Classic George Carlin tells it like it is about religion…
I stumbled upon a very nice article about the need for committed and passionate agnosticism. Of course I tend to agree with that notion. 🙂
The lust for certainty spills over into other walks of modern life too. Take the so-called politics of fear – the constant reference to risks, from hoodies on the street corner to international terrorism.
Whatever the truth of these risks and the best ways of dealing with them, the politics of fear plays on an assumption that people cannot bear the uncertainties associated with them. Politics then becomes a question of who can better deliver an illusion of control.
Being agnostic can amount to little more than a shrug of the shoulders. But can it be a weighty way of life? It can, because it has great traditions to draw on – no lesser traditions than those of philosophy, religion and science. At their richest, all three are riven through and through with an agnostic spirit.
Take philosophy. Socrates was a genius because he realised that the key to wisdom is not how much you know, but how well you understand how little you know. That is why he irritated so many powerful people in ancient Athens; his philosophy burst the bubble of their misplaced confidence.
Similarly, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) said that to be human is to be “between beasts and angels”. He meant that we are not ignorant like the animals. But we are also far from wise. Faith for Augustine was about deepening the capacity to enter this cloud of unknowing, rather than opting for the shallow certainties that religion can deliver.
Finally, in science, the best sort – in the sense of the most humanly enriching – is that which answers questions by opening up more questions, and in particular links to questions that are beyond science alone answer.
This is the spirit that you see in cosmology. On one level, cosmologists understand an extraordinary amount about the universe. But simultaneously, this only deepens the sense of the universe’s tremendousness. The science keeps pointing to the big question of why we here at all.
The revival of a committed, passionate agnosticism in philosophy, religion and science is vital for our age. Without it religion will become more extreme; science will become more triumphalist; and our politics increasingly based on fear.
Agnostic was coined by T.H. Huxley in 1870 to describe “one who professes that the existence of a First Cause and the essential nature of things are not and cannot be known.” For his neologism he drew on a Greek word meaning “unknown.” So agnostic has been traditionally used to refer to the knowledge – or not – of God.
Now it’s being applied to those who don’t know, and hence don’t have an opinion on, other things. It’s a highbrow way of saying, “I don’t have a dog in that fight.”
Does this new meaning serve a need – or will it ruin the word for its original purpose?
The article above is a good quick read from The Christian Science Monitor on the current state of flux of the agnostic word. I do think the new meaning mentioned above ruins the word from the original Huxley definition. If you just haven’t made up your mind about religion why would you feel the need to grab a label at all? It definitely helps confuse the meaning of Agnostic for those of us that take its meaning as an actual answer versus a label for not having an answer. The article also talks about the recent popularity of usage for the word in technology as well if you’re interested.
Here is a great little flash animation about “deluded” Atheists:
I’ve watched it a few times and thought it was funny and accurate the first time. However, on a second viewing I thought of how a TRUE believer might think about this when they view it. It saddens me to know that there are people out there that will agree with this tongue-in-cheek presentation of a believer’s view of atheism and see complete logic in believing in The Bible.
The Bible is written by God because as stated in the Bible God said he wrote it – Checkmate! It may be hilarious to us nonbelievers but there are many that actually believe this is so.
Here is a funny video featuring door to door Atheists as a response to door to door Mormons.