Still alive. After the last post, perhaps neglecting this blog wasn’t a good idea…but I don’t imagine I have all that many readers to worry :) My mental state is much better.

I have been thinking about what it means to be agnostic. It’s not, in my experience, a good thing to be. At its mildest it comes across as a cop-out for taking a stance on something: “I don’t know”. At its most obnoxious it seems to insult the collective intelligence of humanity: “That’s not something we can know”…with the implication that perhaps one ought to be concentrating on more practical matters. Alas, I find myself at the harder end of the agnostic spectrum.

  • Absolute agnosticism (also called hard agnosticism, closed agnosticism, strict agnosticism, strong agnosticism) is the belief that it is not possible to know whether a god/gods exists or not.
  • Empirical agnosticism (also called soft agnosticism, open agnosticism, weak agnosticism, temporal agnosticism) is the belief that at present there is not enough information to know whether any god/gods exists or not, but that we might find out someday.
  • Apathetic agnosticism is the belief that it does not matter whether any god/gods exists or not.

Taken from Wikipedia, with the requisite grain of salt. They’ve left out one variety of soft, IMO: the “I don’t know know whether there is a God or not”. I also don’t think the last really deserves its own catagory, as it’s almost a refusal to tackle the question at all. Using these definitions, I’m not quite an absolute, because I think saying that it is not possible to ever know if God/gods exist sort of breaks the definition of what it means to be agnostic. How can I know that we’ll never know if we don’t know now?

My position is basically this: Given the tools and information that we (collective humanity) have at our disposal right now, it is impossible to empirically prove the existence or non-existence of God. We cannot know for sure. To say otherwise, IMO, is to be intellectually dishonest with oneself.

I do not discount subjective proof. Subjective proof has to do with how a person understands and interacts with the world, and I don’t think this is an area in which one can be mistaken. If you tell me that you saw monkey smoking a cigarette, then that’s what you saw. In this case, however, I may be able to objectively prove that the monkey was only chewing on the cigarette, or that it was not really a monkey, but a puppet…but I can’t tell you that you didn’t see a smoking monkey, because how your brain interpreted what you saw is beyond my sphere of knowledge. If you tell me that God whispers in your ear, I don’t have a good reason to disbelieve you. I may offer a different explanation, but without a physical monkey to examine, as it were, neither of us can assert that our explanation is the true one. You cannot definitively prove to me that it was God’s voice, but neither can I definitively prove to you that it wasn’t.

I simply refuse to assert that subjective proof can comprise objective proof.

No one can know. I don’t care how sure you are. You don’t know.

This was the most difficult place to come to, for me personally. The notion that in the end, I may never know for sure whether God exists or not. That belief is all I’ll ever have. Could I live with that? It rearranges one’s priorities. It makes one take stock of one’s beliefs and ask “Is this enough? What if there is no ultimate destination? Can I still walk this road, knowing within myself that it may have no end? Can I love a God I may never see? What if the journey is all there is?”

It makes you stop “walking” and really take a good look at where you are now. Because if the road has no end, then the only worthwhile place to be is now. And if you do start walking again, it can only be in the full, frightening knowledge that there is no sure, safe, set in stone destination that you’ll someday reach. The walking itself has to be worth it.

I choose to sit on the theistic side of the agnostic fence, because I personally find it more fulfilling and more in line with how I’ve experienced the world. A lot of people end up on the atheistic side, for the same reasons. Are they wrong? I can’t know, and it doesn’t make sense to actually, physically condemn actual living people in ways that have tangible, painful consequences for them based on assertions I cannot prove.

It’s why I abhor the notion of the Bible being “absolute truth”, and then using that assertion to verbally and sometimes physically badger, shame, manipulate, guilt-trip, persecute, cut, stab, and kill human beings who do thing you think are wrong. You don’t know that. You can’t know that, because it’s not something that can be objectively proved or disproved. What gives you the right to use what you do not know to harm actual living people? The book itself protests its being used in such a way! “God will judge. Angels will judge. The Son of Man will judge. It is not your job to judge, and it is surely not your fucking job to do harm in the name of said judgment. Stop it.”

And no, saying “Well, it’s not *me* who condemns that, it’s God/Scripture” does not actually wash your hands of the blood your words draw.

