In college I have met many atheists that also claim to be taoist, a form of eastern monism. I have studied Taosim and in a technical sense it is possible to be both a taoist and and atheist. In taoism there is no God. There is only the Tao. Still it seems as if the Tao is takeing the place of a God, emotionaly at least. It also seems to be on the same level, epistemicly speaking, as God. So it seems strange for me that one person would deny the existence of God and affirm the existence of the Tao.

Toaism states that everything in the world is believed to be a manifestation of the Tao and are restricted, in a sense, by the Tao. In the Tao de Ching, the main text of Taoists, the tao is described as being indescribable (doesn't that sound familiar to something other theists say about their God?). It is said by certian taoists that the Tao, I am paraphrasing here, is both smaller than the smallest thing and largests than the largest thing (a contradiction). The Tao is unity (whatever that means, I mean why not just call it unity then?). The Tao seems even more vague than any concept developed by western religions and just as hard to prove the existence of than any western God. Maybe I am to entrenched in western thinking for any of this eastern philosopohy.

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I agree with you, I use the term as you said, there doesn't seem to be anything better to replace it with.

That doesn't mean though that I find my view on pantheism limiting anyway, because it isn't. It is EVERYWHERE, it just is.
Certainly less strange than people who deny one god but believe in another.
This is a quick reply so I have no material backing but from what I have studied of the eastern religions some could be incorporated to atheism. Buddhism has a great code to live by w/o a deity. Buddha was not originally worshiped, the followers started that, he didnt want to be made out as a god....Just a quick comment, you can look up Buddhism and see what I am referring to.
In the TaoTeChing (Taoism's first and primary text), the Tao is a useful philosophical concept. The folk religious concepts that were generated later should be ignored as simple ignorance of Lao Tzu's original idea. In the TaoTeChing, the Tao is seen as the universe beyond sensory experience. This is the power that gives rise to everything we see, hear, touch, taste and smell. We experience the Tao’s nature in the physical world, but have no direct knowledge of it in itself. Lao-tse wrote that “beyond the gate of experience flows the Tao” (Ch. 1) and that it’s “looked for but cannot be seen—it is beyond form; listened for but cannot be heard—it is beyond sound; Reached for, but cannot be touched—it is beyond feeling.” (Ch. 14) Chapter 21 tells us that “beneath sensation and form, the Tao is the source of all things.” Students of Western philosophy will be reminded of Kant's "noumenal world" beyond the "phenomenal," but the Taoist concept has a much more practical use rather than the common useless Western abstraction: because we can't experience the Tao directly, we can't control it, which
reinforces the Taoist concept that the "real" world, "The Way of the Universe," "The Tao," really is out of our control. This forces us to accept the world as it is. We can't control; we can't rule; we can only accept, and through acceptance, we can find our place within the Tao.
I dabbled in Taoism on my way to atheism. I like the philosophy, but Taoism is basically like deism because the Tao exists but can not be described. Lao Tzu was basically an atheist, but he still felt a spiritual connection to the world and used the Tao concept to gloss over it. At the least it made his ideas more palatable to the superstitious. But still in that sense I found it pointless to call myself a taoist because I'm not a deist, and am confident that there is no purpose or plan in the universe. But I suppose I could say I'm an atheist who's a fan of Lao Tzu, because he understood humanity and taught some neat lessons.
Taoism has no concept of "cosmic justice", that Karma from Buddhism and Hinduism. The Tao is not a god for them, they don't worship it and they also don't believe it is aware anymore than most physicists believe gravity is aware.
Have to agree, Stephen K. Tao has "no concept of cosmic justice".
Tao is indifferent.
If I recall, chapter 5 of Tao Te Ching speaks of it.

