Why not agnostic theism?

March 7, 2007 at 12:21 am 15 comments

On my previous blog, mysteryofiniquity asked:

Just curious.. why do you not take the other tack: acknowledging there is a God, but that the possibility exists that there is nothing out there and that we can’t know for sure there isn’t? How did you pick which side you took? I’m wondering because I’m borderline atheist myself.

To answer that question, let me give a few of the steps I took to arrive at this point in my journey.

In my early years, I would have been classed a fundamentalist. I believed the Bible to be the Word of God and believed that Jesus was God in the flesh who came and died on the cross to redeem me back into fellowship with my Creator. I loved the Bible. My faith was not based on experiences with God but really on what I thought were the basic constructs of the message of the gospel.

It wasn’t until I became a preacher that things began to unravel for me. Instead of reading the Bible seeking guidance and wisdom, I was teaching its ‘truths’ to others. I tried my best to dot all my i’s and cross my t’s in my sermons. I quickly discovered that the message that we preached could not be put together in a complete puzzle because there were always a few pieces left over that did not fit anywhere or there were always holes with no pieces that fit. As a logical individual, this confused me greatly. How could a book written by the omniscient creator of the universe, have so many difficulties? How could I have not noticed these issues in all my years of being a student of the Word?

Soon it came to the point that I could no longer believe that the Bible was the Word of God. However, I still clung to the basic teachings of Christ. I no longer wanted to be called a Christian since I no longer subscribed to a few of the basic tenants of the faith. I considered myself a “follower of Christ,” and I still believed in God even though I did not believe he wrote the Bible.

My next step was to doubt that Jesus was really who the gospels and the church claimed he is. At this point, while I still followed the teachings of Christ, it was more from a philosophical point of view.

I then decided that if there is a God, we do not have a clue who he/she is. All our “holy books” were all simply man’s ideas of who God is. However, I still believed that there was a high possibility that God exist. I guess I could have been labeled an agnostic. In this season, I could have been described as the person in your question.

Over time, I realized I was moving closer to atheism than theism and decided to relabel myself more of an agnostic atheist than an agnostic theist. At this point, I believe that the possibility that there is a no God is far greater than the possibility that there is a God. However, I want to leave the door open to being wrong since with each step I take, I realized that my previous step was filled with beliefs that were wrong.

Hopefully that answers your question. Did I mention that I hate labels? 🙂

– By Agnostic Atheist

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Entry filed under: agnostic, agnostic atheism, agnostic atheist, atheism, atheist, christian, christianity, faith, Religion, skeptic, skepticism, spirituality.

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ggwfung  |  March 7, 2007 at 12:43 am

    keeping an open mind is the best attitude. To take a page from science – all it takes is one counterexample, and your whole edifice of thought, your entire philosophy needs to be re-examined, reconsidered.

    ggw

    Reply
  • 2. skywhale  |  March 7, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Hi,

    My own struggle with theism/atheism ended when I encountered the words of the Pathwork Guide, who speaks with what I judge to be beyond-human intelligence about all the matters that make us go around in circles. I invite you to take a look at my blog, maybe starting with Lectures 19-22, which retell the story of the Creation, the Fall and Salvation in far more logical and intuitively satisfying terms than anything I’ve ever found elsewhere. Note the links to full text at the top. Also, check out the list of Lectures with links to full text at http://www.pathwork.org/lecturesObtaining.html Of particular interest may be Lecture 52, The God Image, and Lecture 258, Personal Contact with Jesus Christ. Or something else may grab you. In any event, the teachings dispel a lot of confusion and nonsense, and I have personally found that very grounding and reassuring.

    Reply
  • 3. poppies  |  March 7, 2007 at 2:47 am

    I personally would love to read posts from you about the scriptural difficulties you encountered that caused you to lose your confidence.

    Reply
  • 4. agnosticatheist  |  March 7, 2007 at 3:23 am

    poppies,

    Check back from time to time. I’ll be addressing some of those issues over time.

    Reply
  • 5. Dan  |  March 7, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    AA, you may hate labels, but you sure came up with a groovy one-agnostic atheist!! 🙂

    It’s strange how similar our paths have been-I was in ministry for years myself (albeit as an associate pastor).

    I’ve come to very similar conclusions, because of very similar ideas.

    -Dan

    Reply
  • 6. mysteryofiniquity  |  March 7, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    Thanks AA! That does answer my question and your journey perfectly coincides with what I seem to be going through right now. I found that after years of studying the bible, I too could not reconcile this supposedly inerrant set of documents with a perfect, inerrant, omniscient Deity. Both should jibe, but they don’t. The more I discuss it, the more I know that the preponderance of evidence is on the side of the agnostic atheist. Thanks again!

