Agnosticism? Or Procrastination?
Faith, doubt and disbelief require a lifetime of reflection
The image of athiests as cranky old men calling religious people idiots developed from the cranky old atheists (including Richards Dawkins and Bill Maher) who call people of faith idiots. For the most part I admire Maher—who can’t decide if he’s liberal or libertarian—but he has this huge blind spot about religion that causes him to turn into a cranky old atheist when the subject arises.
Too many of the atheists I am friends with, God is irrelevant more than non-existent. He might as well not exist, so I might as well believe he doesn't.
The American tradition of free thinking owes much to atheists (and Unitarians) who promoted the ideals of critical though. They were as popular as evangelists in the nineteenth century. Chautauquas, where they spoke, drew large crowds.
On the other hand, we have the cranky firebrands of the Christian Right who call people of doubt unAmerican. They stand in stark contrast to the millions of faithful (notice I’m not restricting faith to Christianity) who express devotion quietly and try to bring peace and justice to the planet. To acknowledge people of real faith is not to deny that many people who cling to religion are idiots.
You shouldn’t blame faith or atheism for the idiots who embrace them any more than you should blame the tornado for the idiot who steps into its path to see if it’s really that bad.
I’m Christian, but I believe nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God. Faith is built from doubt. Faith is empirical. I believe there is a God because my experiences lead me to believe so. To equate that belief with scientific or philosophical certainty is hubris. To demand that others trust my experience over theirs is, quite frankly, unchristian. This is why I supported O’Hares and others efforts to stop forcing Americans to participate in public rituals invoking the diety of any religion. I would no more want my children and granchildren to be forced to join a prayer to a God they disavow than for them to be forced to pledge allegiance to a political party.
I understand why people embrace atheism and that many do so with good reason and good intent.
Contrary to the accusations of cranky old atheists, I’m a thinker. (My Meyer-Briggs assessment labeled me INThinkingP). So Ernest is wrong, even though I love much of his writing. Not all thinkers are atheists. Nor are agnostics. However, I suspect many agnostics chose to call themselves agnostics rather than confront the troubling questions raised when we seriously think about God.