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Ask the Patriarch 10
What Religion am I?

From: Rhys C

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Dear Sir:

I've had a crisis of faith. Having a crisis of faith is good, it gives you a chance to pick through the rubble of your faith and find what is really important to you.

I was a Christian, now I'm not sure *what* I am. I was thinking I could be an agnostic, yet I still believe too much to gain that title. Though I wish I could be an agnostic so I could join this church . . . seems like my kind of place.

On the Christian side, I still believe:

On the other hand, I believe:

So what am I? Is there a name for me? An agnostic Christian? A Christian agnostic? Or am I going to have to start my own cult to get a label? Perhaps I could start a heretical movement of my own.

Rhys C________

The Patriarch replies:

Dear Rhys:

The short answer is that you are still a Christian, though you seem prepared to move on.

The long answer follows.

Consider the spectrum of religious belief. At one end are the believers who are absolutely certain in their particular set of beliefs. To them, god's existence is unquestioned. They know it absolutely. In my view this position is intellectually untenable because it is inconsistent with their definition of god, which includes the claim that god is beyond human comprehension. Those who express absolute certainty are not using the brains they think their god gave them.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who are certain god does not exist; the strong atheists. As there are reasonable arguments (which I do not completely accept) to support that position, I won't criticize those with this view.

And in between is everyone else.

There are some who would claim (e.g. Talk Back 9) that everyone who is not completely certain is an agnostic. That is to consider the probability of god to be somewhere between 0% and 100% makes you an agnostic. But this is not how the term is used by most people.

The majority of those who regard themselves as agnostic would assign a probability to the existence of a deity at less than 10%, with the distribution skewed towards the lower part of the range. (My own assessment would be less than 1% probability.)

At the other end are the believers. They believe in a god, but not with absolute certainty. Doubts are considered normal, and as something to be dealt with. And most of them would assign a probability of 90% or greater to the existence of their god, and the distribution of probabilities among these people would be skewed towards the upper end of the range.

This position of belief without certainty is the standard doctrine for the major Christian denominations, except for the USA where fundamentalism has achieved a strange hold on the minds of American believers. And it is the position held by most real theologians, that is those who studied theology as an academic and intellectual discipline at an accredited university rather than as a propaganda technique at a Christian madrassa such as Bob Jones U.

And as for those who would put the probability between 10% and 90%, I suspect there aren't many of them. This seems to be a transient phase, and those in this position eventually tend to gravitate towards one of the two ends.

And right now, given that you believe in God and Jesus even though you have doubts, you remain a Christian.


In a follow up to his initial message, Rhys advised me:

I'm just not apathetic enough. I *want* god to be real. I have decided to start my own cult, dedicated to searching out the truth of god: The Global Temple of the Free-thinking Christian Agnostics (One of the Cults of the Schizophrenic Age)

The search may be futile, but it looks like it could be fun.