JD Church writes, based on a piece we ran yesterday;
Is it impossible for Beast to be an atheist in the amazing world that he lives? After all, he’s surrounded by gods of every shape and form and sees incredible things everyday. Yet it is the very “everydayness” of those events which make his atheism possible.
To speak of things beyond our understanding is to speak of that which is “Supernatural”. Things that go beyond our ability to explain them. In our world, this is a broad spectrum, covering ghosts, religion, bigfoot and any of any array of psychic abilities. They seem to exist above our natural world and out of reach of our understanding.
At one time, thunderstorms were considered to be supernatural. Many a virgin, child, slave, goat or crop was sacrificed in order to appease the god(s) as to make the rains come, or in some cases, go away. However, today we understand weather patterns (mostly) and know that it is a process of evaporation and precipitation. It is now considered natural.
Likewise, telepathy, disembodied spirits, eye beams and beings that eat planets for breakfast are all common in the Marvel Universe. They are explainable and, by that definition, natural. They are not supernatural to Hank. We could play Whack-A-Mole with the with the different examples provided, but it comes down to the fact that these seemingly incredible things don’t exist out of the ordinary in his world and also, more importantly, don’t require belief.
Hank is saying he believes in a natural world. Though that world would be strange to us, it’s his everyday life and he sees no reason to believe in anything beyond the existence of the natural world that he knows and we love. He may rub shoulders with Thor, but he doesn’t pray to him or think that Thor will grant him gifts or favors.
Partly we are dealing with two subject that sometimes go hand in hand. Those being skepticism and atheism. While not mutually exclusive, one can inform the other. Going back to the weather example, this is much more in the realm of skepticism; seeing something as it is and giving it a proper explanation rather than just saying that something “magical” did it. Arthur C. Clark was famous for saying (among other things) that advanced alien technology would be indistinguishable from magic. But I think that hold true for just about anything we don’t completely understand.
To just touch on the point of dualism, the initial argument was made that a spiritual world is believed to exist because a good explanation for consciousness cannot be given. While that might have been the case at one time, through the use of modern tools and research in neurology, we now have a better understanding of how the brain works and the separation between our physical brains and our thinking brains has become narrow to the point of almost non-existence. To say that one chooses to believe in dualism is itself a faith statement and it would be an example of the very thing that Hank is likely rejecting.
So what we find is that faith is the application of filling in a gap in our understanding of how our world works or functions. Not just a “god of the gaps” but rather something by which one might inform their everyday life, their self-worth or purpose in life. To be atheist is to reject this idea. To accept that we exist in a knowable world and that nothing beyond that is controlling it or guiding it. By this measure, Hank is saying that, yes he sees incredible things and maybe some of those he is working out ways of measuring and understanding. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be measured or are unable to be understood. He isn’t applying faith in anything, god or otherwise, to do what he does or to be who he is.
So can Hank be an atheist? Yes. Is it silly for him to be one. Of course not. He is simply accepting that his world is natural and sees no reason to believe in something beyond the natural world as it exists to him.