An Agnostic Worldview

An Agnostic [1] [noun] embraces a worldview in which the existence of deity is unknown or unknowable. Derives from the Greek agnostos, a = without, gnostos = known or knowledge. “Agnostic[ism] [CE] was coined by Professor TH Huxley in 1869 to describe the mental attitude of one who regarded as futile all attempts to know the reality corresponding to our ultimate scientific, philosophic, and religious ideas.” Agnosticism asserts no knowledge of gods and therefore concludes there are no reasons to believe in them or not to believe in them. An agnostic follows this credo and differs from the atheist who has developed an active belief that there are no gods. When it comes to the question of existence of deities, an agnostic will respond: I just don’t know.

In this post I will be including a post on atheism from a blogger named John Remy. Currently I view my self as an Agnostic-Mormon (if that’s even possible). I don’t believe in or against the idea of God. I may have a “hope” in God- almost a belief even, but I have no current belief in any actual religion (although I attend the LDS Church almost regularly). My brief reasons for being agnostic are the following:

  1. I am a skeptic at heart and will be until I die (I was raised this way). As a skeptic it is hard to accept most paranormal beliefs (especially when many people make it their job to try and find truth in claims such as ghosts/spirits, demons, prayers, etc.)
  2. Recently I have seen my childhood religion through new eyes- a blindfold has been taken off. I have found that my religion does not have any “monopoly” on goodness; spiritual gifts/fruits; and have seen how similar all religions are when examining their doctrine; their claims; their group psychology (ie “we have the truth” and the role of cognitive dissonance) and sociology (their assimilation needs). There is nothing that one religion offers that trumps all others when honestly examining all the world religions together. Maybe God has his hand in many religions, but I can’t believe that he endorses one with a higher stamp of approval. When all the cards are laid out in front of you and you strip yourself of biases, there is no Ace of Spades. That is the only honest answer.
  3. I don’t see God’s hand in the confusion of world religions. I see many good things religions do, but I believe that is man’s doing. I believe in “the flesh of the arm” and think it is unhealthy to put too much faith in faith, and not in your own hard work. Honestly- let’s be honest, now, there is much evil done in the name of god.
  4. I believe in Science and what it can do and teach us. I believe in the Scientific Method, I believe in Occam’s Razor which states that the most obvious answer is probably the most correct answer. I don’t believe that god would make this all so confusing and then ask us to accept the “non-obvious” answer (or in other words, “just have faith”).
  5. I don’t believe in demons or evil spirits (which upon finding evidence of, would indicate that there is a God). I’ve briefly studied the history
  6. I believe in synergy, the Wisdom of Crowds, and the marketplace of ideas. In the LDS Church leadership, there is not much debate and expression of contradictory ideas, which could be a healthy environment for progress and truth to emerge. Consider the following from Mormon Apostle Hugh B. Brown:

    “We are grateful in the Church and in this great university that the freedom, dignity and integrity of the individual is basic in Church doctrine as well as in democracy. Here we are free to think and express our opinions. Fear will not stifle thought, as is the case in some areas which have not yet emerged from the dark ages. God himself refuses to trammel man’s free agency even though its exercise sometimes teaches painful lessons. Both creative science and revealed religion find their fullest and truest expression in the climate of freedom.

I hope that you will develop the questing spirit. Be unafraid of new ideas for they are the stepping stones of progress. You will of course respect the opinions of others but be unafraid to dissent – if you are informed.

Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution you that your thoughts and expressions must meet competition in the market place of thought, and in that competition truth will emerge triumphant. Only error needs to fear freedom of expression. Seek truth in all fields, and in that search you will need at least three virtues; courage, zest, and modesty. The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, ‘From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth – O God of truth deliver us’.”

Hugh B Brown. Speech at BYU, March 29, 1958

I believe these words but since the fifties, the LDS Church appears to fear this type of democracy. In Sunday School, Elder’s Quorum meetings, etc. we won’t have this type of dialouge, won’t hear dissension, and those who don’t agree with a GA (church leader) statement must simply keep quiet or receive very weird looks from the others.

I think I’ll wrap up my post now and maybe I’ll add on to it later. To better understand Atheists, I highly recommend downloading and listening to these podcast episodes found here.

Here is the post on Atheism as found on MindonFire.com:

The Happy Atheist #1.

I have a series of posts planned in which I will advocate for the poor maligned and misunderstood atheist. Stay tuned!

Atheists are among the most mistrusted groups of people in the United States. In a Gallup poll that asked about America’s readiness for a president from a variety of backgrounds, only homosexuals fared worse than atheists (who fell just below the Mormons).

It’s difficult for me to reconcile this general antagonism with my experience with individual atheists. They are among the most ethical people I know. There’s a wide range, to be sure, but I know atheists who place such a high value on life that they are pacifists and vegans. One married unbelieving couple adopted two children, and are more devoted and caring than many Christian parents. Most nonbelievers I know care deeply about the earth and politics and devote money and time to help others.

One common value that many of my atheist friends share is integrity. We live in a overwhelmingly religious world. It takes tremendous courage for someone who is deeply embedded in a religious tradition to reject the security of their culture and the comfort of their community and to risk ostracism and vilification for the sake of the truth. Allow me to illustrate with my personal experience.

Integrity led me out of Mormonism. After a decade of concerted effort, I realized that I had stopped trying to believe and was merely pretending to believe. My religion was encouraging me to live a lie. There was tremendous social pressure–without professing orthodox belief (or pretending to do so), I couldn’t enter the temple or attend the marriages of friends and family members. I was encouraged to stay silent on matters of doctrine and church policy that troubled me and to value hagiography over more truthful academic biographies and histories.

Lying for the faith is encouraged at the highest levels, as evinced by Elder Packer’s famous statement that “a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it.” Here’s the quote in context:

It is not unusual to have a missionary say, ‘How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would that not be dishonest?’ Oh, if I could teach you this one principle. A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it! … It is one thing to receive a witness from what you have read or what another has said; and that is a necessary beginning. It is quite another to have the Spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what you have testified is true. Can you not see that it will be supplied as you share it? As you give that which you have, there is a replacement, with increase!

I put Packer’s counsel to the test. When I lied and bore witness of things in which I did not believe, I felt incredible guilt for misrepresenting myself (Jana can tell you how much I struggled with this over the years, especially in church teaching positions). When I testified of the things that I did truly believe in, even when they ran counter to the Church’s teachings, I felt at peace with myself and even with those whom I troubled and angered with my words.

My experience is echoed by many others who have left or who are struggling to extricate themselves from their religions of origin. They often do so at incredible social and emotional cost. One of their primary motivators is integrity–the desire to be true to themselves and their conscience.

So to all my atheist friends out there, you have my empathy, my love and respect. Thank you for being candles in the dark.

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One thought on “An Agnostic Worldview

  1. I am a skeptic at heart and will be until I die…

    Likewise. I am often asked why I left the church. “Because I couldn’t believe,” I respond. “Well, why don’t you try again?” they reply. “No, you don’t understand: I could not believe.”

    Some people are just born to be skeptics.

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