The Irrelevance of God

2016-12-31

While doing research for my forthcoming book on Henry David Thoreau, I've been exploring the philosophies of ancient India (Thoreau was a great admirer of the Bhagavat-Gita, the Rig-Veda, and the Laws of Manu). In so doing, I recently came across the Samkhya school of thought, which is an atheistic strand of Hinduism closely related to Yoga philosophy (apparently the Yoga Sutras of PataƱjali grew out of the Samkhya tradition). Interestingly, Samkhya is more nontheistic than anti-theistic: in essence it treats god or gods as irrelevant to life and ethics. This approach is in line with my attitude; although I have been a non-believer since the age of nine (as described in my very first journal post from 1989), I am not militantly anti-theist and the underlying theme of my lifelong philosophy project is how to be good without god.

(My thoughts about the state are similar: at some level I don't really believe in governments, and they don't figure into how I live my life. More about that in a future post.)

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