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Saturday, November 27, 2004

Why I feel good about being agnostic

In the past, when having discussions about faith, and I have said that I had no belief in anything supernatural, or "spiritual" as it is often called, someone told me that they felt sad for me that this world was all I believed in, that I was missing out on something greater. I've never felt that I was missing out on anything.

As far as I can tell, most people "believe" whatever it was their parents believed, because that's what they were taught to believe. Can a belief truly be called a belief if it was dictated to you? Others shift from belief to belief, looking for something that fits their world-view better. How mercurial belief can be: just because you don't like what a belief system implies means that you no longer believe it?

How much better and saner it seems to me to not have a belief system at all. To just believe the evidence of our senses and what reason and logic can tell us about the world. But what then of the "greater meaning"? How are we to make sense of the senselessness? To give meaning to the meaningless?
You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here...

I don't have to know an answer.
I don't feel frightened by not knowing things,
by being lost in a mysterious universe
without any purpose,
which is the way it really is
as far as I can tell.
It doesn't frighten me.

Richard Feynman, 1981


  • I agree. I've never understood why people say that they couldn't live with the questions, "What happens when we die?" or "Why are we here?" Personally, I don't feel any need to know that.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:20 PM  

  • That's one of my favorite Feynman quotes, David.
    Interesting post. I made reference to it today.

    By Blogger Jude Nagurney Camwell, at 11:41 AM  

  • I think most Christians conflate rejecting mysticism with having no values- period. Christianity assumes it has the monopoly on virtue. I find that offensive.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:39 PM  

  • Many Xians do indeed seem to think that to those without an ultimate supernatural "authority", everything is permissible and the individual becomes the god. What a simplistic straw-man for them to attack, when the reality is that the source of morals and ethics for non-believers is often very complex, far more complex than "do it (or don't do it) because god said so".

    By Blogger David, at 8:45 PM  

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