“The Bible says” is bullying LGBT people to death. “The Bible says” is killing women forced to endure pregnancies their bodies cannot handle. “The Bible says” is ruining the lives of people who cannot in good conscience assert the existence of God. “The Bible says” is ruining the lives of people of minority faiths. “The Bible says” is killing children in Africa. “The Bible says” is silencing victims of rape and domestic violence. “The Bible says” is raising generations of girls to believe that God created them for the sole purpose of serving men. And so on.

Is it any wonder that many people don’t give a flying fuck what the Bible says?

It’s why agnosticism is a comfortable place for me to be. Yeah, I don’t get the fuzzy assurance of knowing unknowable things to be true…but I also don’t get to hurt people in the name of what I “know”. I don’t get to use God to wound people because I “know” that God thinks what they’re doing is wrong. I don’t have to condemn people and behaviors just because a book does; I am free to condemn based on empirical evidence of actual harm. Best of all, I suppose, I am free to believe in a God whose love is bigger than anything I can “know”.

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Not myself- Shadows

the sun has set, i close my eyes
i pretend everything’s alright

I am…not having a good month.

I know this about myself, that I have a tendency to go through bouts of depression and that really, it’s not something I can think or talk or force myself out of. I just have to ride them out. I know my signs. Needing to sleep all the time. Unable to keep anything organized. Caring truly madly deeply about that which is abstract and far away, and yet not so much about what’s nearby. Needing to escape. Unable to recharge even when I do manage to escape, temporarily. Continue reading

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Despair and Ecclesiastes and Not Enough Dogs- Utopia

the burning desire
to live and roam free
it shines in the dark
and it grows within me
you’re holding my hand but you don’t understand
so where i am going, you wont be in the end

We’ve been slowing picking our way through Ecclesiastes in our small group, though I’m not sure how serious anyone is about it. We felt we needed to do a proper Bible study, but we picked that particular book because it is so very non-confrontational and non-controversial. I think some of the folks in our group were tired of dealing with difficult issues, and wanted something clear.

I know I’m tired of it.

Ironically, I’m beginning to realize that in a sense, that’s exactly what the book of Ecclesiastes is about. The world doesn’t make any sense. Everybody dies. Rich people stay rich and poor people poor and nobody is happy. Wicked people prosper and good people get kicked when they’re down. Everybody suffers. Everybody dies. Everything fades. Nothing lasts. Nobody knows why any of this is so. No amount of wisdom can make it better. There is no solution. You’re better off not even knowing about it. Knowledge is despair. Everybody dies. Wisdom reveals twenty problems for every one solution. Wisdom only shows you what you can’t stop and can’t fix and can’t prevent and yet can’t ignore once you’ve seen it. It’s better just to eat and drink and find what joy you can in what you do in the short time you have. Because the world doesn’t make any fucking sense and everything turns to dust eventually. Continue reading

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True, Right-*Fin

feels like you’re miles from here,
in other towns with lesser names
where the unholy ghost doesn’t tell
mary or william exactly what they want to hear

My five-year-old son has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Let’s just say June has been a month of unexpected upheaval. The first week of it was spent in the hospital, and the first few days of it were spend with him in the ICU being very, very sick with diabetic kedoacidosis. He has, I’m happy to report, made a full recovery, and we’re all adjusting pretty well to daily sugar checks and insulin shots.

I’m sure some wise person somewhere has noted that such trials can either bolster or shatter one’s faith in whatever gods one believes in. In my case, though…I think it just kind of illuminated my doubts. Didn’t make them better or worse, just made them stand out. Continue reading

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Finite, Infinite- The Game

Finite and Infinite Games. I once owned a copy of this innocuous little book by James Carse, and I honestly don’t remember why or on whose recommendation I picked it up. But I read it, and it was absolutely fascinating. Most philosophy is pretty dry…this stuff was great. I was so impressed that I lent the book to someone else to read. I never saw it again. I don’t even remember who I lent it to. That was years and years ago.