I know it may seem ridiculous that I joined an Atheist site and my first post will be defending a religion (if you could really classify it as such) but I do find Taoism extremely intriguing. I suppose it's because it resonates so well with my own beliefs. But I wanted to clarify the philosophical terms. You have a dao, I have a dao, there is dao of woodworking, dao of debate, etc. I understand this to mean that everything has it's own nature. The unity you mention describes an interconnectedness of all things. The soil to the air to the geo-lunar system to the solar sytem to the galaxy to the universe to a theoretical ultimate reality. Dao can also be explained in the language of string theory. There is also a Great Dao, which is not "God" in any sense that it cares what you do with your genitals, but rather a first cause. Think of whatever process might have caused the big bang. That is Dao. I suspect that if we someday fully comprehend THAT first cause, we would have questions about what caused that and the position of Dao would be elevated. So, from a philosophical perspective, Dao is exactly what it it claims to be. The unknown. So it is altogether possible to deny the existence of a god and affirm the existence of Dao as long as you are willing to admit that there are things that are unknown. It's also worth mentioning that Dao doesn't give a crap about you or humanity. It can't because it is not an entity but rather a placeholder term (think dark matter) describing ultimate reality. But, just as I cannot proscribe how you live your life, neither can I dictate how you understand the Dao. And if you agree with that last statement, chances are you are a bit of a Taoist yourself. You just happened to figure out that morality and belief should not be standards decided by any central authority on your own. Which is exactly what those philosophers wanted you to do. Am I promoting the philosophy? Nah. It's your business what you believe. I can't tell you how to think. But in my humble opinion, it is a subject worth investigating.

There are many schools of Daoism and there is a distinction as well within the history of Daoism among Philosophical Daoism, Religious Daoism, and Alchemical Daoism. At bottom Daoism is a naturalistic philosophy. There is no sense in Philosophical Daoism of any kind of diety of any stripe. The Dao is sort of an abstract unifying name for whatever life and consciousness are and perhaps the "principles" one observes in the universe. There are some schools of Daoism which are "mystical" and I would agree they are just another religion.


The concern of Daoism is more with discerning the "patterns" of the way things work and living in concert with those patterns as part of the natural order rather than separate from it as in Christianity. Most Daoism really doesn't deal with Cosmology or origins except what might be learned from a study of nature, in other words, science. Daoism is not irrational nor is it contrary to science. There is a recognition that there may be things you can learn by observation of your own consciousness in meditation.


So, yes, there are probably some who turn to Daoism because they want to be religious but can't stand the other major religions. However, as I understand it, Daoism proper is not a religion in any sense. Actually neither is Buddhism in it's original form. Daoism is not dogmatic. It is based on observation and experience which is open to be tested by anyone.

I'm an atheist with tao. I never found a reason to study Taoism as the tao te ching works for me. I accept the existence of things beyond my understanding, which is nothing other than a proper foundation. tao is a utility of conceptual engineering. Start from the unity of self to build essential dualities in concept to bring self more into alignment with tao. tao is the essence of motion, it's the rhythm of the universe; it's the one to the many to the one to the many... the heartbeat of the self organizing system. It is evolution, it is emergence; it is the would-be-flap of wing of butterfly you catch in your hand before the turbulence builds to typhoon. tao is a word beyond saying, a sound beyond hearing, a place beyond being; the thing of no-thing that carries your mind from void...

to awareness.

tao is balance, harmony, beauty; a space between, previously unseen.

Or is that too eastern? How does pure mathematics sound, better? There ain't nothing about tao that ain't real, but some people don't like math, either. ;)

I think there is a tendency within the atheist community to dismiss certain things off hand because they have religious baggage. Daoism is one of those things. The Four Noble Truths are another. There is no need to "throw the baby out with the bath water". I find Daoism to be an incredibly rewarding personal philosophy just as I find the Four Noble Truths to be an absolutely accurate understanding of the human condition. Even the various deities that have attached themselves to Daoism and Buddhism are helpful as metaphor. Think of Athena. I don't think anyone still thinks she really exists but few other characters can express the ideals she represents as poetically. Life will never, ever be four white walls and a neon light-bulb. Life and people are colorful. Some things will always be better understood poetically and *cough* spiritually rather than mutually agreed upon black and white definitions.


It would be easy to dismiss something as being "too Eastern", but I think that betrays a certain arrogance in Western thinking. For too long we've had this idea that we were 100% right about everything. From the "missionaries" who told indigenous peoples to "kiss the cross or kiss the sword" to putting native lands to "proper use", it has always been a matter of civilizing and modernizing the rest of the world to adopt OUR values without taking the time to at least examine the worth of those that are being replaced.


As a minority, we atheists are forced to defend what we are not, but we cannot fully define ourselves by it. In other words, "Atheist" only says what I am not. "Daoist" and to a large degree "Buddhist" says what I am. In some ways I am even a "Red Letter Christian". The practical application of these ideals is that I am able to do my tiny part in making the world just a little bit better. This is something that I feel atheism, all by itself, is insufficient in doing.


Sorry for the novel :)




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