Agnosis Skeptikos

The introspective wanderings of a one-time Christian turned agnostic

Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

“Do Unto Others…”

Posted by agnosis on September 4, 2007

Jessica Hagy has a Venn diagram that I quite like – and the comments that follow are an interesting dialogue on the Golden Rule. Personally, I think the diagram is trying to represent humanism as the bridge between religion and secularism, two ideologies that do not play well together. The discussion about the Golden Rule reveals a bit of a flaw in the popular wisdom as well as the fallacy of practicing the rule 100% literally. I like the intent of the Golden Rule, but I don’t wonder if the Wiccan Creed might be a little better – “An ye harm none, do as ye will.” I don’t endorse Wicca any more than I do Christianity, but I think the notion of the Wiccan Creed covers the bases of interaction with other human beings a little better than the Golden Rule does, since the idea of the creed encompasses psychological and spiritual harm just as much as it does physical harm. But either way, taking the spirit of the Golden Rule or the directive of the Wiccan Creed, there’s no reason why people can’t live in peace with another, despite differing ideologies. Right?

(Source: FriendlyAtheist)

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Deconversion

Posted by agnosis on September 4, 2007

FriendlyAtheist has an interesting bit about the deconversion process away from religious belief and into atheism. For me, it was a process of about four years for me to find my way into agnosticism. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully convert into atheism – that seems a little too drastic of a switch to me – but the process definitely was not instantaneous. The problem for me was countering a lifetime of training and belief, and that’s not something that a person can usually just give up in an instant. There are doubts and questions that, at first, seem to be answered adequately by religious belief. After awhile, though, the answers to the doubts and questions start to sound – and feel – hollow, shallow, contrived. They pile up and combine with experience to push the religious belief you’ve held for so long aside and prove it inadequate. I tend to think that, ironically, the intellect, the rational mind is part of what makes the process take time because the mind has to process the tension between the long-held religious beliefs and the newly-found anti-religious leanings. Some find their way back to religion. The rest of us, though, discover that the old religion is no longer a part of who are, and we discover that we are now either agnostic or atheist – and that just takes time.

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Journey Into Agnosticism

Posted by agnosis on August 31, 2007

I’ve grown up in the church. Every time the doors were open, my family was there. Of course, that was, in large part, aided by the fact that my dad was the pastor and my mom was the pianist. Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, Sunday evening service, and Wednesday evening prayer meeting. Usually there was choir practice on Sundays, as well, that brought us to the church building an extra hour or so before the evening service. Add that any and all special events, like youth group meetings, revival services, church picnics, etc., and it’s safe to say that most of my young life was taken up by church-related activities. I usually enjoyed the picnics, and the revival meetings were usually fun because special speakers would come in, many of whom had special talents like singing or playing the glasses or other novel things. I even enjoyed the regular services sometimes.

Mostly, though, I found church to be a real drag. I hated losing so much of my free time to something that was, for me, so terribly boring. I have to wonder now if I didn’t, on some level, think of church as rather pointless, even then. I think I might have, even on a conscious level, have considered that fact, but that was so long ago and kids tend to dismiss a lot of their own thoughts and forget about them. I just know that I hated getting up on Sunday mornings to go to church when I would much rather have stayed in bed for an hour or two longer.

I envied my non-church friends who got to stay home and play and watch cartoons and play their video games when I had to be dressed up and in a boring building, sitting in uncomfortable pews for several hours listening to messages that I’d already heard a dozen times before. I knew that I was supposed to think of church as important, but for me, ‘important’ was equivalent to ‘boring’ in much the same way that ‘vegetables’ to a kid usually means ‘gross.’ My parents believed church was important and drilled into my head that it was so, but the gravity of that importance was always lost on me. I didn’t know why I couldn’t just stay at home while they went to church. But I think part of the ‘importance’ of my being in church had as much to do with public appearance as it did with making sure I was indoctrinated properly.

I lived almost two lives throughout high school. On the one hand, I presented my Christian face to my parents and church, but I was less faithful when I was with my high school friends. I was never a party animal, never took up (or even tried) smoking, alcohol, or drugs, even though I was offered all those things several times. Part of it was fear of discovery by my parents, but most of it was simply that I never wanted to dump those poisons into my body. But I did use swear words and took the Lord’s name in vain on many an occasion. At one point one of my peers even confronted me by calling me a hypocrite. I was thunderstruck, of course, by both his boldness and by the truth of his words. I admit I was ashamed at the time, but it never really caused me to change the way I was doing things.

I repented of my ‘sinful’ ways in college and for several years made a concerted effort to live a more righteous life according to both the doctrines I grew up under and according to the greater understanding of Biblical doctrine I was learning at my university. My faith was energized and fresh. I was excited by my newfound closeness with God. I got involved with several ministry teams, and even found myself heading one up during my fourth year.

But then I burned out. I found myself weary of the faithful, Christian life and its rules, regulations, restrictions, and expectations. I still tried to put on the brave face, but underneath it all I’d given up. I’d put my daily routine of devotions and prayer away, and I just never found the energy or desire to pick them up again. I even began to really question whether I ever wanted to have those back. They had never provided me with any lasting strength or change in my life, and so I just didn’t see the point in laboring over something that had so little lasting impact.

