Ask the Patriarch 255
World Religions School Project
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My name is Kalli and I am currently a senior in highshool at Georgia Cumberland Academy. In one of my classes we are studying world religions. My project is on Agnosticism. I have a few questions that I was wondering if you would answer for this assignment.
My questions for you are:
- Why did you choose this religion?
- How does Agnosticism influence your daily life?
- What do you want other people to know about your religion?
The Patriarch replies:
Thank you for writing, and thanks for pointing out that the links to the school project FAQ were broken As a result I was able to fix that problem.
Before I get to your three questions, I'd like to point out that even though this website is constructed as a church and in many ways we act as one, as far as most agnostics are concerned, agnosticism is not a religion. Rather it is a position on religion - and specifically on our knowledge or lack of knowledge on the existence of any god. You will find some agnostics get quite vehement about this point, and many atheists get even more vehement about atheism not being a religion. It's a semantic issue which bothers some, but not something I get excited about.
Now let's get on to the questions:
Why did you choose this religion?
I was initially brought up Church of England (or Episcopalian for those more familiar with American terminology.) About 50 years ago while on a church retreat organized by the Diocese of Coventry in England, I realized I had serious doubts about the teachings of the church. I started to investigate other varieties of Christianity and number of other religions over several years.
In the mid '60s, I realized after about six weeks of discussions with some Mormon missionaries who were trying to convert me, that LDS teaching added a whole lot of unbelievable doctrine on top of the already unbelievable doctrine in the religion I had been brought up in.
And when I tossed all that doctrine aside, I was left only with the question of God's existence. That question is fundamental, and only when it is answered could I decide which religion and which denomination has the right answers, if any, about the other issues. If you don't have belief in a god, then issues that a person might question such as virgin birth, the resurrection, Joseph Smith's golden tablets, Muhammad's night journey to Jerusalem, etc. all become irrelevant.
I found no religion could provide meaningful support for the argument that God exists. It is something we cannot know, we can only believe. And I had no belief. I think the lack of evidence for God leads to a very low probability that God exists.
Thus I am an agnostic. I am without belief. And I do not know whether or not God exists. I go further than some who identify as agnostics and say we cannot know.
How does Agnosticism influence your daily life?
Personally, because I operate this web site, it influences my life a lot. Keeping up the site and replying to correspondence makes agnosticism a daily activity.
But before I started doing this, agnosticism had little influence. It was simply a position I took. I didn't go to church, of course. I didn't get involved in any of the social activities that revolve around a church.
I think we have a responsibility to support the less fortunate, so I donated to non-religious charities, and I volunteered for non-religious community organizations such as a suicide prevention hotline. The point is that not having a religion does not preclude a person from being involved in good works to support the community and from living a good life. Under agnosticism, or atheism, how a person lives his or her own life is a personal responsibility rather than looking for guidance and direction rules laid down by a church, or laid down in an ancient text with no relevance or understanding of today's world.
For more on this point see Ask the Patriarch 101: How does it affect your lifestyle?
What do you want other people to know about your religion?
What I'd like people to know about agnosticism is that it is alright to admit you don't have the answers. It is alright to say that on some issues - particularly spiritual issues - that we might never know the answer. On the issue of God's existence, Agnosticism's answer is simply "we don't know."
I'd also like people to know that just as belief does not automatically make a person a good person (and we see that in various church scandals in the news practically every day), disbelief does not automatically make a person a bad person. Living a moral life does not depend on belief. It depends on recognizing we live in a society, and society functions best when we treat each other with respect and dignity.