Mystical Atheism

I’ve probably described my position regarding calling me an atheist in previous posts. Many of my atheist friends call me an atheist … after sometimes hours of arguing about the categories and what they mean. I think they are wrong. I am not an atheist. I had yet another opportunity to explain this the other evening when a Satanist (atheistic satanism) asked me how long I’ve been (or when did I first realize) I was an atheist. I had to be clear that I’m not an atheist. I am an agnostic, which I regard as fundamentally different.

Luckily, she did not proceed to lecture me on the 4 types (agnostic atheists – those who believe but admit they cannot know, gnostic atheists – those who don’t believe and think they know, agnostic theists, etc.). So, score one for Satanists not being as self-righteous as regular atheists in man-splaining my own beliefs to me.

Anyway, as a result of that whole conversation, which ranged over the various types of Satanists, including theistic ones, I pursued my long predilection toward the mystical. I know I’ve mentioned that somewhere. But it could have been on my old log. I’ve been suffering with the self-ascribed label of methodological atheist for awhile, now, because it does an adequate job of describing most of my approach to religious belief. But it’s inadequate because of how I treat the unknown (and perhaps the unknowable).

Being reared Catholic and having been exposed to Wittgenstein, no-go theorems, paraconsistent logic, and the like, I have a healthy respect for mystery — things that are either unknowable or simply problematically knowable (e.g. paradox). The end result is that I an an atheist with respect to any defined god(s) — or you might say any definite concept of god(s).

I don’t entertain definite conceptions of god(s). But I do entertain indefinite conceptions, vague, ill-defined conceptions. Gods that are (somehow) indescribable, unspeakable (Hail Lovecraft!), indefinable, are OK by me. As such, it’s perfectly reasonable to call me a “mystical atheist” as at least a partial synonym for (or perhaps a specialization of) “agnostic”. I’m agnostic, but in a particular way. I am atheist, but in a particular way. And you might even say I’m theistic, but in a very specific and particular way. Anything mysterious can reasonably called a “god”. But as soon as we remove the mystery, it is demoted from “god” to “mechanism”.

Final comment: What I find disconcerting is that the definition of “mysticism” seems antithetic to the definitions of “mystic” and “mystical”. Mysticism is commonly defined as the belief in the ability to know (or learn/experience) reality through a mystical experience, whereas mystical is commonly defined such that it relies on the unknown or unknowable … i.e. mystery. Stupid English.