Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Atheism, Agnosticism,Theism & Mormonism

I see atheism and agnosticism as diametrically opposed to each other or exactly the same thing, depending on the type of agnosticism one practices.

I see "pure" atheism as the assertion that God does not exist and that those who believe in God are wrong. Pure atheism is a religion in every meaningful way. I see "pure" agnosticism as the assertion that we can't know whether or not God exists, so it is up to us to live whatever moral or societal code we believe best matches what God would want if He does exist or what would be best for us individually and collectively if He does not exist - which generally respects religious conviction as good even if the central claim of knowledge of God's existence is assumed to be false, as long as the practical results of that conviction are good. On the other hand, I see "distorted" agnosticism as the assertion that any claim to know of God's existence is destructive and delusional and should be educated out of the ignorant believers and replaced with uncertainty. In other words, it's OK to believe in God as long as you don't claim to know that God exists. That stance, in practice, is just atheism's more attractive twin.

Pure atheism and distorted agnosticism share the same missionary focus at heart as most forms of theism. Pure agnosticism does not share this focus, as its central core is that all must work out their own understanding, as the pure agnostic only can be sure of his or her own perspective. In other words, agnosticism is personal and focused on the individual; atheism and theism are collective and focused on spreading "the truth".

The interesting category to me are those religions, like Mormonism, that are a mixture of a deeply personal theism that includes actively sharing that theism with others and yet, ultimately, agnostic in the practical application of individual accountability - teaching that those who believe differently but act in dedicated accordance with their sincere beliefs have just as much chance for every "reward" received by those who believe the "Truth". Mormonism is SO much more complex than any other Christian religion I have studied (and I have studied them all of any significant size) that I am blown away by its origins and evolution.

As a religion, atheism is easy and simple and immature. It is the couch critic who inherited money, never had to work and looks down on everyone who struggles to understand their life's meaning amid pain and suffering. In that sense, atheism is meaningless at the purely personal level. Agnosticism, on the other hand, is deeply meaningful at the individual level.

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