    Reply
  • 7. skywhale  |  March 7, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    Hello, again,

    I don’t mean to press. Perhaps I should have introduced myself first (although I’m not sure what that would have looked like). In any event, I don’t mean to barge in. It’s just that I’m drawn to this particular topic and I’m curious as to how resonant the teachings I follow might be for others.

    To mystery of iniquity, I would respond that the apparent incongruity between Scripture and omniscient deity could mean a lot of things: (1) Scriptures are BS; (2) Scriptures aren’t being properly understood; (3) omniscient deity isn’t being properly understood; (4) there is no omniscient deity. There’s no reason to jump on (4) as the right answer, in my opinion.

    As for (2), which is what Pathwork is saying, see the following example, from my summary of Lecture 78, and my comment below the summary:

    The Biblical passage, “The word of God was given to Moses: Thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning,” does not refer to a punishing God or a rigid mechanism which is imposed upon us from the outside, but to our own inner psychological law, by which we attract to ourselves difficulties in proportion to the negative energies we emit, whether overtly or subtly. This is in fact a wonderfully just law of mercy, grace, wisdom and love.

    The symbolism of the eye is that the more we see and understand ourselves, the better others will be able to see and understand us.

    The symbolism of life is that when we heal and integrate ourselves, we become vibrantly alive. Fear and evasion of life lead to deadness, but true self-confrontation, even if momentarily unpleasant, makes it possible for the life force to flow through us vibrantly, and we are able to give life to others.

    The symbolism of the tooth is similar to that of the eye, but it refers to the process of assimilating knowledge about ourselves (in the way that we use our teeth to assimilate food), whereas the eye refers to the end result of being able to see ourselves. The more we assimilate self-knowledge, the more we make it possible for others to understand us. We assimilate our lives by observing and understanding the ways in which our mistaken attitudes have caused the circumstances of our lives, in order to provide the perfect medicine to correct those attitudes. And the more we engage in this process, the more we help others to do the same.

    The symbolism of the hand is that as we act and react, so will we be acted upon and reacted to. This principle applies to our thoughts and feelings as well as our overt acts.

    The symbolism of the foot is action which moves us in a direction on our life path — the major decisions we make, which have a great effect on ourselves and on the people around us.

    The symbolism of burning is the divine spark, which encompasses, love, life, purification, sacrifice, etc. If we allow this spark to burn freely, we incite the spark in others as well.

    In Matthew 5:38, Jesus says: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, that you resist not evil.” The meaning of this quotation is that we need to face and claim the negative consequences we bring upon ourselves as a result of our own distorted energies, rather than “resisting evil” by withdrawing from life, blaming outside forces for our troubles and not learning from life. With enough determination, we can find within ourselves the core distortions which cause our troubles, without necessarily connecting to our past lives.

    In the passage in Mark 4:25, “For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath,” the word “hath” refers to the possession of spiritual knowledge. Those who understand will attract positive energy and experience to themselves, while those who do not will attract negative energy and experience.

    The reason that many things in the Bible are expressed in parables rather than clearly and directly is that direct explanations are dangerous for those who are not yet evolved enough to hear them. If one is not ready to understand, one will twist meaning into half-truths no matter how directly and concretely something is stated. A distorted meaning of this kind can actually be more detrimental than no conception at all. Even the truth the Guide offers is subject to abuse if someone uses it to detect faults in others but fails to search deep within for that within his or her self which is most painful. Speaking in parables and images makes it possible to convey meaning to those who are ready to hear it without planting rigid false conceptions in the minds of those who are not.”

    ****Does that give any support in your mind to the possibility that what you’re taking from the Scriptures isn’t what was meant to be taken? And there are of course also matters of translation and so forth. Isn’t it possible that the Scriptures operate on a whole different level? Just asking . . .

    By the way, you can check out my blog by clicking on the “skywhale” link, if you’re interested. Or if anyone has thoughts about what I just said and wants to respond here, I’d be interested to read them.

    Cheers,

    sw

    Reply
  • 8. agnosticatheist  |  March 8, 2007 at 2:01 am

    sw,

    Thanks for the introduction and your comments.

    You’re quite the web-evangelist for your belief system. I’ve noticed several of your posts on blogs. I would keep your posts shorter and avoid the ‘cut and paste’ sections. The above post was great if you had limited it to just your thoughts (framed w/your belief system of course).

    However, I do have an issue with your belief system. It’s simply yet another system based on a flawed foundation of the views of God of a tribe of desert nomads. The original books of Moses were dated sometime around 800BC (not quite “in the beginning”).

    Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, yada yada all try to make sense of this flawed foundation. However, no matter how great a design you give the building, it’ll come crashing down one day.

