My Agnostic Beliefs

You may want to look at the home page of the "Agnostic Church".. he seems a little out there, but his basic idea is pretty good, and it hopefully answers a lot of questions.. here's a quote from one of his pages.. containing a good definition of Agnosticism.

..."big tent" agnosticism. As defined by Huxley (who coined the word "agnostic"): "Agnosticism is not a creed but a method, the essence of which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle. Positively, the principle may be expressed as in matters of intellect, follow your reason as far as it can take you without other considerations. And negatively, in matters of the intellect, do not pretend that matters are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable." ...

Another quote I like is something to the effect of "I am an Agnostic. I do not pretend to know the things that other fools are sure of.".. I don't recall who it's from (somebody famous, though ;] ). Some say that Agnosticism is the only real religious choice of the "thinking man"... or "free thinker."

My basic beliefs are that I know that there are things that are completely unknowable. I know that most organized religions contradict one another and sometimes themselves enough that they can't really be trusted as correct. I know that I have never personally had any experience that I could truly call religious, simply because there are too many (even if only one) non-religious explanations. I know that all I can truly believe is my own personal experience. I know that all things I have not personally experienced, especially those that I could never personally experience, I either have to "have faith" in its truth based on what somebody else tells me ("childbirth is painful"), or accept that I will never know the answer in my lifetime ("Is there a controlling intelligence in the universe?"). I tend to have faith in those things that I know somebody I trust has personally experienced, and I am reasonably sure they were not misled in the experience. Anything else, I accept as unknowable.

I believe that religion is one of man's basic needs, and so do not fault anybody for believing what they do. We, with our rational minds, have the need to not have "loose ends" which requires a belief in something that ties up all of those loose ends unquestionably. Let's take an example: Does the universe have a physical boundary? As I see it, there are three possibilities

  1. The Universe has no boundary, it goes on forever.
    I cannot truly fathom forever in that sense. Yes I can think of the concept, but the question remains "what is beyond that forever?" This question of course makes no sense, but I cannot help but ask it. Forever is just too big. Infinity as a concept is acceptable, but Infinity as a reality isn't.
  2. The Universe has a boundary.
    This is almost the same problem. If there is a boundary, what happens when you reach that boundary? What is beyond that boundary? Absolute nothing? That is also completely unfathomable, as is any other answer since "by definition," the Universe is Everything.
  3. The Universe is limited, but infinite. In other words, if you keep going in one absolute direction, eventually you appear on the "other side" of the universe.
    This is just weird, and makes no sense for our reality, but it seems to be the only other option.
If those are the only three possibilities, I have to pick one. If none of them are comprehensible, then I can choose none of them. The result is you either accept that the answer is unknowable, as I do, or you say it is defined by your religion/god, and just leave it at that.

My personal belief is that all religion came from the same place that superstition comes from: a combination of fear and the mind's application of its pattern matching ability to things that don't actually have a pattern. As one old friend said long ago (whom I knew only as "Wombo the Sane"), in prehistoric days, some caveman looked up to the sky one night and said "hmm.. twinkly things. Me no make twinkly things. You no make twinkly things. Somebody must make twinkly things. Must be very big somebody to put them up so high. Me give him things so me not get stepped on."

What keeps me from becoming an Athiest is that, sure, I believe these things, but there is no way I can know that I'm right anymore than anybody with a "regular" religion can know they're right. I have "faith" in my beliefs, and that's all I have. To become an Athiest, I would have to believe that someday science will be able to answer the questions that I deem as unanswerable today, and there is no way I can be convinced that will happen.

In my family, we regularly refer to the "Blackledge Angel" watching over us since my family tends to have good luck even with bad things. I have observed many a family that tends to have very bad luck with dealings and ailments and so on. What causes this? This really appears to be a more-or-less scientific/probabilistic truth for these families. It doesn't matter WHAT causes this.. God, Zues, Karma, Luck.. if anything causes it, then I cannot be an Athiest, because this means that there are forces that I do not understand, are not me, and that have some control over my life. If I chose to, I could call it God. There are many other areas that maintain this concept for me as well.

Last update: 5/1/98