Wednesday, 29 October, 2003

Religion (continued)

(Continuing yesterday's topic)

I approached my study of religion perhaps a little bit too logically.  After giving the Bible a quick read I attacked the religion section of the school library.  There is an astonishingly huge number of religious beliefs out there.  I read through many of them, perused a few others, and finally gave up.  I was looking for logic and all I found was superstition and bizarre rituals.  The best piece of information I came across during that study was Pascal's Wager which, simply put, says (and here I'll use Jeff Duntemann's words from last May, because he summarizes it much better than I could have): Absent any rational proof of God's existence, it makes sense to live as though God is really out there.  That's a strikingly clear piece of logic for Pascal's time when the only known religions of consequence were Catholicism and Judaism.  But given the plethora of "mainstream" religions these days it suffers from a serious flaw.  Bowing to the logic of living as though God exists, what kind of life should I lead?  To what belief structure must I subscribe in order to be well received in the afterlife, assuming that one exists?  Worse than having no answer, the question has way too many answers that cover quite a range of behaviors.  Faced with a question that appears to have no answer, I did the only logical thing.  I gave up trying to find the answer.

In his May 26 entry, Jeff says:

If God does exist, what would He want of us? Some people who embrace Pascal's Wager profess faith in Jesus Christ to meet the wager (though I wonder if this could be considered genuine faith) while others simply pursue a life of gentleness, generosity, and love...and figure that any God who matches the template will be content with that.

That "life of gentleness, generosity, and love" is how I decided to live my life, but not out of concern with what might happen to me after I die, but because the people who live that kind of life are those whose company I value most.  The existence or not of God was and remains irrelevant in that regard.

I've heard it said that agnosticism is intellectual cowardice.  I ran across a quote one time, attributed to a religious figure, who said he had more respect for atheists than for agnostics because at least the atheist believed in something.  I've never understood that position.  That the existence of God is and has been such a hotly debated issue over the centuries means to me that there is no generally accepted observable evidence either way.  Belief or non-belief requires a leap of faith that has no rational basis.  Based purely on observable evidence, agnosticism is the only rational position.  My honest answer when pushed (and somebody would have to push hard) is that I don't have enough information to make the determination.