    In my opinion, the basic teachings attributed to Jesus come as close as possible to bringing sense of the madness. I’ll post a blog on that one day.

    Reply
  • 9. agnosticatheist  |  March 8, 2007 at 3:04 am

    moi,

    Thanks AA! That does answer my question and your journey perfectly coincides with what I seem to be going through right now. I found that after years of studying the bible, I too could not reconcile this supposedly inerrant set of documents with a perfect, inerrant, omniscient Deity. Both should jibe, but they don’t. The more I discuss it, the more I know that the preponderance of evidence is on the side of the agnostic atheist. Thanks again!

    My first realization was that the God described in the Bible could not be the God as the Bible itself described him – A loving, merciful, compassionate Father in heaven who so loved us that he paid the ultimate sacrifice for me. I know that’s a bit circular :).

    I added the RSS feed of the ‘Daily Bible Readings Blog’ to this blog that point out many of the same issues I had.

    My next question was “…then who is God?” That’s where things begin to fall apart. If there is a God, why…..this, that, the other….? I quickly realized that if there is a God, he/she was not very active in the affairs of humanity. Why? How can we figure out these answers without God coming down and having a conversation with us? Why doesn’t he/she do that? … yada yada …..

    Reply
  • 10. skywhale  |  March 8, 2007 at 4:04 am

    So here’s a quick reply: God doesn’t “come down” because we’re meant to figure things out on our own for the most part — to learn to discern for ourselves what’s in tune with the positive life force and what isn’t. God’s goal isn’t to make things on Earth perfect — it’s to have each of us who has ended up here because of our confusion discover the true nature of things and find our way back to Him/Her and those who never strayed. Nevertheless, enough is given so that those of us who are sincerely looking will find it. And eventually, over successive incarnations, all of us will figure it out.

    Reply
  • 11. Desiree  |  March 12, 2007 at 4:35 am

    I consider myself an agnostic though not by the definition you have posted on your ‘about’ page. (definition number 2) I believe there is no way of knowing that there is a god and i don’t consider myself an atheist because, like christianity, that is also an absolute truth that cannot fully be proven. I do not “Choose to believe in God but acknowledge that it is without absolute certainty,” rather i choose to live as though there is no knowledge of god. I study world religions in college and have never come across the term “Agnostic Atheism,” though i’m sure there are so many terms in regards to religion that i will never come across them all.
    I guess the point of my post is to simply state that i don’t believe that all agnostics view themselves as your definition says, though some very much may. We don’t all choose to live with the believe that there is a God and leave room for “but i could be wrong.” but rather i and other agnostic’s consider ourselfs to be more related to what you all consider to be called an agnostic atheist.
    damn all these labels. =)

    Reply
  • 12. agnosticatheist  |  March 12, 2007 at 4:46 am

    Desiree,

    Choosing to live “as though there is no knowledge of god” is valid since really all we have is other’s view of God… and very flawed ones at that.

    Agnostic Atheism is not a common phrase. I was hoping I came up w/it but I did a web search and lo and behold it’s out there already.

    Labels suck! I hated being labeled a Christian when I was a Christian because I was nothing like Falwell or Robertson or the whacky religious right … I hated the label atheist when I became an atheist because as you stated, it seemed as if it’s “also an absolute truth that cannot fully be proven.” Hence, the aA phrase.

    Reply
  • 13. Cris  |  April 4, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    I never have fit under a label, but my recent yearning to label myself led me to agnostic theist. Because I do think there is a creator (that I pray to) but I acknowledge that it is possible that God doesn’t exist. I see all religions and atheism as arrogant because there is no proof and someone claiming to know the truth without proof is arrogant. I do wish that there was a place I could go like church for christians with like minded people to socialize with. Does anything like this exist. An agnostic church?

    Reply
  • 14. agnosticatheist  |  April 4, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Chris,

    Only on the internet I believe 🙂

    Check out MOI’s post on Cultural Christianity. She’s also an agnostic theist and addressed the issue of church.

    I’ll do a bit of research on your inquiry and get back with you.

    aA

    Reply
  • 15. Karen  |  April 16, 2007 at 11:27 am

    I do wish that there was a place I could go like church for christians with like minded people to socialize with. Does anything like this exist. An agnostic church?

    Check out the Unitarian Church. I don’t attend, but many friends of mine do. They welcome people who do believe in god, people who don’t and people who aren’t sure. The focus is on community, fellowship and doing good works, rather than on worshipping a deity.

    Reply

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Agnostic Atheism Wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God, you will be judged on your merits and not just on whether or not you ignored the lack of evidence of his/her existence and blindly believed.

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