Every event and every spiritual state has its stages.
Man develops in stages and he can also
experience various situations in stages. One can
also distinguish stages in sin, as well as in
virtue. As such, we can likewise speak of stages in
When speaking of atheism, one must exercise some
caution, because the one whom we may perceive as an
atheist may not be one in reality. A person may live
an entirely different way of life than ours, but
that cannot be labelled atheism.
There is theoretical atheism and practical
atheism; we can even assert that there is also
religious atheism, which can be found in those who
live within the sphere of the Church very
superficially, without attaining any personal
awareness of divine Grace, or a personal knowledge
The Pharisees in Christ’s time displayed such a
peculiar atheism; that is, they upheld and taught
the Law, and yet they overlooked the Lawgiver. In
fact, they did not simply overlook Him; they even
This is why it is difficult for one to draw a dividing
line between faith and faithlessness.
One can appear faithful, and yet, eventually
end up in complete atheism and agnosticism, while
another can externally resemble an atheist and yet,
eventually find complete faith.
In spite of the difficulty, I would now like to present
the stages of atheism, the way that Clement
describes them. He basically discerns three stages
“The first stage is anti-theism – the revolt against
God in the name of freedom and justice. Anti-theism
is born of the decomposition of Christianity, which,
as it silently dies is transformed into an ideology,
and absolutism is sought as a substitute to the lost
force of the whole.”
An institutionalized religion which has turned into an
ideology disappoints people, who, disappointed also
by other worldview motives, openly oppose the dead
and emaciated religion.
Reactions are strong. Everything about
religion is made fun of - and in fact, in the name
of justice and freedom. In other words, anti-theism
is rebellious and adversative.
The second stage is a follow-up to the first.
After becoming tired of mocking and
confronting, they arrive at another state.
“Rebellious and militant atheism is enfeebled by its
very victory. While the masses slide into
indifference, or slide into escape and the
“entertainment” of a “society of spectacles”, those
of them who are more demanding find themselves up
against the finite, so they relinquish optimism,
then develop philosophies of the illogical and of
Thus, indifference and despair are the things that
characterize this second stage of atheism. From a
religious experience it becomes a sociological one.
Wearied by his struggle, man falls into
despair – which heals absolutely nothing. Instead of
converting this into despair according to God (that
is, into repentance), he converts it into despair
according to the world.
He is disillusioned by everything. And he
strives to find ways to alleviate his pain but is
unable to achieve it.
When he has become completely desperate, he ends up in
a peculiar stage of atheism.
“A third type of atheism is already taking shape, which
we could call “mystical”. In searching for antidotes
for the “red desert” of science and of technique,
they strive to internalize them - but always staying
within the boundaries of the one and of the other.
Thus, by persevering in their denial of the
personal God who had become a man, they rediscover
the bizarre, man’s occult potentials, and the old
symbolism of the universe.”
During this third stage they seek out the
“spirituality” of oriental religions, of philosophy,
but also of the illusion of social justice from
In fact we can say that contemporary man is
possessed by this mysticism, which is a morbid one.
Certain conclusions are drawn from this analysis:
The first is that –unfortunately– what is obsolete in
the western world is now flourishing in Greece. We
here are going through situations that the
westerners had been going through 50 years ago.
And - also unfortunately - this is being
observed in all matters: we are influenced by the
West, but it is by the obsolete West – by those
things that the West had overcome; we have embraced
those obsolete life models.
As such, in
many areas one can observe the phenomenon of
anti-theism; that is, atheism’s first revolutionary
stage, which has been discarded in the West (where
they are already departing from the second stage and
are in search of the third), and where they are now
seeking to find redemption and deliverance from the
inner, tortuous problems. We here continue to lag
Secondly, there is a healthy spirituality in the
Orthodox Tradition; it is balanced and alive, and we
can live it and get away from the deception of
We can attain a personal knowledge of God;
our God is not abstract :
the God of
philosophers and thinkers. He is the true God, the
God of our Fathers.
Why sink into an impersonal mysticism of the
oriental sort, or slide into sorceries and the
suchlike, when our Tradition offers a fullness of
teaching and of life, which lead us towards the
experience of the personal God?
The Orthodox Church provides an unfathomable depth,
which we cannot distinguish with the naked eye.
We may regard the Church as an established
institution, however, below the surface there is a
living reality – it is the truth that is enfleshed
The search and the experiencing of this truth
can avert our deviation into an atheism that sucks
the life out of us, as well as our entire existence