Monday, 31 August 2015

A Christian, an Atheist and an Agnostic walk into a bar.

The answer all boils down to 'ouch', far as I'm concerned. Belief's a personal thing, isn't it? Wondering about this today, and many other days. Sometimes religion, belief, the unexplainable, seep into the things I, and other writers, write. Stephen King once said he chose to believe in a God, because 'there's no downside in believing that there is a heaven or an Elysian Fields.' That seems fairly sensible. Terry Pratchett was a humanist. William Peter Blatty was raised by a devoutly Catholic mother and that worked out just fine.

Some phenomena and experiences are inexplicable not only to science, but to religion, to any kind of belief system at all. Plenty of people try to stick science in one box, religion in another, like they're fighting cats. Maybe they're not. Maybe they're the same cat, or different cats, or there is no fucking cat. I'm not Schrodinger.

I think I'm coming down on the Agnostic's side, if I'm on any kind of side - I don't 'believe' in anything at all. I question. Agnosticism isn't 'sitting on the fence', or, 'undecided', as some people think. A more literal definition of Agnostic would be 'One without knowledge.' Definitions outside of this (like everything else) exist, of course, but I found a quote on Wikipedia that seems as good a summation as any:

Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle ... Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.- Thomas Henry Huxley.

Huxley was a staunch supporter of Darwin, largely self-taught, one of the forefathers of scientific method and thought, and had great big muttonchops.

A man, in short, worth listening to. It seems to me that the act of questioning, avoiding assumption...but pride, too, was important then...and I think it still is. The nature of belief appears to be rigid - and disbelief, too. Atheism often feels just as strict as religion. But to question, to accept that your knowledge and its boundaries are liquid...then it is perfectly right and proper to be flexible enough in your beliefs and your concept of truth to change your opinion in the light of new information, in the light of new evidence...that, I find far more appealing.

Religion, or any kind of belief - it's informed by your upbringing, experiences, background, lifestyle, family, society, education, geography, era. A simplification, this (the entirety of human's wonderment, or not, over the existence of a heavenly overlord), but within Christianity, Judaism, Islam and the thousand or ten thousand other iterations of 'religion' throughout history there is only one constant - belief is different for many people. But to question? That, I think, is universal. Religion, transcendal meditation, polytheism, belief in the power of potatoes - all seem to be a product of that basic urge to question, but one in which we leap too soon to a conclusion and embrace with all our hearts the unproven but beguiling veracity of those conclusions. To do so, to grasp some hope like a drowning man adrift in an uncharted, unfathomable sea - that's admirable. It's humanity, trying desperately to find something to save ourselves. But to wonder, to hold your pride in check and to be flexible and open to new information, new marvels? To hang a while in that sea and look around and never know where it leads or how far below your feet the bottom is? Is that braver than clinging to driftwood? Is it stupid not to grasp that chance at salvation?

Maybe. Possibly. Like Stephen King, perhaps it wouldn't hurt to believe in something at least, and not be hanging over such a vast, uncertain abyss. But then sense and bravery aren't always the same thing.

You don't have to be an atheist, or a satanist, or a analytical philosopher, or one of those devious scientist who stubbornly try to disprove the concept or existence of a God, do you? I don't. I like questions. I like not knowing everything. I don't think people should know everything, and neither should humanity ever assume it does - one thing I am sure of is that should mankind ever reach the point when it does have all the answers, there will be plenty more questions we haven't even thought of yet.

Anyway, Reader's Digest, thought for the day and Yoda and all that. ;)

Love you!