Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cozy in my uncertainty

Rogue Valley Roasting Co.
16oz Coffee
Vegan Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Some people have a very dismissive or negative view of agnosticism.  I've heard people refer to agnostics as if they were just indecisive or afraid to commit.  I say "they" but I mean "we."  I have said numerous times that I am agnostic.  If you want a good understanding of what the term means, I recommend visiting its Wikipedia page.  In a nutshell, the term means "without knowledge," and since it is usually used to describe someone's religious views, that generally means that the person has no knowledge to give them a belief in any kind of deity.

The nuances of that meaning diverge from that point.  Some will say "I don't know - can't know - and neither can anyone else."  I keep it a little more close.  The concept of god, by definition, goes beyond the typical objective reality with which we are familiar.  That is not to say god is not part of our reality, just that god doesn't function in a way that we can define in our usual physical terms.  In other words, old-school miracles - like the creation of all existence - cannot be duplicated in a laboratory.

And yet, that which used to seem miraculous to our ancestors has been revealed to be very normal, predictable phenomena.  It's good to remember, sometimes, that most all religious texts were written before human beings understood the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation, all that).  If any religion was truly inspired by divine words, remember that they flowed through human messengers.

For myself, I believed in God as a child because everyone around me talked about God as if He was a done deal.  I asked my father why, then, were there other religions if everyone knew about these miracles Jesus had performed.  Surly, with so many witnesses, there would be extensive contemporaneous accounts to validate that these had, in fact, taken place (yes, I was a weird 8 year-old).  So my father explained that these accounts were recorded by just a couple people decades after Jesus' death, and there were not the innumerable written or oral accounts I would expect, so people have to choose to believe or not believe that these things had taken place.

Oh, these are stories?!

And I became an atheist, because it was too much to be asked to believe these stories of spectacular miracles unless there was some really strong evidence that they had actually occurred.

But I got older, and I kept thinking and pondering and listening to the great thinkers and ponderers of human history.  And I softened my views a bit.  Because how do I know there isn't a god, anyway?  Maybe human beings are screwy and can't get the story straight, but maybe there's a god in spite of all that.

The point is what we know and what is knowable.  Right now, I can't see a way for the human mind to be able to know with demonstrable certainty that god exists.  I have heard the smartest people in modern society argue with authority that it's illogical to think there is no god.  And I have heard equally brilliant minds argue that it's illogical to think that there is a god.  The problem is that logic doesn't have an imperative when it comes to how the divine is or isn't.  At least, none that I can see.  Perhaps someday we will find a way to know definitively one way or another.

Most people who believe, it seems to me, believe because they feel a personal connection to the divine.  They have opened themselves to the Holy Spirit(s) and have felt a divine presence.  And it doesn't matter which religion you're talking about, from the outside, every practitioner sounds the same.  They know The Truth.  All the other religions are actually false and their practitioners are deceiving themselves, or are being deceived.  Once they, and I, leave behind these self-deceptions and open our hearts to The True Religion, we'll know the difference; we'll Know. The. Truth.

It all sounds the same from here.  But epiphanies, as I've said before, can be the most true and least reliable form of knowledge.  Maybe one of these groups has it right.  I can't say they are wrong or right from the outside.  But you can't convert me based on your certainty.  And, as I said before, logic breaks down.  So, what's left?  Empiricism?  You want me to believe my lyin' eyes?

Empiricism used to "prove" spontaneous generation, proof of god, because you could see meat miraculously turn into maggots.  When it was shown that it was not an act of the divine, that maggots were actually fly larvae, religious minds resisted the truth because they thought it invalidated the existence of God.  Likewise, many refused to believe in any kind of micro-biology in spite of the fact that... oh, what's his name... proved that women were dying in childbirth needlessly because doctors were not washing their hands in between deliveries.  Or after eating.  Or pooping.  Or ever.  The point is that what you see, what you hear, what you feel in the most intimate crevices of your senses, does not necessarily mean what you think it does.

And yet... we exist.  There is ...stuff.  Why is there something instead of nothing?  Even if we are nothing more than a dream in the mind of some slumbering divine entity and all we see or feel or experience is an illusion - we are still the dream.  The dream is.  I am okay not knowing all the answers.  I don't know if there is a greater purpose to all this.  I'm okay not ascribing grand notions of purpose or grand destinies if I don't feel a compelling certainty in them.

I am open to listen to what you believe is true.  But I am not seeking some answer.  Try not to be too disappointed if you try to say, for example:

1. I have problems.
2. I am not a Christian.
3. Ergo, I should be Christian.

And I will reply with:

1. You're right - I have problems.
2. I am not a Buddhist.
3. Ergo, I should be a Buddhist.

Actually, Buddhism has a lot to offer.  But so do most religions, to an extent.  They tend to break down when you get to dealing with people who don't follow the same religion or who deviate within the religious order.  But the 'be kind and respectful to others' part - that's pretty solid.  I am willing to accept the parts of any religion that I feel hold true outside of the confines of that religion.  If a particular doctrine is consistent with reason and empathy, I have no reason to reject it.  I just don't embrace it solely because it was given by an authority figure.

To those who still think that agnosticism is weak or non-committal or wishy-washy, you still misunderstand.  It is commitment the pursuit of truth that keeps agnostics from going any further.  The scientific mind says only what it can say.  This is what we know, this is what we know is knowable, and this is what can be said given that.  That doesn't preclude there being more than that.  That doesn't mean we won't be able to know more someday.  We just don't try to make things fit to make the world more comfortable for us.  That would be faithless and false.

What about the afterlife?  What if there is a god and its followers have been trying to tell me the grand Truth but I have rejected it this whole time?  It's not so much rejection as much as not accepting it without reason.  But aren't I afraid of going to some hell?  Aren't I afraid of some divine punishment?  Frankly, I don't think much of any deity who would condemn me to eternal suffering for having a reasonable doubt and not bearing false witness.

Damnation for utilizing the spectacular mental faculties we have been gifted with?  What a douche!

Fear of divine wrath is not a reason for believing in the divine.  That falls under "incentive."  Like, in the checkout aisle at the grocery store, if I buy two pieces of candy, I can get two more free!  That's an incentive.  But the reality is: I need no candy.

If there is some kind of afterlife, I will have to accept whatever consequences await me.  Maybe I just think more highly of god, but I don't tremble in fear for not following some other person's dogma, no matter how popular.  Maybe there is an afterlife, maybe there is nothing.  Maybe the remnants of our holographic mind continue.  Maybe they dissipate.  Maybe we are reincarnated.  Maybe we just turn into mulch.

All I know is that who I am now ends at my death.  If a part of me continues, it will be in some other form.  I will not again walk in this body and be just as I am now.  If I exist in spirit, I am still not quite the same as me now - I will know things unknowable now.  If I am reincarnated, then who I am will continue to change and evolve.  I can never live this story of me, exactly, ever again.

So, why wait for the answer of what is beyond this life?  All I can do is make this life the best that I can.  If you've ever met me and wondered why I often wear an ankh (sorry, not a cross, folks) it's because it is the symbol of life.  I wear it to remind myself to live while I'm alive.  Because agnosticism is not living without morality or fear of eternal consequence.  It is living with the accountability of your earthly actions.  It is not disregarding any possibility of the after.  It is about truly living within the now.

I feel like I've said all of this before.  Apologies for my redundancy.  And love to all.

No comments:

Post a Comment