Atheism is a belief-system, a religion of sorts, based not on fact or empirical evidence but on choice of belief. As its core it is a faith-based system of belief, no different than many other religions and subject to the same dangers, risks, fundamentalism and closed mindedness.
Atheism is not Science and Science is not atheistic. Although they can be compatible, they are not mutually dependent.
(On a side note, please allow me to be up front and clear on an issue. I do not have an ulterior motive or agenda. It is not my desire or purpose to undermine Atheism. I have no problem with Atheists and no problem with the position of Atheism. My issue, my problem, deals with the dangers of Fundamentalism within any Belief-System or Religion. The most dangerous position is one that doesn't even acknowledge its possibility to include a fundamentalist aspect, but simply presumes itself to be right and superior. Arrogance and Ignorance go hand-in-hand.)
Science is an indifferent process of intellectual discovery, as useful to those with faith as those without it. Atheism is an interpretation of that science which declares Divinity, Universal design, and religion, to be nonsense.
Not all scientists are atheists, and not all atheists are scientists. Science itself can make no judgement about Divinity primarily because it is limited to that which it can verify by theory and experiment, and its tools are not subtle enough to detect consciousness apart from the biological organism manifesting it, making it impossible to verify any form of life other than visible and biological, and secondly, because it cannot detect about 95% of the Universe at all. Therefore atheism is only a construction of minds disposed to that conclusion, and is indeed a belief system.
Most knowledge is acquired through academic study (theology fits within this category, whether theists like it or not). It is learning from our predecessors and ancestors; hopefully acquiring their learned and experienced wisdom.
But there is another kind of knowledge; Spiritual Knowledge and the most amazing and revolutionary thing about spiritual knowledge is that we can acquire it through contemplation - not only attaining wisdom on our own, but outside of an institution of study and free of its biases, influences, authority structure and potential manipulations.
I think this is why those with spiritual knowledge - the spiritually powerful - are nearly by definition "loose canons". (Let's be careful here and not confused religious knowledge and the religiously powerful, or, on the same note, let's also not confuse this with what some Christians may refer to being "spiritually powerful" as being a Christian filled with the Holy Spirit. No, none of these).
Atheism is itself a Belief-System and as such Atheism is not immune to the plagues of religiosity and fundamentalism. But on that same note, Atheism is also not exempt from a spiritual aspect and the acquirement of spiritual knowledge. Although the terms and terminology used may vary greatly.
The spiritually powerful are those that, I should think, institutions cannot control. I would think those with spiritual wisdom hold and maintain a sort of balance between what they know and believe, and doubt. They know that Doubt is not something to be feared or extinguished, but something to be embraced and nurtured.
It should be well worth while exploring the nature of what "spirituality" looks like within Atheism. It also cannot be denied that Atheism contains wisdom we would all do well in learning.
We actually need intelligent doubt and skepticism. They protect us against mistaken views and propaganda. They protect us from the mindlessness of fundamentalism. A healthy dose of doubt and skepticism will lead us to authentic knowledge which turns out to be wisdom in the end.
Certainty should not be synonymous with Faith.
Faith is not the opposite of Doubt.
In fact, I would argue that Doubt is not the antithesis of Faith at all, but that Certainty is.
Historically the spiritually powerful challenge, threaten (directly or indirectly), and even at times, break institutions. They are the catalysts of change. (Think of Yeshua of Nazareth, the Buddha, Martin Luther). The same cannot be said for the religiously powerful with their academic knowledge. These tend to 'toe the line' and maintain the status quo.
To bastardize a quote from V is for Vendetta,
"People should not be afraid of their ideologies, or beliefs.
Their beliefs should be afraid of its people".
I think that is the basic difference between the religious and the spiritual. The religious are frightened of their beliefs because their beliefs cannot be questioned. The spiritual are not frightened to question their beliefs and therefore threaten it with change and potential growth.
To the fundamentalist, their truth, knowledge, and beliefs are fixed and static.
To the spiritual, their truth, knowledge, and beliefs are progressive.
...Maybe Atheism itself is a fundamentalist position. After all, the type of Atheism that I am speaking of, the sort of open mindedness (maybe even watered down) version of Atheism may be more than just a tolerant passive sort. It may very well be Agnosticism.
Can any belief-based system truly include Doubt?I've always liked saying that I would rather have a Faithful Doubt than a Doubtful Faith, but can this be practically true?