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Call it Agnosticism, If You Like — All I Know Is That It’s Wonderful

Disclaimer: I think it’s important to note that I use the proper noun “God” in reference to the preexisting, visualized God of various world religions, and the improper noun “god” in reference to the conceptualized supreme essence or being.

If the Catholics are right, I’m going to hell. I’ve managed to party my way through all seven Deadly Sins before the ripe age of 20. I’m greedy, lustful, envious, wrathful, gluttonous, prideful and slothful, usually in the course of one afternoon. I’ve made an art out of profanity. I’ve been dishonest to my friends and manipulative of my loved ones. When my laptop broke in 9th grade, I formally renounced God. If I haven’t made it onto St. Peter’s blacklist by now, the old fuck’s either blind or dumber than a bag of rocks.

Luckily, the Catholics aren’t right. Neither are the Protestants, the Muslims, the Mormons, the Jews or any other group that claims a direct relationship with God. The same goes for the atheists, the deists and the generally pessimistic who attest in some way to the absence of a god. I know, I know — I’m not making many friends here. But before you break out the psalms and holy water, let me explain.

Think of god as the contents in a safe. Because we’re being hypothetical, let’s make this safe the size of the Rockefeller Center in New York City. We don’t know what’s in it, and we don’t know the combination either. All we know is that it’s there, and that there’s a defined amount of space inside it.

What’s in the safe? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe it’s an anthill, a supermarket, a Boeing 747. It could be a museum of Renaissance art from 1400 – 1500, or a museum of Renaissance art from 1500 – 1600. It could be a three-ringed circus or a single, lonely clown. The possibilities are practically limitless, save for the one restricting variable of size (It can’t be Cuba or 10,000 humpback whales).

Now consider the size of the entire universe. I’m not just talking about the stars and planets we can view from Earth; I’m including the innumerable light years of space and time beyond our ability to see or comprehend. It is this vault of nearly infinite scope and size — not one with limited size like the Rockefeller Center — that we’re up against when it comes to discerning a god.

This complicates things. How can we be certain of the existence of divinity in a universe that is mostly unknowable to us? By the same token, how can we be certain that there is no creative force, no supreme entity controlling the inner workings of life and existence? Whether it’s God, Jehovah, Allah, Vishnu, Dr. Seuss or nothing at all, it’s just one possibility amongst trillions and trillions, and its likelihood is therefore incredibly low.

That’s why I can say with so much confidence that there is no “God,” at least as we have come to understand the word in all its various social and cultural forms. There may very well be something that is omnipotent or divine, but the odds of it being a sagely bearded, muscular Caucasian male — or a human at all for that matter — are about as good as this article pissing nobody off. It is far more likely that the notion of god is impossible for us to comprehend, as remote and intangible to our primitive intellects as the theory of relativity would be to an ant’s.

Of course, all of this speculation is accounted for by the religious prophets, who proved the existence of God through numerous and “documented” miracles. But let’s not get carried away. While it is impossible for us to know what exists in the most remote and weird corners of the universe, we have a pretty good idea of what’s going on here. Snakes don’t talk, and they never have. Humans evolved from primates long after the extinction of the dinosaurs. Men cannot walk on water, part water, or turn water into wine. And once you’re dead, you stay that way.

This runs contrary to many people’s beliefs, and will not be received without criticism. But I believe it is both irresponsible and dangerous to call red “blue,” three “four” or up “down.” It is one thing to look with curiosity to the night sky and imagine all the things that could be; it is another thing entirely to look into the past and, with complete disregard for empirical proof, rewrite what already was.

This kind of ambiguity would never be acceptable in our politics, yet it remains both acceptable and sanctioned by religion. It is permissible and even encouraged in our society to question what people think, but entirely taboo to question what they believe.

I am asking you now to question what you believe.

This is not the barren, cold-hearted manifesto of an unbeliever. It is not a renouncement of god, an ode to nihilism or a treatise in the name of nothingness. It is an appeal to our remarkable capacity for wonder. It is a reminder of our ability to understand, and at the same time rejoice in, our ignorance of a universe vaster and more spectacular than we will ever know.

