Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fishing for Religion: a Skeptic's Journey

Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in one God. A supreme being that created our world.

Atheists believe that there is no such God or Creator.

And the popular description of Agnostics is that they don't care.

So what do you call a person who refuses to define beliefs based on insufficient evidence but who cares a lot about the questions of creation and faith?

I am not a Protestant, despite my baptism, because I don't believe that a God exists who consciously planned and created the Universe, created people for a purpose, and then bore a human son who was later killed and resurrected. I do believe that many of the teachings of the Protestant and Christian faith are laudable, but I don't think they're the teachings of a divine offspring. In fact I believe this possibility to be unlikely given the lack of evidence to support such an elaborate theory. This means that I am not a Protestant even if I was raised to be one.

In fact I think it is just as unlikely as the theory that there is no God, or purposeful Creator. Although I can't believe in a benevolent being that cares about me personally without evidence I also can't preclude that being's existence without evidence.

The tendency of the universe towards chaos (what newton's second law describes as entropy) is somehow counteracted by all observation in the organization of galaxies, solar systems, planets, and most of all life. My own observations lead me to believe that there must be some force as of yet undiscovered or undefined that counteracts chaos and creates purpose in the world, or at the very least organization. This means that despite that phase in high school I am not an atheist.

Unfortunately, I haven't heard or thought of a theory yet that explains this missing link, the counter-force to chaos, and that stands up to a healthy questioning.

We should also take a closer look at the definition of Agnostic, as well:

1. a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.

2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.

Although it doesn't describe someone who doesn't care, both definitions are left lacking in hope. I cannot be an agnostic because, despite the fact that I am skeptical, I do have hope that the truth is knowable. I have hope that despite a belief that human knowledge is limited to experience, our powers of observation are ever increasing and expanding and that the constant reaching for the next horizon continually provides us with a little more of the puzzle.

My spiritual journey, therefore, is one of hopeful skepticism, a journey described in great detail in the works of Carl Sagan. Although many would have called him an atheist I think it more accurate to simply call him a skeptic; a man unafraid to play devil's advocate to the theories of believers, no matter the belief, and apply skeptical scrutiny to the process by which they reach their beliefs.

Although skeptic isn't a pretty label it applies better than the alternatives. I could call myself a Saganist but I'm not sure he would approve.

Regardless of what label or names I am called I am determined to keep caring about what it means to believe in something greater than oneself and to keep searching for an organism or organization worth believing in.

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