by Jeff Hiatt
The name God appears in many places in the United States and has been argued to be a generic word encompassing all religious beliefs when used in the government setting. “In God We Trust”, “so help me, God”, “God bless America”, and “One Nation, Under God” are some examples. The question for nonbelievers is do we fight to remove the word from the shared setting since it does not represent everyone? Some are already fighting the legal fight and may or may not win. But if God stays what do we do then? Should a nonbeliever say it or remain quiet in protest? What if a day comes when we are required to say it?
I have come to the conclusion that perhaps Agnostics can, and should, redefine the word God to match the Agnostic belief system. This should be easier than Atheists trying to do it since they flat out deny the existence of God, whereas Agnostics do not know and do not necessarily care. Instead of defining God as the being that originates and rules the universe, God for me is now the name I put to the unknown origin of the universe. God could then become synonymous with the phrase “the unknown” to all Agnostics.
This would render some sayings rather silly, but relatively harmless. It would now be “In the unknown we trust”, “so help me, the unknown”, “the unknown bless America”, and “One Nation, under the unknown”. If I were asked if I believed in God I could just say yes knowing I mean the unknown. I would still not worship or pray to God because it is silly to worship or pray to the unknown. Our free will definitely comes from the unknown. “The unknown’s will” matches very well with the randomness of the universe. I could go on, but you get the point.
The advantage to this adoption (and hijack) of the word is that it puts Agnostics in with other religious beliefs as I feel we really are anyway. I feel a sense of awe when I really think about the universe and all that is unknown about it. I do not think science gives us the answers of the origin just like the religions do not. That is why I think the Agnostic belief in the unknown is a matter of religious faith that we do not know our origin, even though it is a simple belief without worship or dogma.
The real advantage would be that we can say we believe in God because we believe in the unknown creator that the word represents to us, even if the unknown creator ends up being nothing anyone would ever call a God. We can then be seen as a religion instead of just nonbelievers and all of the legal silliness of tax exemptions and anything else that requires a belief in God can be met.
Am I silly myself to sometimes just wish my beliefs were considered religion to be seen as being on the same playing field to the religious? Hindu and Buddhist belief is nothing like Christianity and yet Christians typically do not criticize their belief like they do complete nonbelievers. It is funny that a belief in a supernatural unknown would probably get us more respect than just saying we know nothing of religion. But if it were to help us be a more accepted part of the world, would it be worth hijacking the word for ourselves? We would all be meaning the same thing when we talk of God as our creator; it’s just that our God is unknown.