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Ask the Patriarch 181
The need to believe

from: Ms. Huffman

A discussion on this article has been opened in Debate and Discourse. Please feel free to add your own thoughts to the exchange of views via the contact page.

I have a question.

EVERYONE needs something to believe in - whether it be themselves, God, the cat, the dog, music, Bud Light - what have you. If life becomes horrible and pain takes away promise - well-does losing faith in anything make one agnostic? Is that where dianetics and Scientology may come in? Because in that dark time God did not respond?

I have an open mind but a firm belief in my own opinions,and I respect others belief or lack of. I just found out my 21 year old son's girlfriend is agnostic (gotta love MySpace) and had no idea what it was so I found your website. I can see all sides of religion and why one feels a certain way. Things I don't understand I suppose drive me nuts. As most do.

Your website is interesting but not convincing, then again, what is???

That I see clearly - so for that I give credit. Interesting - and to each his own.

The Patriarch replies:

Ms. Huffman:

You raise a number of issues. I'm not sure I can answer any of them to your satisfaction.

Let's start with your last point: "Your website is interesting but not convincing.."

It has never been my intention to "convert" anyone to agnosticism. I recognize that if someone has a firm belief system, nothing I write will change their views on religion. What I ultimately am trying to do here is provide support for those who share my views. Agnostics tend to be reserved about their views, and many think they are alone. What this site does is tell them they are not alone - there are millions of others out there who are agnostic.

Back to the beginning: "EVERYONE needs something to believe in..." Whenever I see that statement in one of its various forms, I am reminded of the T-shirt slogan "Everyone should believe in something, I believe I'll have another beer." And you, by referring to Bud Light, seem to be familiar with that. But what it really highlights is the many different ways we use the word "believe."

In a religious sense, "believe" tends to be used in the sense of belief in something supernatural. So, do we need to believe in something supernatural? I don't think so. I do, as I wrote to the previous correspondent, believe in reality. But that form of belief , in my view, is qualitatively different from a belief in something supernatural. And that, I do not believe in.

That's not to say others do not find a need to believe in something supernatural. Perhaps that is why when some people "lose faith," they move on to another religion. Part of the reason may be that they feel they need answers, and bringing the supernatural into play seems to provide answers - answers which are only valid as long as you don't delve into the new questions that belief in the supernatural should raise.

You say "Things I don't understand I suppose drive me nuts." Perhaps that is so for you and perhaps agnosticism is not for you. I have no trouble accepting that there are things that I do not understand as an individual, and that there are things that no other person knows either. Knowledge could not grow if we already knew everything.