America Needs an Agnostic in the White House

The following article by Mike Garibaldi-Frick may be about why an Agnostic would be the best type of person in the White House but the bulk of it is just his interesting take on agnosticism in general. I think it’s a good read and will leave the bulk of it intact here for your enjoyment. I disagree that “weak agnosticism” is the best belief for a president, but it would be the most acceptable to the country even though I think strong agnosticism would be the best belief for the country and the entire world.

America Needs an Agnostic in the White House

First, let’s clear up some misconceptions and clearly define agnosticism. There are varying degrees of agnosticism, which confuses the debate when used interchangeably. For instance, “strong agnostics” — such as philosopher David Hume — say the existence or nonexistence of God or the nature of ultimate reality is unknowable. “Atheistic agnostics” believe, based on logic, that God and the metaphysical world definitely do not exist.

But, it’s not logical to say we can never truly know if there is a God, because as our scientific knowledge and investigative powers increase, our concepts of the universe constantly evolves. We discover new concepts that change our reality of the Universe: the lights in the sky are starts, the world is round, the theory of relativity, etc.

Scientists, theists and metaphysicians has all proposed various unproven theories of why we exist (in the spiritual, not physical sense) and what caused the beginning of the Universe (the “first mover”). But it’s all conjecture and, as such, can simply be adapted to various political and social structures.

The best president would be one who believes in “weak agnosticism,” which states that even though there is currently no evidence for the metaphysical or God, that does not mean evidence won’t be discovered tomorrow. In other words, people can continue to be rationally justified in believing in the metaphysical until there is positive evidence to the contrary. Simply not having proof of the metaphysical or a “creator” is not enough empirical evidence to the contrary. An omnipotent God is unlikely, but we don’t know for sure.

An agnostic president would respect all views, take them into account and than propose the best solutions. His/her values and beliefs are based in reality, logic, evidence and the present moment. Unlike theists that believe in some mysterious realm beyond time, physics and space.

Part of the mess in Iraq is due to Bush believing that this is a holy war pitting Muslim “fascism” (he uses the term incorrectly) versus Christian democracy. Instead of weighing the facts and expert advice about the situation, Bush went to war with God on his side against the “evil doer.” The attacks of 9/11 and the response on both sides, have had as much to do about religion as oil.

More lives have been lost in religious wars than for any other reason in human history because religion can stir the soul to justify and rationalize heinous acts. Agnostics are less likely to go to war since they are ultimately pragmatic and usually resorting to violence is not pragmatic. Religious fundamentalism around the world would be met with cool reasoning.

An agnostic will take religion out of the equation, except when dealing with religious people and how their beliefs might affect various outcomes. Agnostics believe anything is possible and will respectfully acknowledge the religious beliefs of others, but will only act with evidence.

“So, you theorize that gay people are sinners and, thus, require punishment? That could be possible, but no one has proven it yet. Since it has not been proven, let’s keep it in the very distant realm of possibility, but not act on that theory. Instead, let’s continue with policies that assume gay people are simply an expression of biodiversity, requiring no unequal treatment. But, I will remember that you believe this since it affects the way you behave and communicate.”

Political decisions are made with the common good in mind. In many ways, agnostics conduct their lives as humanists do: a person having a strong interest in or concern for human welfare, values, and dignity. He/she holds that people should think out questions of conduct for themselves. In addition to reason, agnostics also rely on emotion, feeling and desire and are usually very empathic to others.

Contrary to what religious folk say, agnostics are not nihilists or “wishy washy” in any way. Just because they are not bound by religious morals does not mean they “do whatever they please.” They are concrete, scientific and rational. They are bound by “man’s laws” and follow our innate social and biological axioms that help us to live in harmony (thou shall not kill, steal, etc.).

You don’t need to believe in life after death or a higher purpose to cherish and value life. In fact, since Agnostics are truly rooted in the present and short of time, life if even more precious now. Agnostics are not marking time or blowing off mistakes by justifying that they can do better next time around or hoping for a “do over” to get to a good place in the afterlife.

Plus, since agnostics believe that anything is possible, there are always those nagging metaphysical possibilities at the back of their minds. We certainly could appear at the pearly gates after death…or return to this world as Paris Hilton’s next Chihuahua…or this world could be another planet’s hell… or we are all living in a giant computer generated animation… or life is just a big test in God college. We can speculate all we want and there are an infinite number of spiritual theories we humans can create.

Theists and atheists seem to have less respect for human life than agnostics. Not only do agnostics believe that there could be life after death, karma, retribution, etc. but they also believe this world, right now, might be all we have. This makes this life even more precious than for atheists, whose rationale for life is more materialistic. Agnostics have to walk a thin line: live for the moment but also for the future, just in case there is more.

