Religious vs. Agnostic
You may have noticed that I claim to be a militant agnostic. There’s a quote saying that an agnostic is an atheist without the courage of his convictions. That’s simplistic and offensive. It’s simplistic because it doesn’t think deeply into what agnostic means. It’s offensive because it assumes that an agnostic is a moral coward.
The dictionary has multiple definitions for `agnostic’. For convenience’s I’ve entered some so that you don’t have to navigate away look them up and not get back to me.
- a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
- a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.
- a person who holds neither of two opposing positions on a topic.
- of or pertaining to agnostics or agnosticism.
- asserting the uncertainty of all claims to knowledge.
- holding neither of two opposing positions.
Synonyms: doubter, empiricist, secularist, skeptic; disbeliever, nonbeliever, unbeliever; pagan, heathen, heretic, infidel.
The best simple definition of agnostic is, as far as I’m concerned, doubter or skeptic. A skeptic is only a person who questions the validity of things claimed to be fact. On a scale of 0 – 10, where 10 is an absolute unwavering belief in a god, gods, goddesses, or any combination thereof and 0 is a similarly absolute unwavering belief in the absolute lack of a god, gods, goddesses, or any such combination, I fall squarely at 5. I don’t believe in them, or unbelieve.
In my opinion, and to me my opinion is the only one that matters, there is no evidence that any omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, supernatural, metaphysical being exists now or has ever done so; having said that, lack of evidence is not evidence of lack.
On an episode of Futurama, the character Bender is lost in space, and hosts a colony of intelligent beings who think of him as `God’, and no matter which path he followed, either direct intervention or absolute disregard, the beings are maimed and die off quicker than goldfish in a five-year-old’s room. Later, as he drifts mourning the passing of his worshippers, he notices that the universe is blinking in a binary pattern. He holds a conversation with an unseen being who, eventually, asserts that as a god to do it right, it has to look like you’re not doing anything at all. That could be what whatever magical being is ordering the universe is doing.
How can we possibly know? I can run a toaster, or a light switch, and I think I’ve even got doorknobs and dead-bolt locks figured out; an entire universe is just a little beyond me. Watch the episode, it’s marginally worth it and I’ve over-simplified it to the point of being meaningless. Besides, I may misremember key points.
I like the additional `militant’ tag because, to me, knowledge is based on objective proof or empirical evidence. What people who believe have is faith. While I have faith in the perversity of the universe, I also have proof of said perversity because I’ve seen it so often. Besides, I’m pretty far from militant; people who have opinions just go around bothering each other. I have views, outlooks, and things like that. I try to be willing to change the way I think, or do things differently if someone comes up with a way that is better than mine.
If you keep an open mind, you never know what will drop in.
My sister and father attend, on a fairly regular basis a meeting of Free-Thinkers. What are Free-Thinkers, you ask. Well, Free-Thinkers are generally atheists who have banded together to oppose the rabidly religious among us who want to shove their way of doing things down every one’s throat, in opposition to the official separation of church and state. One day, while at this gathering, a young man sat next to my sister and asked her how long she had been an atheist. He was confused when she set him straight. My sister’s not atheist, she’s a pagan; she worships differently from the mainstream, but she does worship. Apparently he skipped the `thinking’ portion of the title. That’s why I say they’re generally atheists, not all Free-Thinkers believe there are no gods.
My own view, which I state as seldom as possible, is believe, or not, what you want, but for the sake of sweet charity, keep it to yourself.