but always staying within the boundaries of the one and of the other.  Thus, by persevering in their denial of the personal God who had become a man, they rediscover the bizarre, man’s occult potentials, and the old symbolism of the universe.”

 During this third stage they seek out the “spirituality” of oriental religions, of philosophy, but also of the illusion of social justice from within pseudo-messianisms.  In fact we can say that contemporary man is possessed by this mysticism, which is a morbid one.

Certain conclusions are drawn from this analysis:

The first is that –unfortunately– what is obsolete in the western world is now flourishing in Greece. We here are going through situations that the westerners had been going through 50 years ago.  And - also unfortunately - this is being observed in all matters: we are influenced by the West, but it is by the obsolete West – by those things that the West had overcome; we have embraced those obsolete life models.  As such, in many areas one can observe the phenomenon of anti-theism; that is, atheism’s first revolutionary stage, which has been discarded in the West (where they are already departing from the second stage and are in search of the third), and where they are now seeking to find redemption and deliverance from the inner, tortuous problems. We here continue to lag behind...

Secondly, there is a healthy spirituality in the Orthodox Tradition; it is balanced and alive, and we can live it and get away from the deception of morbid mysticism.  We can attain a personal knowledge of God; our God is not abstract :  the God of philosophers and thinkers. He is the true God, the God of our Fathers.  Why sink into an impersonal mysticism of the oriental sort, or slide into sorceries and the suchlike, when our Tradition offers a fullness of teaching and of life, which lead us towards the experience of the personal God?

The Orthodox Church provides an unfathomable depth, which we cannot distinguish with the naked eye.  We may regard the Church as an established institution, however, below the surface there is a living reality – it is the truth that is enfleshed in persons.  The search and the experiencing of this truth can avert our deviation into an atheism that sucks the life out of us, as well as our entire existence.


Translation:  A.N.

Article published in English on: 03-09-2018.

Last update: 03-09-2018.