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Ask the Patriarch 182
I don't need a label, but people ask

from: Julian

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Born and raised a Baptist, b'god!  Unfortunately, intelligent (maybe) and unable to keep up yelling "Lord Jesus!"  (And paying the church.) I've been researching this agnostic/atheist question for some time, and I can't find a home in either camp.  Probably I don't really want a home, but I would like to debate issues with others.

The problem I have is this: if I believed or disbelieved in a god, it wouldn't matter.  Clearly, the purveyors of "god's message" are not to be trusted.  (Where have you gone, Jerry Falwell, etc.?)  And, it looks like Allah is winning, every day he gets more martyrs to the faith.  Jehovah has problems.

Personally, I don't need a label, but people ask me "what is your religion?"  I don't have an answer that conveys my position (not beliefs, in religion, I don't have any).

Does anyone have any thoughts on this, or would someone like to set up a discussion?  I don't really care if there's no result.  The journey is the value.

BTW, this site had the best up-front presentation, but I don't like the term "apathetic."  What does it mean?

Regards, Julian

The Patriarch replies:


Let's take the easy question first: I don't like the term "apathetic."  What does it mean?

In a way you already answered it when you wrote: if I believed or disbelieved in a god, it wouldn't matter. So - to you the existence of a deity does not matter. You don't care. So you could be considered apathetic in the issue. For further reading, on this issue, look under Frequently Asked Questions on the right hand side of the main page of this site.

As to your lacking an answer to "what is your religion?" , it's not uncommon. Who really does have an answer? To me, most simple labels do not really signify much given the range of beliefs within religions and denominations. Tell me you are Christian, Baptist, Episcopalian, Pentecostal, Muslim, Shiite, Ismaili, Ahmadiyya, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon or whatever, I still don't know with reasonable certainty what you believe.

You say you don't need a label, and you are right. Because ultimately, the label can be misleading.

But still, if you want an answer when asked "what is your religion?" I recommend, as written in Meditation 233, that you say you are a member of The Church of Popeye.

And the answer to that question, for anyone who does not have a name for their particular set of religious beliefs, is:

"For the lack of a better term, you are a member of the Church of Popeye.

Named in honour of Popeye the Sailor Man, renowned for that profound philosophical insight - 'I am what I am.'

And, as a member of Popeye's Church,

You are what you are."

A few other alternatives you might consider depending on how you feel they suit you:

I could go on and on with terms which could be used, but whatever label you might choose as an answer will likely lead to a demand for further explanation.

The simplest and most direct answer to "what is your religion?" is probably "I don't have one." And to foreclose further unwanted discussion, you might wish to add "nor do I need one."