Now I’ve come to the point of agnosticism. I’ve been disillusioned with the Church, Christians, and religions of all shapes and forms and want nothing to do with the lot of them. I look at Christianity and see inconsistency in the doctrine itself as well as in the behaviors and beliefs of its followers. I’m not willing to rule out the idea of an intelligent creator of the universe, but if one truly exists, I’m not sure it actually looks like the God of Christianity. I’m more inclined to think that something created the universe then sent it spinning away to fend for itself. I’m not sure that it would even still care that this universe exists, having grown bored with it long ago.

Ultimately, I’m left with a personal sense of contentment now that is greater than anything I ever experienced as a Christian. I’m free to live my life the way I see fit, to live as good a life as I can before I die. And I think that’s the most that anyone can ask. I’m seeing more of my goals accomplished now that I’ve given up Christianity; I’m getting more done now that I’m free of the ridiculous restrictions I’ve been burdened with for most of my life.

It’s strange, really – I never knew I could be this happy and content with my life, but I feel peaceful and even joyful. Mind you, I’m not singing-and-dancing-in-the-streets joyful. I still have my share of hardships and daily struggles, but that’s part of life and I’m happy to confront them and deal with them one by one. I’m just happy to know, finally, who I am and who I want to be and to be able to see things falling into place to achieve those goals.

I have a lot of years ahead of me, and I’m looking forward to seeing where life takes me.

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Lose the Sneer – It Doesn’t Wear Well On You

Posted by agnosis on July 26, 2007

Robert Sawyer highlights a book that presents the atheistic viewpoint without all the snideness and biting remarks. One quote from Sawyer brings up something I’d like to address:

Well, some atheists reacted negatively to my piece, and several said I was setting an impossible standard because one couldn’t talk to religious people without becoming sneering and arrogant, since, well, atheists are right, right, right, and any idiot should be able to see that.

I much prefer Sawyer’s approach to presenting atheism. Granted, I’m not a full-blown atheist; I’m not wholly willing to rule out the notion that something may have brought everything we know into being. There’s no evidence to prove there is an intelligent creator, but by the same token, there’s no evidence that there isn’t, either. It’s this very fact, in part, that has caused me to turn my back on Christianity because so many Christians are willing to just throw logic, rationality, and well-proven evidence right out the window when such things conflict with their beliefs – and they often do so with sneering, condescending attitudes.

On the other hand, however, I have much the same complaint against a fair number of atheists and agnostics, who themselves adopt sneering condescending attitudes because, as Sawyer’s quote above demonstrates, many of them believe it is the only way to deal with those who hold religious beliefs. Frankly, it’s the fact that so many atheists are so condescending that prevented me for so long from giving up my faith – and it’s part of what prevents me from converting to full-blown atheist (the other part being the aforementioned lack of evidence pro or con for a creator).

So, it’s refreshing to see Sawyer embrace an approach that doesn’t involve sneering and condescension and to point out another author who does the same. There’s hope yet that there are a few people out there who are willing to be grownups.

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Challenging Faith

Posted by agnosis on July 20, 2007

I realized something a long time ago but never really explored the topic then. The reasons for ignoring it at the time are ironic to me now.

Christians ignore topics that challenge their faith for one primary reason – they are afraid that said topics will actually undermine their faith. Essentially, they would rather bury their heads in the sand and pretend that the issues that have been raised don’t exist than acknowledge the issues as they are and take the risk that they might be proven wrong. I believe that, for the most part, they are afraid to explore these issues in detail because they might suddenly find that their long-held beliefs really are as insubstantial as vapor. They’ve been so secure in their beliefs for so long that finding out suddenly that they might have been wrong all this time would rock their world in a frightening way.

For the longest time, I disregarded the findings of science. So sure was I of my religious beliefs that I was certain that, in certain areas of research, I was sure that science must be wrong. After all, man is finite, as is his understanding of the universe. Therefore, to my way of thinking, some of his findings in the realm of science could easily be wrong. It’s not like that hasn’t happened before, you know? Now, of course, I realize that some of the things we know about the universe now could still be wrong, but I’ve come to a place where science trumps religious faith. The evidence is just too overwhelming, and science and my former faith conflict at various points in such a way that both simply can’t be right. And when science displays testable theories that have been verified time and again, I discovered that it is the faith that must be set aside. There are simply too many things there that don’t add up in the face of scientific evidence. Add to that the fact that so many Christians behave in very unChristian-like ways, and I find that faith has soured in my mouth.

Give me evidence and hard facts. Those make sense to me. Faith no longer does.

