Tag Archives: agnostic

Getting Off Track, Part 2

As is so often the case, I went negative on my “own kind” first by pointing out some serious flaws in many Christian mind-sets (see “Getting Off Track, Part 1“) before I decided to go pointing fingers at the non-Christians. But now, it’s time for some people on the other side to get their share.

I saw a bumper sticker a few days ago: Jesus, Protect Me From Your Followers.

I got a chuckle out of that, because it is true than many Christians make Christianity an easy target due to their actions (and not because there’s anything inherently bad in the tenets of Christianity itself). Frankly, a lot of Christians scare me, and I’m a faithful (if inconsistent) follower of Jesus.

But at the same time, when people get in my face (literally or figuratively) about how arrogant I am that I would say Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, I can only ponder this: “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”

Why the rancor toward Jesus and the faith centered on him? I mean, this is one of the most progressive guys of ancient history. I’m still waiting to see agnostics and atheists pile onto the Jews or Buddhists or anyone else and call them arrogant for believing their paths are the right paths and probably the only legitimate paths.

And please, don’t start with the “Well, Christianity has done more damage than…” It’s a bullshit argument that half the time isn’t even accurate and generally has little to do with Christianity itself, and I’m tired of people arguing that most of the world doesn’t really even know about Jesus, much less believe in him, and thus I should shut the hell up…and yet somehow my faith is doing these people such harm. You can’t have it both ways. Is Christianity abusing them, or are they ignorant of Jesus? Kind of hard to believe both things.

Maybe I’ll start a path toward accepting the argument that having a set of strong beliefs makes me arrogant when more people around me start saying, “Gee, representative democracies in capitlalist nations sure do seem to do a lot of damage to the world! We’d better abandon capitalism and democracy right now!”

It is not arrogance for me to say that Jesus is the right path. It’s my belief, and you are welcome to think otherwise and to disagree with me. But it still doesn’t make me arrogant.

You see, God has an easy way, and a hard way. But it all comes down to Jesus the Christ in the end.

I give Little Girl Blue as much freedom and latitude as I can. I allow her, even at just shy of four years old, to disagree with me strenuously if she likes. But in the end, if something needs to be done a certain way (i.e. Daddy says so), then it will get done my way in the end. Not because I’m a tyrant but because that’s the way it needs to be, for her health, safety, and general well-being and proper growth.

Now, Little Girl Blue can say, “Daddy, I don’t want to” and then do it anyway because I’ve asked her nicely and explained why it’s necessary. That’s the easy way. (Note, I don’t expect the easy way to be to just obey me without question; not even God really expects that of us…He knows us too well). Or, she can throw a tantrum or ignore me repeatedly and do other things that will cause me to raise my voice and possibly snap one of her favorite DVDs in half and throw it out (should she push things that far).

She has options. But eventually, it comes down to me or to mommy and what we’ve laid down as law.

You can give Jesus some serious consideration now (and hopefully come to see that he is the way, the truth and the life), or you can just keep shouting that it’s arrogant to believe such things. But I wonder, when your heart beats its last, and you see Jesus, and he gives you an amused little smile, a shrug of his shoulders and says, “You know, Deac and Big Man and a lot of those other folks pretty much had a lot of it right. So, why don’t we talk about the choice you want to make now”…what are you going to do?

Are you going to say, “Oh, well, I guess we should talk then. I guess I was off track there.”

Or will you say, “Fine, I’m here, you arrogant messianic asshole. You think I’m going to bend my knee now?”

Hard way, easy way…and even a semi-hard way right in between the two, I believe…but hell, it’s your choice, and I’m devout in my conviction that you have every right to make any of those choices. Your right. Your free will. It doesn’t affect me in the end. I wish you well, I hope you do well in this life and the next, and I respect your rights.

If that’s the new definition of arrogance, then I’m happily arrogant.

Necessary Dogma?

I’m going to start with a simple question:

Can we exist without religion?

Now, I don’t mean can you personally exist without religious, faith-based beliefs. Obviously, you can. Many of you do. What I mean is: Is it possible for us to be human and have a society in which there is no religion?

You can feel free to disagree with me, but I am going to throw down the gauntlet and say, “No.” Because I don’t believe we can ever remove religion from the human experience no matter how far science goes and how much evidence accumulates that faith in a higher power is silly.

I’ve been thinking about this since seeing Bill Maher on The Daily Show a couple days ago. At one point in his newly released documentary film Religulous, in a clip shown on The Daily Show, Maher stood in a park shouting out some of the tenets of Scientology just to see how crazy people would think he was. And, of course, also to make the point that as crazy as Scientology’s underlying sci-fi mystical underpinnings are, Christianity and other religions should be seen as equally silly because their underlying “mythology” is nonsensical, too.

Later in his interview with Jon Stewart, Maher noted that he wasn’t an atheist himself, despite the hard time he gives religion, because atheism itself is still a belief system based in absolutism, and he abhors that. In other words, there is no way to know, he seems to be arguing, and thus agnosticism is the only way to be if one is going to be intellectually honest. (These aren’t his words, but my interpretation of his meaning.)

OK, I’m not arguing Maher’s logic here. No point or need to anyway, as religious faith is by its very definition something that cannot be explained or proved by science. What I want to talk about is two things that Maher has shown me in this segment with Jon Stewart.

First, since he’s admitted that atheism seems just as stupid to him as belief in God or in multiple gods, he obviously isn’t quite the douchebag I’ve always felt he was. I still find him frequently irritating when he riffs on political, social or religious issues and I think he can be way too smarmy, but this statement alone make me respect him much more than I did before. But a corollary to this is that it also proves my point that religion will always be with us in some organized fashion or another, not matter how much certain people would like it to go away. If we cannot know for sure either way, you can therefore assume that someone will always gravitate toward, or even create, a religion no matter how silly it might seem to most everyone else. In other words, no matter how much science advances, there will always be doubt and thus always niches for both theism and atheism.

Second, the fact that Scientology exists, even though it is so eminently mockable, is proof religion will always be with us. Scientology is based on the lunatic sci-fi egomaniacal ravings of author L. Ron Hubbard. Now, there are people who swear by Scientology’s ability to help people, but they look like a bunch of loons to me, and Tom Cruise’s increasing zaniness, bordering on outright insanity, just cements that idea for me. But back to my point: Scientology uses science fiction-type concepts to create a religion instead of using mystical ones. Given that science will likely never advance enough to explain the whole of existence, this means that even if you wipe out all the old religions, someone will simply create a new one that draws more from science than mysticism/magic.

Nothing I’ve said here proves anything. I still have ample reasons both spiritually and even historically to believe that Christianity is honestly the path to God and the true way, spiritually speaking. And if you have alternate religious beliefs, you will tell me that I am wrong. Fair enough. Just rambling a bit and posing what I hope is an interesting question.

And, as a follow-up to the “Can we exist without religion?” question, I find myself wondering, “Why, then, do we insist on looking to (and for) a higher power now that we no longer need to explain why the sun rises and sets, why the seasons change, why people get sick and die, etc.?”

I Just Don’t Know

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.

The Almost-Atheist

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.