Atheists cannot know for certain that the metaphysical does not exist. Do atheists really think they know that nothing will ever will be discovered beyond our current, physically knowable world? That’s just as naive as theists blindly believing in Gods without any proof. While atheists might have a slight upper hand over theists since there is currently is no credible proof of a God or supernatural world, agnostics sit back and ask both groups: “Prove your belief!”

One thing we all know is that the universe and our very existence is extraordinary. The world filled with wondrous things still undiscovered. It seems to be important for our psychic health to explore these issues and take us beyond the mundane into the creative realm.

An agnostic president combines the best of both atheism and theism: they would recognize all the possibilities and empathize with the faithful, while at the same time focusing on the realities of human existence and acting for the common good. Unfortunately, it seems most dogmatic Americans are leery of the “unfaithful” and are not ready for an agnostic leader anytime in the near future.

One last note: an agnostic would probably empathize with the truly faithful about as much as a Christian empathizes with the beliefs of a Scientologist or Hindu. They see them as poor deluded people that don’t see the real truth, so I don’t believe they would really approach their understanding of others with a true sense of empathy but rather with sympathy or pity for their beliefs.

Huckabee’s Biblical Madness

Alternet had an article called Huckabee’s Biblical Madness: Dispatches from the War on Stupidity. I’m really glad this guy does not appear to be a true contender for the presidency. I won’t comment too much on this one since the excerpts I will quote below speak well for themselves thankfully. (click on link above for full article) Sometimes I have to throw a little normal light on a story but the author of this article does that quite well.

Mike Huckabee has made a set of controversial statements about the Constitution (amendable), and the Word of God (not-amendable).

It aroused a fair amount of controversy. Which was good. But all of it missed the real point. The real point, or what should be the real point, is that almost every phrase in his statements was factually untrue.

Here’s what he said: I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do, to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.

Huckabee says ” the Ten Commandments are still the Ten Commandments.” Let us leave aside the facts that there are three different versions of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament and the only one so labeled bears little resemblance to the one usually referred to by that name, and that Protestants, Jews, and Catholics each use a slightly different set of even that one.

The reality is that virtually all contemporary Christian and Jewish groups have amended them. And that any group that tried to enforce them, in the manner called for in the Bible, would be subject to arrest.

The Second Commandment begins: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth …:”

This clearly forbids all paintings and statues of Jesus (let alone of anything else). It is worth noting that the Catholics simply removed this Commandment from the list and split up the last one into two parts so that they still had ten. It is only taken seriously in Islam, which is why Islamic art contains only designs and calligraphy and why the Taliban (quite correctly, by Biblical injunction) destroyed the giant statues of the Buddha.

But for the most part, this has been simply, and quietly amended. By ignoring it.

The Bible calls for the death penalty for violations of the 4th (keeping the Sabbath), the 5th (honoring your Mother & Father, or more precisely for cursing them), and the 7th (committing adultery.) The Bible adds that “everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of fornication, makes her an adulteress, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Obviously, enforcing those penalties would end Christianity as a cultural force in America, as there would be so few of them left. The Tenth Commandment, the one about “coveting,” criminalizes thought. Any attempt to enforce it (aside from violating the fundamentals of American law), would remove all the Christians and Jews who were left after the executions required by enforcement of #4, #5, and #7, except for those in a vegetative state.

Huckabee’s goal is two amendments to the Constitution. One would ban abortion. There is nothing in the Bible that directly forbids abortion. Not a word. Not a jot. So he does a shuffle and slide and he says:

Well, it’s really based on the idea that we’ve always had a historical understanding that life is precious.

We go all the way back to the Declaration of Independence, when the founders made it very clear that all of us are equal. And equality wasn’t based on the point of our viability. It wasn’t based on our net worth, our personal assets, or ancestry. At the heart of the pro-life movement is the idea of intrinsic worth in value.

In fact, voting was restricted to white males, and normally, only those white males with a certain amount of personal assets. The historical truth is exactly the opposite of what Huckabee claims.

This is not meant as an attack on Mr. Huckabee. Compared to the crowd he’s running against, and within the limits of Republican ideology, many of his foreign and domestic policy positions are sane and humane.

The point is that in our public debates the Right Wing postulates certain myths, the mainstream media repeats them, or nods along as if they’re not full of obvious untruths, and while the Left may howl in outrage, fails to point out the factual errors and then drive them home. Truly stupid policies can only stand on a foundation of falsehoods.