10 Year Anniversary

10 years ago I started this blog with this post:

Well, I’ve started a new website. There are several Agnostic websites and resources already available on the Internet, but none of them totally feel like home. Also, none of them contain the content that I feel presents my beliefs 100% accurately. So I’ve decided to make an Agnostic site and here it is.

I’ve put up a few quick things to start it up. The FAQ only has 3 questions and answers, so that is definitely a work in progress. The Library only has what I’ve written as my Agnostic Bible and it will be a continuous work in progress for a good while to come. Finally, I installed this blog program real quick. I haven’t even figured out how to change the links on it yet. Like I said, it’s a definite work in progress.

I plan on spouting off in this blog from time to time about such things as this category, which is about the site itself. I’ll also post my musings about other topics in whatever categories I need to add. So check back in from time to time and there should be at least a little something fresh here.

This site is just one person’s hobby. I’m most proud of providing the Library page. I haven’t seen a good collection of agnostic writings anywhere else so it’s a good reason to keep this site up. I’m also proud of the Answers/FAQ page which hopefully 10yearsserves as an honest primer of agnosticism based on Huxley’s development of the term. It includes some good answers to various questions from Bertrand Russell. People try to steer the meaning of agnosticism in various directions so I like going back to the original intent. The original intent is to acknowledge the limits of human knowledge and our ability to understand our origins. I’m not sure there’s another agnostic website out there trying to showcase the founders of this agnostic viewpoint.

The blog part of this doesn’t get much readership and few comments, but I honestly write these posts for myself and don’t care how many or few people read them. I do thank everyone coming by and commenting since many of you get me thinking a little more. This blog is a way for me to talk out loud in a personal discussion of my viewpoints. Throwing it out there for the world to see makes me think a little more critically with some much needed structure. I know I ramble here and it’s just how I think sometimes.

I mentioned an Agnostic Bible in my first post. Agnostic.org is a parked domain now but it was a site with content and a posted “bible” of agnostic beliefs. I liked the idea of having my own reference book and started writing my own since their bible wasn’t a good read to me. After a while I took mine off this site because I didn’t like the idea of it being a bible. I’ve continued hacking at a body of text I’m now calling an agnostic guide. It’s built from bits and pieces of this blog as I try to mold my thoughts into a coherent ebook. Maybe I’ll publish it someday or it might just die off as my own personal guide.

I know I don’t post here often but I also don’t see a reason for completely stopping this either. Maybe I’m more apathetic than The Universal Church Triumphant of the Apathetic Agnostic. Check them out for more frequent agnosticism. Otherwise, check back here every now and then to possibly see something… or not!

A Delayed New Year

It’s a delayed new year for this website. I’ve been busy moving in my personal life so I’ve brought that change to this place as well. I just moved the blog from Nucleus CMS to WordPress and in to a tool that more people use. It does feel nicer and is all I really needed for my one blog. Nucleus is nice for a multi-blog site but I don’t know that I’d ever get this built out like that. Now I need to get the iPhone app for this and I’m all set to start blogging again more frequently!

I’ve also added Twitter to my life and the right side of the blog. You can follow that as @AgnosticU. I’ll probably badge that on the main site as well, which could also use some fresh content. First, I need to redevelop the habit of blogging and develop the habit of tweeting.

Non-religious on the Rise in the U.S.

Here’s some good news from the very large ARIS 2008 survey with a margin of error down to under 0.5 percent, which is pretty darn good for a survey. From www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org

The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million “Nones.” Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34 percent “Nones,” leading all other states by a full 9 points. “Many people thought our 2001 finding was an anomaly,” Keysar said. We now know it wasn’t. The ‘Nones’ are the only group to have grown in every state of the Union.”

Only 1.6 percent of Americans call themselves atheist or agnostic. But based on stated beliefs, 12 percent are atheist (no God) or agnostic (unsure), while 12 percent more are deistic (believe in a higher power but not a personal God). The number of outright atheists has nearly doubled since 2001, from 900 thousand to 1.6 million. Twenty-seven percent of Americans do not expect a religious funeral at their death.

Of course I detest their simplistic tags of “no God” and “unsure” as being completely inaccurate.

Pamela Bone: A woman to remember, words that will live on

I don’t know who Pamela Bone is but apparently she has passed away judging by the title of the article. Her words are very good and are worth a read and some contemplation.

Pamela Bone: A woman to remember, words that will live on

A while ago, walking along a river bank in the country, I discovered the meaning of life in a piece of cow dung.

