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Ask the Patriarch 46
Apatheism, Daoism, Agnosticism, and Football

from Wes Herche

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I found "apatheism" on an American dialect society website. I was researching for a school project (on accents). I have spent the last few hours "enlightening" myself on apatheism. I always used to think I was atheist or agnostic... but now I've found my true calling. So, I'd like to join, perhaps even be ordained. But first I have a few questions: (actually these aren't exactly questions about your organization., but to determine for myself if I qualify):

1) I really dig religion. I've studied lots of religions and world view philosophies. But it is kind of how I like to see middle aged white guys get all foamed up about football. I could care less about the sport, but I always think it's interesting to see how much they seem to care about football. I played football and wrestled all through high school and college, but I still can't get worked up over how many yards Favre passed for last week.

2) I really dig Daoism. Now this may seem like I'm being redundant... but I assure you I'm not. Daoism (for me) isn't a religion, but a philosophy for how to live life. Not so much an instruction manual, but some generally good things to keep in mind. I also think Daoism is a great example of how people (mostly Chinese in this case) can take a good idea and twist it into weird stuff, for example, "hell money" for buying back your soul in purgatory. I read the Dao De Jing (well most of it anyway. I usually read it on the toilet so I never make it all the way through,) and I certainly don't remember anything about the accountant from whom you buy back your soul.. Or the dragons who come rescue you. Or... But otherwise Daoism is great. Some of the stuff I've read about apatheism so far (in my exhaustive two hour pursuit for a new way of life) reminded me a lot of Daoism. I think they could be symbiotic. I hope you agree.

3) I'm sure there was a 3... but I can't remember it at the moment.. so I'll move on.

4) Instead of a certificate of ordained membership, can I just get a T-shirt or something. I don't know if you have a T-shirt or not, but if you don't I'll even design you one. I'm great with Photoshop. Or maybe some business cards. That thing about the Grand Canyon (card in the bible) was great. I'm going to the Grand Canyon in two weeks (and YES! Once again I will be going below the rim - for four days! Man I can't wait to get back there.) Now I realize we probably couldn't get all of this done in time before I leave for the grand canyon, but I think this is just a good idea anyway. Other than my girlfriend (who lives with me) we don't get tons of visitors at our house, so it will be hard to show off a certificate - a T-shirt however - that's a walking billboard!

So I guess I want to kind of be an active apatheist. I hope that's not an oxymoron. It all made sense in my head. I hope it makes sense in text too.

Wes

The Patriarch replies:

Wes:

Thank you for writing. And you have clearly taken an interest in our site as you have commented on several articles throughout providing new material for this month's Debate & Discourse and Meditations.

I am not sure what point you are addressing in your first question. Your problem with football is that apparently you do not regard it as a religion. But what is it but a set of rituals performed before devoted followers at the same time every week in buildings built specifically for the purpose? It seems quite like a religion to me. In that sense, our own Church of the Apathetic Agnostic fails as a religion in that we only have devoted followers. The rest of the parameters are absent.

Somehow I slept through the part of the last millennium when they changed Tao to Dao. (Probably at the same times as they decided Peking should be Beijing to better reflect the actual pronunciation.) I always have to stop and think when I see references to Daoism. Originally, as discussed in Laozi's Dao De Jing and Zhuangi's Zhuangi, Daoism had no gods, and I think could be regarded as atheistic rather than agnostic. But many strands of Daoism developed, and the thousands of the gods followed by the ancient Chinese were worked into the fabric of the religion. But, there is much in the "pure" version of Daoism which is consistent with agnosticism, and indeed with apathetic agnosticism. The same can be said of some forms of Buddhism.

As you misplaced your third question(?) I'll use this opportunity to address apatheism. Apathetic Agnosticism has a lot in common with the concept of apatheism. The one major difference is promotion. We believe it is important to promote the concept. We believe it is important to educate our children to inoculate them against religion. We believe it is important to fight against the intrusions of religion in our day-to-day lives. Apatheism takes apathy a step too far.

As for T-shirts, our Cafe Press store is still open, though it will probably close or at least be reduced in scale in August. (It was closed effective the end of July, 2004 and we have subsequently authorized an independant store to sell UCTAA material - link in upper menu.) It has in stock, among other items, a selection of T-shirts which do indeed serve as walking billboards. Alternatively, for those who find the prices too high, we have graphics for "do-it-yourself" in Meditation 168. Between those two sources, I'm sure you can outfit yourself and your girlfriend.

But do feel free to join. Even if no-one else sees them, our certificates do look good hanging on the wall.