Jug Suraiya

The most formidable adversary that the spiritual life faces today is not the rise of neo-atheism; it is apatheism.

Coined by social media, apatheism, is the word implies, means apathy, a total lack of feeling — I one way or the other — as to the existence or non-existence of God, or indeed of any transcendent principle. In the 1970s, media in the western world devised the term ‘Compassion fatigue’ what it mean was that ever-multiplying charity organisations and the demands they made for the sympathy of donors eventually blunted people’s capacity to feel anything for the sufferings of others, whether it was starving children in Sub-Saharan Africa or victim of civil wars in places with unpronounceable names.


Like in elastic band stretched beyond capacity to expand further, the public’s sence of sympathy, the ability to feel for the plight of others, just snapped. People became disconnected from a sence of the common humanity we share with each other.

Today, compassion fatigue seems to have mutated to a more virulent form of spiritual ailment which could be diagnosed as ‘conviction fatigue’ and has been given the name of Apatheism. Contrary to common perception the atheist is not true antagonist of religious belief, much less of spirituality.

Self-professed atheist more often than not are as passionate about their lack of belief in a Supreme Being as the most fervent of religious followers. Indeed, to turn a famous aphorism upside down, if God did not exist, the atheist would have to invent Him in order to disinvest Him. The atheist’s firm belief in the specious-ness of religious belief itself takes on the contours of a credo : avowed lack of faith itself becomes an article of faith.

Both Believer and Non-believer, the theist and the atheist have in common the intensity of their conviction. Both belief and the vigorous denial of belief, exercise and strengthen the sinews of the spirit. There is no sedentary flab, only a mentally muscular affirmation and a countervailing and equally rego-rous denial. It’s like a hard-fought tennis match.

The apatheist, however, is like the couch potato who does not even watch the exciting match on TV. But aimlessly channel surfs to find something with which to distract himself from his own spiritually lethargic boredom. Daily exposed to the toxic effluents of media reports — rapes, murders, scams, scandal, wars, epidemics, natural calamities – the apatheist switches off from being tuned in to any system of belief or non-belief, any engagement with a moral world which represents a Kurukshetra both timeless and topical, dateless and daily.

It’s as if Arjuna shrugged and cared not a fig if Krishna existed or not, the Pandavas and Kauravas existed or not, Dharma and Adharma existed or not. The inner cosmos of the spirit reduced to a yawn, a starvation of oxygen for the soul, a somnolence of consciousness. The price of democracy is said – to Be enternal vigilance. The price of Spiritual democracy – a Contest between dogma and doubt – is also enternal vigilance.

The apatheist takes the ballot box of belief and disbelief and uses it as a pillow to fall into a sleep bereft even of dreams of deity and an equally deified defiance.

There is no one to set the alarm for a wake-up call”

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