Why Agnostic? - Mothering Forums

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Why agnostic?


This topic was originally posted in this forum: Spirituality
Author Topic: Why agnostic?
yogamama
Moderator posted 06-22-2001 08:57 AM
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So, Yammer and other agnostics, please explain your views. What is your understanding of agnosticism and why is that your view?
I'm just curious. I never quite get it when people say they are agnostic.

Thanks
Kathleen



Yammer
Moderator posted 06-22-2001 11:34 AM
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Why agnostic?
This is a long post, divided into Lack of Belief, Lack of Desire to Join, and Atheism Vs. Agonisticism.

First, a definition: to me, an agnostic is one who takes no position on the existence of deity, and who does not utilize metaphysics to construct rationales for personal decisions.

Why I Don't Believe:

The short answer is that I was never made to believe, and I see no reason to start now.

I did attend Sunday School briefly in the United Church of Canada. Culturally, like all North Americans, I am infused with Christian iconography and lore, but that isn't the same as believing that the tales have more than metaphorical truth to them.

I've never recognized the voice of God in my heart, nor was I made to believe as a child. My parents did not baptize me, take me to church regularly, enforce prayer, or pay more than cosmetic attention to religious holidays.

Why I Don't Want to Join:

I think it might be possible to put aside my lack of belief and participate in the community of believers, for fellowship, support, song, and friendship. It's tempting, but I think it would be crass and hypocritical to do it. I respect genuinely belief in deity too much to pretend to have it.

Also, with rare exceptions (like the Mothering Boards), I've rarely encountered religious people that I wanted to be with. Quite the contrary, I know many people who are sanctimonious Bible-thumpers (they are also cokeheads and child abusers).
On a more global level, religion is argably the single most destructive cultural force in human history, fomenting countless massacres and other atrocities, as well as such relatively benign activities like discouraging the use of birth control, which is slow suicide for the planet. I have no desire to be part of that movement, or to be associated with organizations which have roots in the blood of heathens and apostates.

Why I'm not an atheist:

The existence of God is a matter of faith. Faith is a different paradigm of understanding the world than scientific fact. From an objective point of view, deities are neither provable nor disprovable. Consequently, agnosticism is more rational than either belief or atheism.

Also, atheism, to me, seems to have an evangelical component to it. I have no interest in debunking the beliefs of others. Lots of people find their beliefs to be comforting, empowering, and inspiring. I honour that, regardless of my disinclination (to the point of horror) to support religions.


[This message has been edited by Yammer (edited 06-22-2001).]



mollysmom02718
unregistered posted 06-22-2001 01:15 PM
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Yammer,
That was the best explanation. You stated your beliefs(dis-beliefs?)in a way that tells how you feel and why with out making people who do believe feel defensive.
While I do believe in a Higher Power, I really felt myself nodding in agreement when you explained how you felt about organized religion. I agree that it has been a very destructive force in human history as far as wars and other atrocities committed in the name of God or other deity. Certainly if there is a Higher Power that is not what it intended.
Peggy


jaylind
Member posted 06-22-2001 01:30 PM
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Right on with Yammer. Let me just say that I WAS made to believe as a child and by the age of about 8 I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop, like the story of Santa Claus...seriously! As I grew older, I developed a resentment toward the church at *duping* everyone.
Now, as an adult, I am no longer resentful unless FIL is here telling me I should go to church. I believe people have a right to choose but FIL needs to realize I am not dumb for not choosing his choice...it insults my intelligence when he goes off on us--telling us how foolish we are--for not attending church and it lowers my opinion of him every time. I don't go to his house and tell him he'll be stuck in hell forever if he attends church or whatever.

Yammer has a good point in going for fellowship and community but I can't do it, partially because of the hippocritical idea of it, as Yammer said, but also because how would I choose? With hundreds of religions the world over, how can any--or only one--of them be the right one? And how can they all condemn the rest?

Yikes, it makes my head spin. I read something once that someone believed we spent all our lives getting ready to be dead a long time. I am not quite that hopeless, but I have my days sometimes! I like to think that we must be reincarnated but I don't have any organization or theory or method to it beyond that.

I also agree with Yammer on why I'm not an atheist either. I wouldn't be so arrogant as to presume either way. Not that the faithful are arrogant, but that faith...or lack thereof...wow....that is not something I find myself capable of.

jaylind



yogamama
Moderator posted 06-22-2001 01:42 PM
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Yes, Yammer. Great explanation. I understand what you are saying.
I struggle with the Lack of Belief issue (in terms of Christ being THE way - I have no trouble with belief in the Spirit) and then I look at memebers of my faith community and the history of the Church and I struggle with Lack of Desire to Join (oops - I already "belong"). But my Lack of Desire to Join is balanced by my Desire for Community, so I keep going to church. Sometimes with my teeth clenched...

Yammer, thanks for your explanation. I really appreciate your perspective.
Kathleen



k'smami
Member posted 06-22-2001 03:29 PM
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Excellent explanation. By the way I'm sort of thinking like mollysmom.


Ann
Member posted 06-23-2001 06:02 AM
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That was a great explanation, Yammer. I understand where you are coming from, though, I've never met such and informed and curious agnostic in all my life. Is there a reason you are so drawn to religion/ spirituality?


mom2godzillas
Member posted 06-23-2001 10:23 AM
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Yammer, thanks for your wonderful and respectful explenation.
Jaylind, for that very reason I refuse to tell my kids about Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc.



kimward
Member posted 06-23-2001 09:40 PM
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So, on that great explanation/defination, I am going to raise another issue to think ponder. What about being spiritual vs. religious? Relizing there is more to life/universe/creation then us humans. Miracles happen everday- Birth for example is a profound miracle in my eyes.
The latin root word of religion means 'to tie or to bind"

The latin root word of spirit means 'to breathe'!!!
Therefore, are we all not spiritual beings at all times?

