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Ask the Patriarch 136
I have problems with the Articles of Faith

from Rory

A discussion has been opened on this Meditation. To contribute your own thoughts to this exchange, please use the Contact form.

Hello.

Let me begin by saying that as a true agnostic I very much enjoy your site and was refreshed to find it. I would love to join the "congregation", but I see a couple of stumbling blocks with the Articles of Faith. In writing this, I do realize that your site couples genuine agnostic beliefs with a certain amount of humour. However, being bound by the rules of logic and true to what I put my name to, I have questions and can't sign up until I'm happy with the answers.

I want to first state one of my main reasons for being agnostic. The nonexistence of anything (including a god) is unprovable - it too requires faith. The existence of something can be accepted as provable if that thing shows itself and it is generally accepted to exist. Presumably a god would have the ability to "prove" that he/she/it is indeed a god and does exist. With this idea, my first problem is with the first Article of Faith:

1. The existence of a Supreme Being is unknown and unknowable.

I can't help but think that while the existence of a Supreme Being may be unknown, it is knowable - if and only if that being does exist and is able to "prove" itself.

2. If there is a Supreme Being, then that being appears to act as if entirely apathetic to events in our universe.

This I have no problem with.

3. We are apathetic to the existence or non-existence of a Supreme Being.

Now this, I realize, is what makes this site different from any regular agnostic site. For me, while I definitely don't know, I really do care. I lay awake some nights thinking of this stuff and would love to know all the answers to the universe. I am sure that all the work and thoughts that go into this website would not be here if those involved were truly apathetic. Again, I love the site and the humour of the motto and don't want to take away from them, but I am having trouble saying I subscribe to them.

I would love your assistance in clearing these questions up and I look forward to your reply.
Please feel free to publish this and I would love any advice you have for a Canadian Agnostic who does not know many others.

Best Regards,

Rory

The Patriarch replies:

Rory:

(the Articles of Faith have been questioned again in Q&A 149)

Issues with the Articles of Faith have been raised before, if you look through the site, but I will address them again.

Many agnostics have trouble with one aspect or another of the "Articles of Faith." They originated as my personal statement of agnosticism, and I make no claim that they are required to be accepted by all agnostics. However, over the years, a number of agnostics have agreed that they match their own feelings about agnosticism. And those who agree with the three articles are "Apathetic Agnostics."

Let's take Article 1. It is a classic statement of "strong" agnosticism. If you drop the "unknowable," then you are a "weak" agnostic. (Also, sometimes referred to as "hard" and "soft" agnosticism, respectively.) You can suggest, if you wish that unknowability is a matter of faith, (well, they are articles of faith) but it can also be argued that unknowability arises out of the characteristics that believers claim God possesses. And that makes the unknowability a matter of simple logic, not one of faith. An alternative interpretation is that "unknowable" applies to the situation today, but does not necessarily hold for what we might learn in the future. My favoured interpretation is the one that is a statement of strong agnosticism. I have no problem with those that choose to interpet Article 1 differently so as to accept it.

As for Article 3. If you consider the question of God's existence to be an important one, that's fine. But, Apathetic Agnostics don't. That does not mean we consider the promotion of agnosticism to be unimportant

Apathetic Agnosticism is a subset of agnosticism. It is not necessary to agree with the Articles of Faith to be an agnostic. It is only necessary to accept them if you want to join the Apathetic Agnostic Church.

Now, this does not stop you from joining ouriscussion group at uctaa.org. Also, if you wish, we provide an alternate path to ordination through the Worldwide Church of Agnostics - which any agnostic can join.