Some questions are unanswerable. Some things are unknowable. But without these things, what would become of our fantasies, our passions, our apprehensions? Without doubt, we would lack what makes us truly human.

It is doubt, and not faith, that will save your soul.

Mark Strong is the contemporary Doubting Thomas.

Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.

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Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB.
Opinions are submitted primarily by students.


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3 Responses to Call it Agnosticism, If You Like — All I Know Is That It’s Wonderful

  1. davidT

    January 24, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Oh sweet Alma mater you were the goodness of fertility of the field.

    Over time you became the virgin mother of our man god in a Book! What a magical vagina you most do have.

    Then you became the nourishing mother of studies and your magical vagina gave glorious birth to Monsanto and so many more!!

    All your lovely children spread all about out to control that evil bitch mother nature and put her under your thumb.

    Oh Alma mater you seem a bit confused. You started as mother nature and now look at what you do….

    Don’t be fooled kids the first modern Alma mater is the university of Bologna started by geeky book kult that clearly is confused called the Catholic church. Every year the pope watches the football champion because no matter what team Notre dame is always always the winner!! The notre dame of Alabama won this year!!! The worlds most famous atheist teaches at St Marys. Pope wins again!!!
    The big bang theory a french priest pope wins again.
    Evolutionary genetics a benidict monk pope wins again!!!

    Oh the Alma mater a book kult most complete…

  2. Patrick Allen

    January 24, 2013 at 8:30 am

    I have been a Christian since I was a child. To many, that means, automatically, that I must be quite convinced that my world view is the correct one beyond question. There are many who cannot conceived of one such as I being able to genuinely look at my beliefs objectively and to be truly open to the possibility of it’s being wrong.
    When in fact, I have been a questioner all of my life.

    My views of one aspect of Christianity or another have been modified more times than I can remember, though in all my questioning, one thing has always remained there for me. I have never doubted the existence of a loving, holy, perfect, infinite, absolute God. Yes, I have questioned that, too, but as yet I have not found a rational basis for believing that He does not exist.
    This, of course, makes me ignorant, dumb, “an idiot”, blind . . . one could go on and on with the attachments that those who subscribe to a purely naturalistic system would fix to me and my beliefs. They are the enlightened ones. They see things as they truly are, not as they would wish them to be. Or do they?
    I ask, are they so very different from what they perceive me to be?

    First, they are convinced of their rightness. Some I have talked to tell me that they do not have a worldview. They do not have beliefs. They have facts, and they don’t need to believe, facts are facts and are there no matter what anyone believes. So since they only believe . . . sorry, HAVE facts, then they must be correct in their, um, whatever it is they have.
    Now they will acknowledge that their understanding of life, the universe, and everything is still progressing, and therefore change is inevitable. Not that this means that they may be wrong about the fundamentals of their belief . . . darn, what they have, it’s just that whatever that is is evolving. Not so much changing as growing, you see.

    Mark Strong writes some very good questions, but there are a few problems with Mark’s approach, which is why his conclusions fall so short. Let me explain. First, he makes that argument that since the universe is so massively big (read, infinite), there must be a correspondingly massively big number of possibilities about what is, and to say that your one, personal viewpoint is the right one MUST be the height of arrogance.

    Sidenote: This, of course, does not apply to the naturalists beli . . . facts.

    Further sidenote: While they will acknowledge that their be . . . understanding . . . is evolving, the one thing they have that is beyond question is their basic naturalistic premise. Nothing exists or can exist for which there is no empirical evidence. There cannot be a realm beyond our ability to measure, to test, to see.
    Of course it is foolish to say that one has no “beliefs” or “worldview”. We all have them. By the way, I am not accusing Mark of saying these things, though he does say other things.

    In regard to his assertion that no one can “know” what is true amongst an infinite number of possibilities (save, perhaps, the naturalists), Mark misses some very important points. First, what is, is. What is true, is true. Truth is true no matter what I believe, or what you believe, or anyone else believes. So, yes, there is a correct view of the universe out there. And if there is a God, as portrayed in the Bible, a loving, caring God who created us and desires to spend eternity with us, and who, in order to make this possible, was

    Willing to sacrifice His son to make it possible

    Willing to sacrifice His life to make it possible

    Then . . . isn’t it reasonable that such a God would want us to be able to understand at least a basic number of truths so that we could enter into relationship with Him and not have that sacrifice be meaningless?
    It would truly be a capricious, mindless, insane God who would put us here and leave us no clue as to how to discern the truth from the myriad of possibilities. It’s just not logical.