Maybe I should have started another thread since this really is off the main topic. Sorry- Breathe in, Breathe out!!!!





Yammer
Moderator posted 06-28-2001 12:21 PM
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quote:
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Originally posted by Ann:
I've never met such an informed and curious agnostic in all my life. Is there a reason you are so drawn to religion/ spirituality?
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Thank you.

I've always been interested in this topic. I was raised in a superstitious household, complete with a Nichiren Buddhist shrine, and taught a great many traditional Japanese animist beliefs -- for example, not to eat meat on certain anniversaries of people's deaths, not to walk out a different door that you came in, not to pass a bowl of rice with the chopsticks sticking out of it, not to say "Jesus" as a swear word (though "shut up, you fucking cocksucker" was frequently heard; ol' grandpa was a railway foreman, as well as a mean drunk and Nichiren devotee). That was mom's side. Dad was/is a lapsed Catholic from a tiny farm settlement in Alberta -- a former altar boy who broke with the church over a mystery incident, about the time that the priest blew town under a cloud of some kind. I'm curious about what exactly happened, but I don't go there.

I was raised with a cousin who is a bit older and less cynical than I am, and highly superstitious. He took the injunction against stepping on sidewalk cracks very seriously, for example. It was through him that I learned the delights of blaspheming. I recall when were were about 12 and 10 and I tormented him by daring God to send lightning bolts from the sky, if He was real. My cousin actually screamed and hid. This was a very formative experience, in retrospect -- responsible for my bravado before the Divine.

Regarding knowledge, I received a smidgeon of conventional Bible training as a youth. Of much greater usefulness was great literature, since so much of it is permeated with Christianity and Judaism, like all of Western culture. In high school, I was a history buff and read extensively about the formation of empires and the role of religion in justifying imperial ambitions. The interplay of political wants and spiritual needs has many dimensions, if you care to look for them.

In adulthood, I have followed religion as a bit of a hobby, partly because I continue to find amusement in the intellectual gyrations required to explain away the paradoxes of belief. And, to be honest, I envy you believers, with your surety of rebirth or afterlife, with the hope of supreme forgiveness, with the comfort of living within an intelligently guided plan. I am keeping my eyes and ears open to the possibility that God will show up somewhere.
In the meantime, I find great satisfaction in bashing at anyone who wants to profit from your belief. It is monstrous to use your devotion to get at your vote, or your wallet. It pisses me off that the promise of life eternal (which I wouldn't mind myself, if only I believed) is ransomed for earthly gains. Preachers, prattlers, televangelists, Pat Robertson, and all others who ache to be the new Cardinal Richlieu -- I HATE them. Church and state MUST be separate. When they are not, the consequences have always been fatal for "heretics" and "apostates" -- i.e. people who don't go along with them. This is a sheer perversion of spirituality. I'm fascinated to uncover it, and disturbed when believers don't see it.

Although I don't believe, I think that I can benefit believers. When the temples crawl with moneychangers, someone has to point that out.

A final thought in that vein: we really should do what Jesus did. Would Jesus ever SELL you a "WWJD?" bumpersticker?





yogamama
Moderator posted 06-29-2001 11:00 AM
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Yammer! Thanks for the interesting explanation regarding your upbringing. Makes sense to me why you are so distanced from the actual practice of any religious rituals. And it also adds to your wry sense of humor...
But as a seeking person, what do you think about your own spiritual quest? It seems to me that you are a spiritual person who is deeply skeptical. Nothing wrong with that.

I'm reading the book "Yoga and the Quest for the True Self" by Stephen Cope and he quotes Joseph Needleman saying, "in order to be successful, the spiritual pilgrim needs three distinct qualities in approximately equal measure: common sense, skepticism, and openness." I guess I would say that you are a true spiritual pilgrim, but maybe leaning too more toward skepticism.

Looking forward to more discussions...
Kathleen

P.S. I totally agree about the WWJD bumper stickers. Would J.C. even be DRIVING a car? I think he would be out ministering to HIV patients and stirring up controversy in government chambers.



Sarah L
Member posted 06-30-2001 05:38 AM
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Loving this discussion.....
Yammer I recognise a lot of what you say and you put it so well! I was brought up in a more convential, Christian family, and I remember the only sticking point being that I just didn't BELIEVE it. There was no point asking me why not, you do believe or you don't....
I certainly didn't want to join, either. I have recently-ish found a religion I don't mind joining as it doesn't seem to have caused too many wars or persecuted too many non believers - buddhism - please someone correct me if I'm wrong!
I find the emphasis on compassion and awareness so refreshing......the sticking point for me are the things you have to believe (!), although a lot is said about buddhism being based on experience not faith, I haven't consciously experienced reincarnation yet!!
I meditate for the same reasons others have talked about worshipping, connecting with the energy of love, creation, etc. But meditation is qualitatively different from worship - I'd be interested in your experience/views on this Yammer......
yogamama, i feel a bit like my struggle with buddhism is like yours with catholicism...
best wishes to all,
Sarah


Yammer
Moderator posted 07-01-2001 10:41 PM
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Sarah,
I think that Buddhism (or Christianity, with which it shares a number of philosophical tenets) has the potential to guide its practioners into a good and moral life. However, it is no panacea. Buddha is an Indian, and certainly India is no stranger to state-created wars, massacres, and cruelty. China and Japan are also nations with substantial Buddhist populations, with histories of inflicting oppression on their neighbours and dissident members of their own ranks. What works for you is the path you should follow. My hapkido teacher told me this. I thought he was a bit of a dick in many ways, but it makes sense.

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