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Atheism And Levinas Essay

732 words - 3 pages

 What is Atheism and how does it relate to Levinas. These are questions that may arise when trying to figure out Levinas’s complex views on the world, the other and religion. Atheism is a disbelief in god or a total negation of the idea of a supreme being. This can range from strong atheism to weak atheism and a myriad of levels in between. Strong atheism is a total opposition to the very idea of a supreme entity that is all powerful and all knowing and weak atheism is more like agnosticism where one simply does not have a strong convictive belief in a god.
The ultimate goal of this paper is to try and understand the views Levinas holds on atheism and what that could mean for being an ethically sound human in a world of others and god. Atheism is not a total lack of ethics or a state of hedonistic abandon rather atheism is a stage in the progression of an ethically sound individual. Levinas is a Jew but he does not dismiss atheism or condemn atheists, although ...view middle of the document...

Levinas thinks that atheism can lead to an egoistic self-involvement with the atheist being completely wrapped up in his own goals and aims which will lead to an ethical disintegration by not seeing the other as equal in consideration. This is only a single type of atheism which is only atheistic because he is so obsessed with the self that he creates a forced isolation from god and the world around him. The other type of atheism for Levinas is that of a chosen denial or negation of god without the overwhelming self-interest. This type is a chosen commitment and not simply a self-isolation from the god and the other. Ultimately Levinas sees both types of atheists as being spiritually de-cored. Atheists, through this total lack of spirituality, tend to become completely disconnected from the ultimate source of meaning.
Levinas also thinks that atheism is a vital stepping stone towards a meaningful relationship with god. A theist has to pass through a phase as an atheist. This is the only way to gain a true understanding of his relationship with god. Atheism is a separation from the power god that allowed atrocities like the Third Reich’s mistreatment of Jews during the Second World War. Levinas although being a devout Jew doesn’t necessarily think that religion is vital to an ethically sound human being. His ideas about the other and the face and our undeniable responsibility to the other don’t need a god as a part of them to ring any less true. Although the pure atheist is spiritually de-cored, this does not negate his ability to be an ethical individual.
Although Levinas’s views on atheism can vary a bit depending upon the source, he ultimately believes atheism to be a vital part of his system of ethics. Only through atheism can one come to truly see his system for what it is. His system is not a new way to give reverence to god but a way in which humanity can assume responsibility for itself and its own actions. Without atheism, all atrocities of man can simply be attributed to a god that is unwilling to stop such acts. God is not responsible for the others, I am and above all else this responsibility ties me to the rest of humanity in such a way that I must spend my entire life trying to do what is ethically sound in the face of the other. I am responsible for everyone and most of all.

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