    Secondly, god in a safe. At least he doesn’t say “God in a safe”. This would be akin to what Christians do all too often: They put God in a box. They fit God into some preconception that makes Him easier to understand, and therefore easier to accept. The problem is, God cannot be contained. He is truly infinite. You might come up with a safe able to contain the universe before you could come up with one that could contain God. Oh, and suddenly God is not just one small possibility amongst an infinite number of other possibilities. He is infinite. He stands out.
    He’s not that hard to find.

    Third, “with complete disregard for empirical proof”. I really love it when this come out.

    Everyone has a worldview. Every worldview has a foundation: How did the universe begin? How did the universe (the galaxies, the planets and stars, life, flora, fauna, etc.) initially develop? How can we know with any certainty anything? The answers to these questions are the base on which all of our other beliefs rest. These are things we believe, we presuppose, for which NONE of us has any proof. We accept these presuppositions and we build on them.
    Now you can build a very impressive structure without a substantial foundation, but what happens to it? Ultimately, it cannot stand.
    Naturalists have come up with an impressive amount of information and, yes, facts, about life and the reality we see around us. But then they ignore the fact that they have placed this structure of information on a very shaky, insubstantial foundation.

    Consider: the universe (as we know it) began with a “Big Bang”. What would immediately result from such an event? Matter shooting forth in all directions. Chaos.
    Fast forward many billions of years. Now we have galaxies and planets and life and . . . Wait a minute. What does basic scientific observation tell us about chaos? When does chaos, left to itself, tend towards order? Chaos tends to become more chaotic. And for such a chaotic beginning to produce the degree of order we see in the universe around us today, from galaxies to dna, and to believe that could all happen without a controller or designer truly shows less regard for empirical evidence than a belief in God. I see a work of art, I infer that there is an artist.

    Ah but don’t you see, it’s all part of a ‘deterministic’ system. There are natural laws governing these things.” Why are there “natural” laws? Did they just happen to come into existence? Or were they just there all along, waiting for some chaos to come along so they could demonstrate their capabilities? Except, there is no they. What we have done is to create a “god”. A god without intellect. A god without volition. Yet still able to control chaos and turn it into order. May the force be with you.
    Just how is this more rational than a belief in God?
    If there is a God, then it follows that there would be laws governing the formation of the universe. Now it makes sense that those laws would be there.

    “Our scientists have duplicated many of the processes that we believe occurred in the formation of the universe.” Let’s think about that. What have they duplicated? They have shown that these things can happen when there is a controller guiding the process. They have not demonstrated a deterministic universe. They have demonstrated a designed universe.
    It would take far more faith to believe that our universe could have come about without a designer than to believe in God. I don’t have that much faith.

    Now, how are you when it comes to questioning your beliefs?

    Oh, and Doubting Thomas doubted what he saw with his own eyes. I see no evidence of that in you.

  3. davidT

    January 24, 2013 at 8:28 am

    I would take the safe analogy and enlarge it to the visible universe and say its in the shape of an oroborus snake. Both religion and science fully agree on this!!! One says oh perpetual motion like a Chevy 327 the says oh a wizard with a magic wand. Both agree books the intellect is the deepest truth!!! For a book kult religion I find it funny they had no idea what their book meant just 300 years after it was written. What is fertility for petesake.even our university system book kult center grew from this book kult. Mary herself said go fuck the ipad of God you tefillin wearing inbreds. I reject the word of god as primary the truth starts in the body gives rise to books not the other way around you idiots. That rejection became flesh and that became the word. Only to form up a new book kult. There is always a deeper narrative and post literate is difficult to attain in a literate world book kult world spellbound world to say the least. ‘This was kierkegaard was battling. My degree is in Elvish or theology but I was saved I became a carpenter. Fuck white collar they are idiots but run the world.