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Meditation 636
An Apathetic Agnostic’s Apology
of the Imago Dei

by: Paul W. Sharkey, PhD, MPH

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Somewhere on this site (as a practicing apathetic agnostic, I no longer know where or care), I read a critique from a “believer” to the effect that we apathetic agnostics (I’ll get around to actually joining one of these days – I’m evidently a member of the apostolic procrastinators sect) anyway, that we apathetic agnostics do not take seriously the proclamations of Genesis 1:27 to wit: “God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” However, the respondent evidently failed to read our articles of faith, the second of which clearly states that: “If there is a Supreme Being, then that being appears to act as if apathetic to events in the universe.”[1] Hence, we apathetic agnostics actually do heed Genesis 1:27 in that we affirm that if there is a Supreme Being (God) then that being appears (image) to be apathetic... and we apathetic agnostics reflect that image!

Now some may object to the expression of this article as a conditional proposition, believing that it is not sufficiently “positive” or is perhaps too “wishy-washy” to satisfy as an “article of faith.” However, such a critique would fail to notice that precisely by expressing it as a conditional proposition, it is affirmed as a universal truth in that all propositions of the form “if x, then y” are in fact universal assertions either of a definitional (e.g., “if you’re a widow, then you have a dead husband.”) or empirical (e.g., “if you stick your finger down your throat, you’ll throw-up.”) sort. If we affirmed it as a definition, we would be dogmatists, not agnostics. Therefore, we must be affirming it as an empirical assertion about what we know and what we don’t. In other words, as agnostics, we are affirming only that we do not know of any Infinite Supreme Being that appears to give a damn. It does not follow however that we are thereby saying that we do not know of any beings whatsoever that haven’t or don’t give a damn.

As an apathetic agnostic atheologian (in the sense of not being a theologian), it seems that in the history of philosophy and religion there have been at least some beings (e.g., Siddhartha, Socrates, Jesus) who have indeed given a damn about what is supremely important and what is not. As apathetic agnostics, it’s not that we don’t give a damn about anything but rather that we should only give a damn about the right things. Even Jesus is reputed to have said that it is not those who come saying “Lord, lord” who shall enter his kingdom, but only those who hear and do his word.[2]

In the end, it’s all a matter of what one considers to be supremely important– of what one worth-ships. Which is of greater worth: worrying and arguing with others about whether there is an original supreme over-lord, creator, sustainor, meddler in the universe – or – being honest, responsible, caring, and kind? “One cannot serve two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with contempt ...”

If there were indeed a Supreme Being of good, honest, responsible, caring, and kind character, then that Being would not be as concerned about proving its existence as it would its character – if that’s not what Siddhartha, Socrates, and Jesus were all about, then I don’t understand anything at all. Whether there is such an Infinite Supreme Being, I do not know. I do know however that there have been finite ones of supreme character and that it is therefore possible to be agnostic and apathetic about some things without being either apathetic or agnostic about others. As apathetic agnostics in the spirit of Genesis 1:27, let us be created in that image.

Footnotes:

  1. From a pantheistic point of view, the universe seems to be apathetic about its own existence, which would be consistent with the argument given below. Whether there is a “supreme self-sustaining being” other than the universe itself is the crux agnosticism.
  2. It is certainly not unreasonable to understand this to mean Jesus’ injunctions to not be judgmental but rather to be understanding, compassionate, caring, forgiving, generous, and kind and to accept responsibility for oneself, one’s beliefs, and one’s actions in loving and accepting (not being alienated from or “in a state of sin with”) oneself and one’s neighbors.