Just the other day, I finally managed to get my hands on another copy. And upon reading that first page again, I realized that, as fondly as I remembered the book, I had forgotten the amount of impact it had on my religious views. I had forgotten how many of my core beliefs were shaped by that book, even ones I still hold, even long after I’d forgotten where I got the notion from. It was like greeting an old friend, feeling all the old words and ideas and thoughts wash over me, thinking, “Ah, this. Yes, I remember this now.” Finite and Infinite Games was as instrumental to my departure from the Christian faith as Atlas Shrugged, maybe even more so. Looking back, I cannot remember which book I read first. Did Ayn Rand’s stark departure from the Christian paradigm I was used to put me in the proper headspace to understand Carse…or had the deep thoughts of the latter set me up to be receptive instead of hostile towards the former? I don’t know. I have forgotten. Continue reading

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Integrity, pt. 2- Feed the Machine

Now it might be worth it to look at this from the other side of the equation.

Many Christians believe that it is their duty to condemn the things that are condemned in the Bible and to uphold the things that are upheld in the Bible…whatever interpretation they happen to be using. No matter what harm and pain and confusion results. No matter how many people it drives away from God. They believe that to look past certain sins, to allow certain sins to go unremarked and un-confronted within their churches, is tantamount to disagreeing with God.

turn around, they might be watching
and you never disappoint them

They believe that spiritual health and the fate of one’s soul is far more important than any earthly matter or circumstance. A person must be right with God, or their eternal fate is in danger. A church must be right with God, or the fate of all souls within her walls are in danger. Being “right with God” means that the unrepentant, the rebellious, and the rabble-rousers within the ranks must be silenced. And if they cannot or will not be silenced…if they continue to sow doubts and dissent among God’s followers, if they continue to eschew Christian forgiveness and pursue litigation against their abusers, if they cannot be convinced that their natural desires are a sin before the Lord…then they must be cast out. To do otherwise would be to deny that God is holy and has certain standards.

hide your innocence before they see right through
you mustn’t disappoint them

It is, another words, a matter of integrity. Continue reading

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Integrity, pt. 1- Faceless

I’ve been poking around a number of deconversion and ex-christian blogs these last few days, and I’ve begun to notice one particular similarity between why people leave the faith, people who have suffered abuses within the faith, and the struggle that gay people face within the faith today.

Continue reading

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Life in- Exile

I called myself a Pagan for close to seven years, even after it ceased to be really true. It was a nice, catch-all term, an umbrella I could duck under while trying to figure out just what it was I did believe. But the last few months, it feels more and more like a lie coming out of my mouth. It feels…not quite right. Like I’ve moved on from it.

And I think…I think maybe I have. Continue reading

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Once- Never Be the Same

I was a Christian once.

i know you, who are you now?
look into my eyes if you can’t remember
do you remember?

How many deconversion stories begin like that? Too many. Too many people grow up in the Christian subculture of self-denial and self-doubt and self-hatred and self-destruction, all in the name of a deity who claims the title of Love. Their experience of “unconditional love” was conditions, conditions, and more conditions. Say these words. Affirm this doctrine. Pray. Smile. Dress like this, don’t dress like that. Don’t watch that movie. Convert these people. Pray. Don’t associate with those…um, people. Never complain. Participate in this ministry, that group. Smile. Give him your Sundays. Give him your Wednesdays. Give him your mornings. Give him your children. Pray. Read this Book. Don’t read those books. Vote this way. Be like us. Think like us. Smile. And don’t ever, ever, EVER question the rightness of it all.

Do these things, and God will bless you. Put one foot off the scrubbed, manicured, white-washed, neon-lit, barbed-wire tightrope, and he’ll cast you into eternal torment forever and ever and ever.

i can see, i can still find
you’re the only voice my heart can recognize

But after a while, it stops making sense. You aren’t happy. You aren’t fulfilled. You don’t feel they way they say you’re supposed to feel, and you realize you never did. It’s like waking up. You finally admit that even if this demanding, tyrannical God does exist, even if questions and doubts DO lead to eternal torment…you just don’t care. You don’t want anything to do with him. You’d rather go to hell than keep living this life in chains. So you throw in the towel of Christendom, and well, all hell breaks loose. Your parents wring their hands, beg you to come back, and when you refuse, they spiritually disown you. Your friends abandon you. Your entire support network collapses. You’re cut loose by the very people who assured you that they’d never leave you out in the cold.

but i can’t hear you now

And after a while, none of it surprises you. So you walk away.

That’s not my story. Continue reading

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