In that dried disc was sprouting a tiny forest of fresh green shoots, the seeds the animal had eaten, starting a new life cycle, reaching for the sun. For a moment I understood. Life exists, I thought, because it can. But only for a moment. Then, I thought, why can it? Why is there something and not nothing? And why is there this something instead of some other something?

Years before this I had what you might call a Road to Damascus experience in reverse.

It happened like this: I was in my kitchen, while outside the house my little girl was playing with our dog. I heard the squeal of car brakes, a dog’s yelp, a child’s scream. As I ran I prayed, “please God, please God”. As one does. But even as I ran, something in my head said: “No use. There is no God. Whatever has happened has happened.”

The worst had not happened. The dog ran onto the road, was hit by a car, and in its dying agony bit my daughter, who had run after it. She still has the fine scars on her cheeks.

That was the last time I prayed. To be honest, I had been wavering in my religious belief for some time before. But from that day, in my heart I knew. Now, I do not believe something outside of myself was talking to me. (Who? God, to tell me he doesn’t exist? Satan, maybe?) It was, of course, my own voice. People who are not mentally ill know that any voice in their head is their own voice.

But while my heart knows, my mind doesn’t. I don’t know if God exists. I have no feeling that one does, but I don’t know. And neither does anyone else.

Religious belief (where it is not held merely out of habit) is a matter of deep intuition, not knowledge. One person’s deep intuition tells them there is a God, another person’s tells them there isn’t. Why is it, then, that the people who hold the former belief have been allowed, for so long, to claim the high moral ground?

I don’t mind at all if people believe in God — though some believers seem to mind quite a lot that I don’t. I respect their beliefs. What I do mind is the assumption of many that they are better people because they believe; that faith itself is a virtue and that, therefore, a lack of faith is immoral or, at best, to be pitied.

The unsuccessful American vice-presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman declared before the US election that “we should not indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion”. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, made a similar statement recently. These sentiments are an insult to the 5% of Americans who have no religion, or the 40% of Britons, or the 30% of Australians.

Moreover, they are as little based on any empirical or scientific evidence as they are common.

There is no proven correlation between morality and adherence to any organised religion. Indeed, some might say the opposite correlation applies. I don’t. It is impossible to weigh up paedophile priests, packed churches in Rwanda before and after the genocide, the extremism on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, against the vast amount of good that is done in the world by people who are acting out of religious motives.

Yet the question, “Where are your humanist or atheist organisations working to help the poor?” is in a way nonsensical. World Vision is a Christian organisation. Amnesty International, Oxfam, Medecins sans Frontieres and countless others have members who may or may not be religious. But whether they are or not has no relevance to the work of the organisation.

You (unbelievers) can’t believe in any force higher than yourselves, it was said to me recently. Not true. I believe in plenty of things higher than myself: that oak tree outside my window, for one example; and every single child who comes into the world, new and hopeful. I just don’t believe in a supreme supernatural being, that’s all.

There is no evidence that those who believe in God are kinder, less interested in making money, or more moved by art, or music, or the beauty of the world. There is no evidence that they are either better or worse people. When a third of the population does not hold to any religion, is it not time the bluff that religion is necessary to morality was called? Support for this view comes from a perhaps surprising source: Richard Holloway, Bishop of Edinburgh, argues in his book Godless Morality that religion and ethics should be kept separate.

Morality is an evolved, human construct, and those moral imperatives that are permanent and universal, such as the one against murder, are held on moral, not theological, grounds.

I don’t know the meaning of life. I believe it has the meaning we give it. It is wrong to describe people without religious faith as unbelievers. Atheism is the belief that no God exists; agnosticism is the belief that we do not know. These are beliefs. And are equally valid and deserving of respect.

This article was originally published on March 24, 2001.

I sometimes use the term nontheist myself but in retrospect that has a negative meaning almost like unbeliever. I think I should try to stick to the term freethinker. I’ve always liked that one better anyway since it really describes a mind that does not follow dogma or belief as part of a herd mentality.

I also like the story at the beginning about the dying dog biting the daughter. It’s sad it happened but a religious person would point at that as a miracle and proof of God’s intervention. This freethinker apparently saw it as proof that the universe unfolds as it will on its own. It just reminds me that it is our freethinking minds that defines how we relate to the universe and what we believe is really going on. We really have no clue and are just making sense of it for ourselves. This is why my viewpoint of truth is labeled Agnostic: we have no knowledge or understanding of the real truth.