Perhaps it could be said that the dream of philosophy, both in its origin and teleology, is atheistic.  Having written this sentence, I already regret it, because I know it invites misunderstanding.  We must not equate atheism with the vulgar thought of the so-called “new atheists”.  Even where philosophy strives to prove the existence of God or of gods– have any philosophers ever attempted to do the latter? –it is still atheistic.  Already this observation should indicate that the air, the atmosphere, is very different than what the new atheists propose in declaring that the dream of philosophy is atheistic.  No, to claim that the dream of philosophy is atheistic is to declare a certain faith in the powers and capacities of logos.  The cry of philosophy everywhere where it happens is that there is only and everywhere the wilderness, that the world is enough, and that logos, reason, has the power to guide us.  We will be so audacious that we will even proclaim that what logos is is itself a question.  In short, the cry of philosophy is that we do not need transcendent supplements to justify life, to give it meaning, and, above all, to justify the good life. We do not need dreary threats of hell or dismal threats of being reincarnated in the form of dung beetles to account for why we should desire the good life, justice, and the good, but can find justification for these things in immanence; in life itself…  No matter what justice, the good life, and the good turn out to be.  Philosophically we don’t begin with the premise that we know what these things are– we treat them as empty master-signifiers or S1’s to be determined through thought –but instead work towards a comprehension of these things.  Nor does existence need to be redeemed by an eschatology or some sort of transcendent supplement.  Meaning, instead, is there in the immanence of life.

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If Glaucon’s challenge is so important, then this is because it is a question of how to justify justice, how to justify the good, how to justify meaning, without recourse to the threat of a punishment.  Glaucon’s challenge is the question of how we might desire these things– whatever they turn out to be –for their own sake and not out of fear of some sort of retribution.  In embracing the philosophical dream and wager, we will refuse all concepts of justice and the good based on custom or tradition.  We will not embrace a law like the prohibition against eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:9 – 12) simply on the grounds that the divine has commanded it or it is “how our people do things” or tradition, but will demand a reason for these things.  Where the laws cannot pass the test of providing a reason, where the moral codes cannot provide a reason, we will consign them to fire as so many myths.

When the obscurantists respond to us, saying that “God has commanded it”, us atheists will respond that if God exists, God is by definition is perfect, and if God is perfect, then God must be rational, and if no rational reason can be provided for these laws and “moral” codes, they cannot be commands of God.  And that will be the atheism of theology.  Rational or natural theology is atheist through and through, because it subordinates the divine to the fire of logos and the thesis that the divine essence must itself be rational.  We will not accept faith, only demonstration.  Like Socrates in Book II of the Republic, we will point out that it is impossible for the divine to deceive and disguise itself, appearing now as a vagabond, now as an old woman, now as a child, because that would be contrary to the divine essence.  Our rational inquiry into the divine nature will very likely lead us to become Spinozists, or will, at least, lead us to Socrates’s rejoinder to Euthyphro and his thesis that piety, our religious belief, is a sort of barter with the gods, to raise the question of what we could possibly have to give to the divine that has everything by virtue of being perfect, and to point out the heresy of the belief that we could have anything such as faith or life according to a moral code to give to the divine because it entails that the divine is lacking in some way.  Our subordination of the divine to the fire of logos will then be like a wildfire that rebounds back on all the sacred texts, sorting myth from wisdom in them, pointing out all of those stories that portray the divine as acting imperfectly like Job where God gambles, like the horror of the story of Abraham where one’s “faith is tested”, like Adam and Eve being told not to eat a certain fruit when the divine already knew full well what the outcome would be by virtue of being omniscient insofar as such a being would be perfect and omniscience would therefore be among the attributes of such a being.  All of this will fall before the fire of immanence, and we will be freed from such stories through the discovery of an indifferent divinity because how could a perfect being be anything but indifferent or without desire?  We will discover that Aristotle and Epicurus had it right.

And, above all, the atheistic orientation of philosophy will be a discovery of freedom.  Us philosophers will know that in a universe where there is only the wilderness or nature– even in the most refined of cities –where there are no transcendent supplements that exist or are needed, there is only freedom.  We will notice that the idea of a divine looking over creation as creator, judge, and lawgiver, is analogous to the structure of the father over the family, the king over his people, the teacher over her students, and all the rest.  We will discern a fractal theological structure that pervades thought and society.  We will know that this structure is a fetish and it too will fall.  Our atheism will lead patriarchy to fall, but also matriarchy, and any form of authoritarian thought and social structure.  There will just be the fire of logos guiding us in how to live.  That is the dream of philosophy.