Now, I have to justify my claims that Krishna, Shankara, Buddha and Mahavira were all atheists! Before I give my polemics, lets see some definitions. If we are on different wavelengths, I think it'll be more difficult for me to get through. Contents inside square brackets indicate my position.
God - Ah! [For the moment, lets just say, whatever be your definition of God, I'm claiming that 'God' doesn't exist or that I don't accept your definition!]
Atheism - Some claim its the lack of belief in God. That sounds more like Agnosticism to me. I don't believe in God, because I know God doesn't exist. Atheism is not rejecting or being indifferent to religion. Thats secularism. [I'm Atheist, not secular. i.e. I'm a Hindu who just thinks there is no such thing as God. Ofcourse I like all religions.]
Agnosticism - a state where a person thinks he/she doesn't know enough to decide either way. [I'm not agnostic. I have made the leap of faith on the 'wrong' side!]
Creationism - God created this universe, humans etc. "Yahweh created earth 6000 years ago as a 4 billion year old planet". "Brahmins came from Vishnu's head". [I think creationism is bull-crap.]
Intelligent Design - There is a method to the madness! The universe, life etc are so complex yet in symphony that, there must be some intelligent design behind it. How can things be so organized if it all happened by chance? [I reject ID. I have no problem in accepting that everything I perceive (or not!) happened to be there just by chance. As a CS major, I know there is no such thing as a random number. But I still reject ID.]
Chasing Miracles - A state where a person 'wants to believe'. He/she is not satisfied with what he/she can perceive. He/she feels some saints have reached spiritual states that are desirable. In that state, he/she can perceive 'God'. [I think these people are gonna be disappointed!]
Paramatma - Universal Being. An omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, transcendental entity that may influence our life. Some may call this influence as Determinism. Lets not use the word Brahman here, because I think the Upanishads and Shankara use it differently. I think Allah, Yahweh and Paramatma are synonymous. [I reject Paramatma. If someone convinces me that this Paramatma exists, I'm no longer atheist.]
Ishwara - Personal God. An entity which people worship as the manifestation of the Paramatma. In Shankara parlance, its the 'God' at the pragmatic level. People get a 'spiritual high' while worshiping Ishwara. This Ishwara is where theology ends. Beyond that its philosophy. [I have worshiped Personal Gods in the past. I may in the future. But I know I'm just indulging myself. "God, make this happen" is just the same as "I wish this happens".]
Spiritual High - Its a state of the mind like fear, depression, happiness etc. People get a high from their faith just like they might get from music, alcohol, drugs, sex etc. Religion has recognized this as Soma, Lingam (Phallus) etc.
Reality - Everything we perceive or not perceive. Creation (kriya, aakkam) is the process that brought everything into existence and that will tranform or destroy everything. This process never stops (or it may because of Para-Global Warming!). Shankara called this process a flow. This flow originates and ends in Brahman. Brahman itself is defined as something which exceeds not just the 'mere finite' but the 'infinite' as well. Bhagwad Gita talks about life cycles, everything starts and ends in Krishna. [I accept Reality. I'm part of it. I accept Brahman with a rider that Shankara himself taught us.]
Maya - Claim that what we perceive as material reality is just an illusion created by our ignorance. When we realize this Maya, we are in a state of peace/bliss where we can perceive everything for what they are. [I reject Maya. I think the distinction between what we perceive and not perceive is unwarranted. I believe Buddha or Mahavira when he says he went to a different spiritual state. But why should I waste my time/effort to reach that state, when I can just learn from them?]
More on my next post!