Posted by: Andrew G | December 18, 2009

Everything in its Place, Everything for its Purpose

I am an agnostic; I do not pretend to know what many ignorant men are sure of.
– Clarence Darrow

In temperament and sense, this explains where I stand. I do not know much of Clarence Darrow, but from what I have read, I am impressed that he’s willing to admit to ignorance. At least where it is due. He had a good idea on the limits of our understanding of things, the limits of our knowledge, and the mistakes of our beliefs.

For  a deeper explanation of his agnosticism, go here.

Belief does have a role to play, just as knowledge and reason have their roles to play. But they cannot be used interchangeably and they cannot be used to trump one another. My personal opinions on things like this will likely distance myself from many Christians and many supposed orthodox lines of churches. Which is fine, really. I’m quite happy to be not associated with certain religious groups and their thoughts on these things. I’m much more interested in orthopraxy. There is a great story about orthopraxy vs orthodoxy at the Lone Tomato blog. I haven’t yet asked him why it’s called the Lone Tomato. Maybe soon enough.

Here’s a quote that sums things up well:

“the debate between theism and atheism is a luxury we can’t afford right now. There are far more concrete problems in the world that need our attention, our money, our intellect, and our creativity.”

Halleluja!!!

I might not describe it as a luxury. Instead, I would say it is a ridiculous joke carried on by  folks with confused priorities. If anything, this idea made clear for me one of the goals of this blog and website. I want to tear away the barriers that have been put up around belief and reason so that people can get to the heart of what is really important — good action.

Here’s a little story. When I was young I felt fairly good about being Christian. I knew little else. All my first impressions of the world were based on the big building that we lived next to. But as I grew older I became more aware of things. I became more aware of how people saw me. And at some point probably between 10 and 13 or so I realized that people acted differently around me once they knew my father was a minister, or if I mentioned that I was going to church on Sunday. There were judgments going on! Friends would look at me just an extra second or so as if to figure me out. When I was in High School I was even asked flat out if I was going to try to convert people.

I was shocked. It was something completely foreign to me. I had no idea that Christianity and conversion were so closely linked! Seriously. I had never seen my parents go on a conversion mission, or pray hard for the heathens next door. Instead I saw them talk and share tomatoes and beans out of the garden with the neighbours. I watched my parents study the Bible (religiously, of course!) but there were other books piled with the Bible. The the most important two words that seemed to come from my parents weren’t “Jesus!” and “Believe!” Nope. The two most important words were “Love” and “serve”.

Only then in my teens did I begin to realize there were a lot of different Christians out there. And I didn’t really want to be associated with many of them. Our beliefs were so strange from one another that I couldn’t see any common ground, even if there was supposedly a common root of this Jewish carpenter/teacher from two thousand years ago.

I distanced myself from the church. I think my parents were disappointed. But they still loved, and still served. Really, I just didn’t want to wear the label of Christian any more. That word in the minds of others wasn’t bringing up the same idea of what I had been brought up with. It was like being brought up with a language only to find others were using the same language but with completely different meanings behind the words. Which means it’s an entirely different language, right? I was a foreigner to my own language of ideas and understandings.

But I still wanted to be a good person. Call it a conscience, or whatever it was that my parents packed into me as a child. I still felt a responsibility to do good in the world. And interestingly enough, those two words were still terribly important in my thoughts — Love and serve. Both are action words. But now, instead of working in the name of Jesus or God or whatever reward I may or may not get in some unprovable afterlife, I wanted to do good for others because it was the necessary thing to do. No more good for the glory of anything, please. Just the good-in-itself, thank you. So even now I cannot wear the Christian badge. It’s more important to be a good person that loves and serves than it is to be a good Christian that believes.

I went to university for philosophy and literature. I tried to learn the ways of the thought, the ways of the word. I certainly don’t think I collected all the answers from that education, but I did gain an understanding of the role of belief in our thinking, the role of reason in our studies, the steps of logic in finding understanding in arguments, and the nature of words like knowledge, truth, revelation, observation and testing. And I certainly learned of our limitations. This is what I hope to bring to the world in order to generate some good actions.

I’d rather just be funny, mind you. It’s going to be a tall order to entertain people and get people to think. I may not be up to the task. I will be needing a lot of help from a lot of people. If you feel a tap on your shoulder, please be kind. I’m only trying to make the world better, I swear.

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