Atheism is one of those terms that we use without enough reflection on its deeper meaning and end ep failing to reflect and deconstruct it. The most basic definition of spirituality is a search for the sacred. This search can take the form of theism, atheism, or non-theism. Theism is a belief in the external Theo – God. Atheism is a belief in a non-external Theo – God. Non-theism or materialistic atheism is a belief in no Theo – God. The Judeo-Christian religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) have always been known as theistic religions and number about 3 billion followers. Buddhists, Hindus, Shinto's and other eastern religions subscribe to an atheistic form of spirituality and also have about 3 bullion followers. The rest are material atheists and agnostics. Atheism can be further broken down into three parts:
This is the atheism I embraced through my epiphany of 17 August 2007. Every day I thank God that I am an atheist. It is only at the end of the God we have known all our lives where we meet God. God appears when God dies. At some point we all need to question or even reject our ideas of God as we evolve spiritually. If we do not give ourselves and one another space for doubt and emptying, this can lead to repressive and ultimately destructive forms of spirituality. In moving beyond theism, atheism becomes quite natural.
This is the atheism at the heart of our spirituality. Here we acknowledge and even celebrate the essential unknown and unknowable of the ground of being, honouring that in our faith. We pray with Meister Eckhart (1260 – 1328), "God deliver me from God". Philosopher John Caputo has this to say about this post-modern concept of God:
The postmodern God shatters our concepts of God – this is in line with a very ancient tradition of negative theology. Idolatry comes in many forms. Literalizing the truth of Scriptures is idolatrous in a way that parallels the idolatry of the church in Catholicism...Orthodoxy is idolatry if it means holding the "correct opinions about God" – "fundamentalism" is the most extreme and salient example of such idolatry – but not if it means holding faith in the right way, that is, not holding it at all but being led by God, in love and service. Theology is idolatry if it means what we say about God instead of letting ourselves be addressed by what God has to say to us (iconic). Faith is idolatrous if it is rigidly self-certain but not if it is softened in the waters of "doubt".
This is how Wikipedia defines Apophathic theology:
Apophathic theology--also known as Negative theology or Via Negativa (Latin for "Negative Way")-—is a theology that attempts to describe God, the Divine Good, bynegation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God. It stands in contrast with Cataphatic theology.
In brief, negative theology is an attempt to achieve unity with the Divine Good through discernment, gaining knowledge of what God is not (apophasis), rather than by describing what God is. The apophatic tradition is often, though not always, allied with the approach of mysticism, which focuses on a spontaneous or cultivated individual experience of the divine reality beyond the realm of ordinary perception, an experience often unmediated by the structures of traditional organized religion or the conditioned role playing and learned defensive behaviour of the outer man.
This is how Peter Rollins says it; "our questioning of God is never really a questioning of God, but only a means of questioning our understanding of God." He states further, "Not only is Christianity a-theistic insomuch as it rejects the ideas of God which stand opposed to those found in its own tradition, but also there is a sense in which Christianity is a-theistic because it now rejects its own understanding of God' This causes me ask my readers, "Is there a difference between who God is, and your understanding of who God is?" "Is God and your God-image the same thing?" To quote theologian Paul Tillich, "God does not exist. He is being itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore, to argue that God exists is to deny him...It would be a great victory for Christian apologetics if the words 'God' and 'existence' were definitely separated except in the paradox of God becoming manifest under conditions of existence..." Tillich said that God is "being itself," above and beyond the mere fact of any particular being. We, as temporal beings are limited by our finitude. The moment God is brought from essence into existence God is corrupted by finitude and our limited understanding. God can no longer and will no longer be spoken of as "existing." A God who is spoken of as 'existing belongs to yesterday's cosmology. The science (knowledge) of the first century and our modern science (knowledge) are on a collision course. The reason why Christianity is coming to an end as a religion of power, fear and control, is because the science (knowledge) on which its story was based has fallen away. The New Reformation the Church is in now is all about a new understanding of cosmology and taking science and religion as a converged signpost to lead us to the future. An a-theistic faith thus acknowledges the importance of both theism and a-theism in faith.
The early Christian believers were branded atheists by the Romans because they rejected the notions of God held by the ancient Romans.
Here atheism becomes an anti-theism system of belief. It has to be said however, that dogmatic atheism is a direct opposite of dogmatic theism or religious fundamentalism. Religious fundamentalism breeds dogmatic atheism. Dogmatic atheism can be as fundamentalist as any religious posture that is fundamentalist. Dogmatic atheists, just like religious fundamentalists, believe that they alone are in possession of truth. They see themselves as the vanguard of a scientific / rational movement that will eventually expunge the idea of God from human consciousness.