by: Will Petillo
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A few nights ago I made a mistake that was trivial in itself but deeply unsettling in its implications. This mistake was discussing Apathetic Agnosticism with someone who was clearly uninterested--for such an action taken to the extreme is the hallmark of a zealot, a title that I would be forever shamed to bear.
Now, in my defense I had:
- Recently consumed a great deal of wine;
- Been discussing magic with this person for the previous two hours at a philosophy club meeting;
- Knew that this person was not particularly religious; and,
- Immediately apologized for my transgression the moment I realized what I was saying.
Still, this incident reminded me of a sobering fact: anything--no matter how carefully or benevolently made--can be used to hurt people. Although, I believe, Agnostics are by nature less prone than most major religions (as well as Atheism) to force their beliefs on others--for it is difficult to be zealous about something that one admits to not knowing--such things can happen nonetheless. Furthermore, since there is no contradiction between accepting uncertainty and promoting one’s belief’s (see #3 in the Articles of Faith), it would not even require a misunderstanding of the Articles of Faith for one to take Apathetic Agnosticism too far.
Zealotry would, however, be in direct violation of the Church’s suggestion that “if you do right by others, you will do right by yourself,” and therefore I believe that we should always remember to be tolerant not only of those who are apathetic to the theoretical question of God’s existence in world of the divine (as we are), but also to those who are apathetic of the very discussion of God’s existence in the world of the here and now--for it would be a truly lamentable tragedy if we succumbed to the temptation of imitating those vices that we find objectionable in others.
This, however, raises the question: when can one preach one’s views regarding religion without being guilty of forcing one’s beliefs on others? The following are what I can think of and perhaps others will have some more to add:
- Writing one’s thoughts in a place where people can read them if they are so inclined, but are able to avoid if they are not interested. A positive example would include a website that has “agnostic” in the title; a negative example would include an ad on a billboard next to a freeway.
- Explaining one’s beliefs to anyone who asks about them. If someone expresses an interest, then why not satisfy their curiosity?
- When another person or group of people impose their beliefs on others, then those people have made themselves fair game.