Belief is an escape. The theist is pretending that he knows. The atheist is pretending he also knows that there is no God. Neither the theist has tried to look into existence, nor has the atheist tried. And the atheist’s work is even more difficult than the theist’s work, because the theist is trying to find something – its presence, its existence; at least he has a hypothesis to work upon. The atheist has no hypothesis at all; he begins with the idea, “There is no God.” Then what are you going to seek and search for? For no-God? It is difficult to have the idea of what God is; it is more difficult to have the idea of what no-God is.
Perhaps the theist may stumble by chance on God, but the atheist cannot stumble on no-God by chance, because no-God simply means something absent. You cannot stumble on something absent. The theist at least has a possibility of transforming his belief into a hypothesis that, “I don’t believe that God exists, but hypothetically I assume God exists, and I will try to search for him.” What hypothesis can the atheist have? He is denying. Negativity cannot be the hypothesis. Positivity can be the hypothesis. The atheist is in a much more difficult situation. But he is also, in another way, more comfortable than the theist.
The theist cannot get rid of the doubt. It is going to remain always underneath his belief. He cannot throw it away. Belief and doubt are two aspects of the same coin. You throw one, and the other also is thrown. You save one, and the other is also saved. But the atheist, in another way, is more comfortable: there is no God – so there is no question of doubt. You cannot doubt something which is not. You can doubt something which is, or may be. But if you have decided there is nothing like God, you cannot doubt. You cannot believe; you cannot doubt. But you cannot progress in your search either.
The atheist has thrown away the doubt far more deeply, far more profoundly than the theist. With the theist the doubt is just hiding behind his belief. With the atheist there is no belief to hide; he has thrown the doubt very far away, very deep in the unconscious. Of course you cannot get rid of it unless you know. But you can deceive. The atheist can deceive himself more easily than the theist. Hence atheism has been growing, theism shrinking.
As man has become more intelligent, more educated, more cultured, atheism has become more prominent and theism has become something out of date. Even those who go to churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, know deep down that it is all just social conformity. It is good; they use these places just like clubs. They don’t believe; they don’t even bother.
I have been a professor in two universities. The last university I left had almost one hundred and fifty professors, and the common room of the professors was agog with all kinds of rumors. I remained in that university for almost nine years, and I continued watching, listening: Would anybody start a discussion about God?
One hundred and fifty professors, of which perhaps seven belonged to the department of philosophy, five belonged to the department of psychology, four belonged to the department of theology – at least these people? But no. Actors were discussed, actresses were discussed, films were discussed, novels were discussed, even love affairs between students were discussed – and all kinds of politics were there.