One who professes ignorance, or denies that we have any knowledge, save of phenomena; one who supports agnosticism, neither affirming nor denying the existence of a personal Deity, a future life, etc.
As a self proclaimed Agnostic, I'm almost offended by this definition. I claim no ignorance of other religions, and in fact seek out knowledge of other religions. While I'm not quite into Comparative Religion as much as one of my other Agnostic friends, I do have a basic understanding of most popular religions and am interested in learning about what else is out there.
I used to consider myself an Atheist, until I really came to understand the term and what it meant. Saying I'm an Atheist, as I understand the term, basically means I believe in nothing. That I live and then I die, and there is nothing else.
I changed my label when I was in college. I attended a Presbyterian school, one that made you go to church once a week and made you take a religion course in order to get your degree. I considered this a test of my beliefs. If I really believed what I said I did, then nothing would change. If I was only one of those people that did the popular thing..then I would probably change my tune as it would be popular to go with Christianity in this setting. It certainly would have been easier. I had people try to convert me..mostly peers but once an R.A. actually tried to force me to a Christian Revival. Things were thrown my way like "If you don't believe in God then why did you see Prince of Egypt?" The spokeman in this case offended that I attended a viewing of a cartoon about Moses. I looked at her and replied, "Well why did you go see Hercules? You aren't Greek are you?" The idea that I can't enjoy a religious movie because I am not that religion is absurd, and frankly gives me a bad view of religious people.
Then there were the problems with professors. The religion teacher, an ancient Reverand who moved about two inches per minute, gave out grades according to what religion you were, if you smoked and if you lived by the ocean or not. I was lucky in that although I didn't live by the ocean or smoke..he never asked me my religion and he liked that I had a German heritage. He would speak a few German words, I would respond and my "B" was secure. Very little religion was actually taught in this class.
One day I heard the term Agnostic and cocked my head to the side. What is that? I had heard it before, but had always assumed it was another sect of Christianity. So I asked around and learned that an Agnostic is someone who doesn't believe in a God, but does have some form of belief system. Aaaaaaaaah, at last something that sounded like me.
My personal belief was developed over the years, and through learning of other religions. I thought..well they can't all be wrong? Someone has to be right, but who? Then it hit me when I heard something in some movie somewhere. A religious person (Christian I believe in the movie) said something along the lines of: "God" doesn't care what house you pray in, as long as you pray. Well, if "God" doesn't care if you're Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Wiccan, or whatever..then why should we? That's when my brain began to turn and I settled on something that I haven't veered from in many years. I think everyone is right. If you believe when you die you'll go to a Christian heaven..then you will. If you believe you'll be in a land of a thousand virgins..then you probably will. I personally believe in reincarnation. I don't name a higher deity and I don't pray to anything.
The thing about religion that I think so many people forget, is that it is all about faith. People get so wound up in proving the facts and science of religions they overlook its basic component. If you could prove there was a higher being out there, would you pray to it? Likely in our society we'd blast it out of the sky as part of some alien invasion. And would it be religion at all anymore, or would it be some new form of life to document in a science book and study? Religion is there to comfort you, it's there to help you through the rough spots and give you hope about your future. People that don't believe in anything, Athiests, are likely less comforted by the thought there might be some higher power out there controlling their lives. They find more comfort in what can be proven, they need to know for sure what's going to happen.
I've been told I'm choosing the easy way out. I've been asked what was so awful that I stopped believing in "God". I've been told I'm going to Hell, and that my soul is damned for eternity. To those that say these things I smile and reply:
- Picking a religion isn't easy; saying to you that I think you're right, but I also think I'm right isn't easy either. I could just say that I believe what you believe, that would be the easiest thing to do. In fact, that's what most people do. They decide their parent's are right and never challenge themselves.
- Nothing horrible happened. I never believed in a god. I sat in church and thought what a neat story, I wish I could travel in time and meet this Jesus character. I just couldn't pray, couldn't believe that when I died I went somewhere and rested or burned. I prefer to imagine that we are all made of souls that are thousands of years old, and that we are reborn to experience different things each life and learn something new. And besides, how can I go along with Christianity which claims the "one god" theory when clearly Jesus was a demi-god as he was the son of a god, kind of like Hercules really, and so the whole "one god" theory becomes questionable.
- And, I don't believe in Hell, so my soul is going to be just fine thanks.
I think Bertrand Russell's definition is a little more clear and closer to the truth: An agnostic thinks it impossible to know the truth in matters such as God and the future life with which Christianity and other religions are concerned. Or, if not impossible, at least impossible at the present time.
Bertrand Russell Definition: http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/humftp/E-text/Russell/agnostic.htm