So, yesterday’s post by Miz Pink, “I Can See Clearly Now,” got me to thinking about something. In the effort to win souls over to God, it’s really about inspiring the folks who are in non-Christian faiths and those who are agnostic to seek Jesus. It’s not about reaching atheists. Not that atheists cannot come to a point in life where they consider the possibility of God (or gods). They can. But let’s face it: You don’t go straight from atheism to theism. You have to at least progress to agnostic first.
I mean, it’s pretty impossible to go from “I don’t believe” to “I believe” without at least having a few-minutes-long debate in your head that goes something like: “Well, maybe.”
With people of non-Christian faiths, those people tend to come to Christianity because they see something in a Christian person that makes them seriously take pause (in a good way) or because they see some essential truth in the Gospel that is missing from their own faith or because they have come to a point where their own faith is ringing very false but Christianity doesn’t. It seems somehow fairly straightforward because the person already has a grounding in faith. It’s just a matter of realizing the faith was being misdirected.
It gets very complex with agnostic folks, though. And I came to the realization recently that many of the anti-religion folks who have challenged my beliefs online aren’t atheists. I have often thought of them as such, and some of them really are, but most I think are actually agnostic. They dislike Christianity or any other religion because while they can conceive that there might be a spiritual world, they maintain that with so many different faiths, there is no way to know which path is right, and maybe all of them are.
I could go into any number of reasons why it is clear to me that Christianity is the right path and why other faiths exist, but that would get this post to be way too long, get me off my point and generally just irritate some folks. I don’t want to do all of those things in one post, really.
So, back to my angle on agnosticism. I think there are really three main types of agnostics, and two of them pose particular challenges. And I don’t mean challenges in converting them, because that isn’t the job of a Christian. Only the individual, though connection to God through Jesus, can cause a conversion. It isn’t even the job of a Christian to start the process; only to help show by various means that it is a valid process to begin or to at least consider. No, the “problem” with some of the agnostic personalities is that they (a) create barriers to God reaching them and (b) they tend to encourage arguments between the agnostic and Christians that he or she may encounter.
The Seeking Agnostic
This is the kind of agnostic that a Christian is most likely to be able to inspire or support on a path toward becoming born again. The seeking agnostic doesn’t know what the answers are, but he or she desperately wants to know. Such people can be in a very dangerous position, depending on how badly they want answers, because they may seek answers through very charismatic but fringe churches in the Christian sphere, they might be drawn into dangerous cults, or they may get caught up in a faith that isn’t going to get them to where they need to be “on the other side.”
The Apathetic Agnostic
This kind of agnostic doesn’t know and doesn’t really care if they figure it out. These folks often figure that if there is a God or multiple gods, then we are almost all going to get a “pass” because no decent mega-powerful spiritual being could possibly hold our ignorance against us. They are wrong, because they miss the point that any spiritual being who cares about our eternal souls and doesn’t make him or herself obvious clearly wants us to seek connection. I’ve talked about this before, but probably most directly in my “End of the Line?” post. To put it in a nutshell, my personal belief is that God will give a lot more credit to those who try to figure things out, even if they end up on the wrong path, than to those who try to coast through life like there isn’t anything to worry about after life ends. I would go so far as to say that there are some people out there who think of themselves as agnostic but might actually be born again. That’s a complex topic, and probably one for another day, but I think it is possible. But that would be the seeking agnostic, probably not the apathetic agnostic, anyway.
These are the folks who are probably more likely even than an atheist to try to intellectually smack around believers of all sorts by telling them it is ridiculous to claim that anyone knows the true path to God, assuming that there is actually any God. I think that most hard-core atheists, the ones who truly don’t even try to accept the idea that a spiritual world might exist, really don’t give a shit what believers think. It may concern them on a gut level, but a real atheist who has any intelligence won’t try to convince a faithful person to give up his or her god. Lord know I don’t try to convince atheists or agnostics to believe in God or Jesus, only to treat me as a person with a brain and to try to have some smidgen of empathy for me about why I choose to believe.
The almost-atheist is probably the most likely person on the planet to tell a Christian or any other religiously oriented person that it’s time to give up superstition, stop “rattling the bones and feathers” and join the 21st century world. And part of that, I think, is because they are bothered on some level that they don’t know for sure, and that people are out there acting like they do.
And that’s cool, too. To each their own. There are plenty of people I have encountered in all three camps, both in real life and through the Internet, and I don’t like them any less as human beings. Just thought I’d share some of my insights (or maybe they’re my own biased misconceptions) since Miz Pink inadvertently got me to thinking about all this.