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Bad Astronomy

Posted by agnosis on June 28, 2007

I’ve been following a blog called Bad Astronomy for several weeks now. I stumbled across it in my quest for new and interesting things to read. BA has actually served, in part, to aid my decision to become agnostic. I have really come to appreciate his detailed approach at exposing the flaws in many of the “scientific” claims from the religious community (with creationism being one of his favorite soapboxes to get on). If you enjoy science and like learning new things, check out BA and get a taste of some of what’s going on currently in his field. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Edit: This video entry actually demonstrates a large part of why I’ve left the Christian faith. If Christians can’t be honest with their “science” and must, then, resort to lies to convince anyone of the veracity of their biblical claims, then that must cast a large shadow over the supposed “truth” of their claims. Of course, I would have preferred that Killian had avoided name-calling in the comments to his video, but of course, it’s not like he started it. It’s just too bad that these kinds of debates inevitably degenerate into that sort of behavior – but that’s a rant for another day. For now, I’m comfortable just pointing out the weaknesses of “Christian science” and the role they’ve played in my leaving that way of thinking behind.

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Powerless

Posted by agnosis on June 28, 2007

One of the big questions blaring in my head right now is this: If Christianity is such a powerful faith, where then is all the power? Christianity claims the power to change lives, to turn even the ugliest character and turn it into a shining example of God’s redemptive powers. It claims to have the power to bring new “sheep into the fold.”

But if this is the case, I ask you, then why don’t Christians look or act any different from anyone else? If Christianity effects such powerful changes in the lives of its adherents, why is it that most churches are divided on themselves and split over trivial issues? Why are Christians some of the worst when it comes to backstabbing, name-calling, hate-mongery, and the like? If Christianity is so damn powerful, then why aren’t Christians any different from anyone else? Shouldn’t Christians then be the ones leading the way to peace and tranquility and mercy and forgiveness, instead of being the first ones in line to spew their harsh words of anger and bitterness and strife?

I’ve no use for such people. I’ve no use for powerless religions, and I forsake Christianity for the powerless and ineffectual religion that it is. I see nothing there to draw me to it, its people, or its God. What those Christians do in actuality, no matter what words they speak and say they believe in, I can do without their supposed faith. Why in hell would I want to take on the burden of such a religious system?

I wouldn’t. And I don’t.

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False Face

Posted by agnosis on June 20, 2007

I find myself in a difficult and uncomfortable position. I keep my newfound agnostic beliefs a secret from everyone but myself. My wife is a Christian, as is nearly my entire family and the vast majority of my friends. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you – it is simply a product of the way I grew up. I love my wife, my family, my friends, and despite having left my own Christian faith behind, I cannot fault them for their continued devotion to their faith. I refuse to be one of those harbors spite and malice to anyone who holds to religious beliefs. I’ve been the focus of such individuals, and I fail to see how such animosities serve any good end.

But neither can I reveal myself as agnostic. None who know me would understand, least of all my wife, who would likely feel hurt and betrayed by my lack of belief. I do not mind “living a lie,” as the phrase goes, for her sake. But the discomfort arrives when it comes to thing having to do with this faith I no longer embrace. I have no interest in going to church, in praying or reading my Bible, or talking about religious issues. All such things seem like such a waste of time to me now – but for the sake of appearances I must continue to do them so as not to cast any question on myself.

I’d like to be able to talk to a few trusted friends about this, but I know that to do so would only net me a series of lectures, many disappointed looks, shock and surprise, sympathy and pity, perhaps, and more reactions that I have no desire to face and deal with. Putting on a facade is much easier and less hassle all around, believe me. So far, there isn’t as much internal tension as I expected. I’m ok living life like this. I expect one of these days the truth will come out, probably when I least expect and probably exactly when I don’t want it to, but until then, I’ll continue to pretend Christianity for the sake of my family and friends (and for my own sanity), but practice living life in a way that I need no Christian faith to accomplish. From what I’ve seen, you don’t need to be a Christian to live a good life. It doesn’t even really seem to help all that much.

But that’s an entry for another time.

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Agnostic. I think.

Posted by agnosis on June 20, 2007

I recently determined that I’m agnostic – at least that’s the best self-definition for my current belief system I can come up with. I certainly wouldn’t say that I’m an atheist. You still can’t convince me that the universe came together through some grand, cosmic accident. I just tend to think now that whatever intelligent being was the cause of all this has since lost interest and moved on – or died – and left the universe to while away on its own. I also can’t really say I subscribe to the Christian faith I was raised under for so many years, the one that I once immersed myself in and tried to find some sort of life meaning from. Neither it nor any other belief system that worships a deity of any kind really holds up in my view anymore.

As I said I was raised Christian, embracing that faith myself at a young age and living it out for years. But as I’ve grown up and entered adulthood, there are a lot of things about Christianity that no longer add up, things that run counter to logic and common sense and observable fact. This blog will, I hope, be a catalogue of some of my thoughts and explorations about why I feel like Christianity may, in fact, be less than the powerful faith that it claims to be. I hope that those of you reading here will follow along and interact with me as I elaborate on some of these thoughts.

Of course, I don’t necessarily plan to stick exclusively to topics of agnosticism and Christianity and what-not. Part of my interest in blogging anonymously here is to be able to write about topics that aren’t necessarily acceptable in the social circles in which I live. Some of those may find exposure here, as well. We’ll just have to see how things go.

So, here’s to a new beginning and future growth…

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