Sammy the Seal

Agnosticism and You

In words, words, words on Saturday, 11 October, 2008 at 2:43

I finally know what I am! (As possible as it is to know that, of course.) After having seen the film Religulous, I can finally assert that I am indeed an agnostic. For the longest time, I wasn’t sure. I knew there was a word for my uncertainty, but I didn’t think that was the one. (Even though by scrutinizing the etymology, it should have been obvious!) I looked it up, and technically, I would appear to be agnostically theistic— I can’t know of the existence or nonexistence of any deity, but I have some belief in the existence of it, even if it is merely Nature. Not to mention that I think that these types of people are the most open-minded, open-hearted people in the world. It makes me also think of Socrates, who, as far as I can understand, was something of an agnostic himself. To borrow a description of some of his philosophy, “the key to wisdom is not being able to prove beliefs, but understanding the extent of your ignorance.” You may have also heard this in its simpler form, from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: “true wisdom comes from knowing that you know nothing.”

Upon arriving home after the movie, it was 20th-century philosopher Bertrand Russell who I came upon. Based on those words, I finally qualified myself as an agnostic. Fortunately, because I think we and other moderates are a dying breed, so we need as many to join our ranks as possible. To explain, I leave you with this paragraph, grabbed from this piece:

….the agnostic contribution to these debates is not merely academic. It matters because today we live in a culture with a lust for certainty. Dogmatic science would have us believe that it has all the answers and can feed us body and soul. Religion, too, is being hijacked by a conservatism that turns the quest for the unknown God into a feel-good experience on a Sunday morning. Agnosticism matters because it rejects an equal and opposite militant atheism or fundamentalist retreat. Daniel J Boorstin put it well: “I have observed that the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress.” Further, if science has limits, as only the dogmatist denies, it is an ever-curious agnosticism that best expresses wonder at the world. Ultimately, it does not seek to explain everything but to nurture a piety towards creation. This agnosticism too understands the religious quest not as the imposition of answers, but as the pursuit of connections and questions.

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