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The Agnostic Advantage

by @ 10:29 pm
Filed under: religion

The other day I was browsing through Amazon's bestseller books page when I came upon the book, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins is the famed British scientist who authored the controversial book, The Selfish Gene, back in 1976. These days he is better known as a vocal atheist and an equal opportunity denouncer of religion and theology.

The subjects of God and religion have become hot topics these days, perhaps more pronounced than the decades past. Each side has dug in its heels and are duking it out on the public arena. The battle between evolution and intelligent design is only one front on that war. Each side is engaged in a struggle to win as many converts as they can and usher more people into their camps. Having a strongly neutral position, I decided to engage in a bit of research and listen to what each side had to offer.

In the end it became obvious that what each side seems to be targeting is the agnostic. Agnostics offer a tempting target to both atheists and the religious because of their openness, tolerance, and their willingness to listen. They are fertile ground to those who want to persuade them to join their cause against the other side.

Neither religion-oriented nor atheists, they are the Switzerland of the war waging between atheism and religion. I suspect another major reason behind targeting this group is that most people, whether they admit or not, are agnostics in nature. They might label themselves atheists, but still struggle with the 'what if' question, as in what if there exists a supreme being who has had a hand in orchestrating everything around us? Or what if science does prove the existence of God some day? On the other side, many religious people are disillusioned with the current world affairs and wonder if there were a God, would he have allowed the state of world to be in such dire condition? Religion hasn't scored many positive points lately. From terrorism to church scandals, religion's image, as an institution, has been considerably damaged, disillusioning many believers.

Each side of this battle has a treasure trove of arsenals in the forms of theories, testimonials, and evidence (however tenuous) to support its position. They are all compelling points of argument, but when you clear the haze, the crux of both arguments rests on a rather simple, yet fundamental, unknown; the origin of the universe. The religious camp argues that the universe could not have come to existence by chance. That it would have needed a designer or a creator, as everything else does. Even if you trace the origin of the universe to the big bang, someone had to be there to spark that original event and place all matters in their current forms. Atheists, while admitting lack of knowledge on the pre-bang conditions (at least for the time being), counter that time and evolution are responsible for the current nature of the universe. Besides, if everything must have a creator, they respond, then God must have had a creator as well. Following the same argument, his creator must have its own creator. This leads to an endlessly vicious circular reference whose final answer is as clear as the exact value of Pi.

Obviously the old age debate will not be resolved any time soon, if ever. Which is why many have decided (consciously or otherwise) to remain agnostics. They see value in both sides' arguments, but they also see plenty of inconsistencies and contradictions. Fence-sitting has its privileges. You can believe in God, but also believe in evolution. You can believe in having a good moral character without believing in heaven or hell. You can believe in science without believing that it can or will ever answer everything about the universe. Yes, sometimes it's troubling to subscribe to two contradictory views, especially when those views within themselves are contradictory. But given the belief choices available today, why not sample all the good parts? After all, we live in the age of iced-coffee, kosher ham, and veggie burgers. Why not religious ambiguity?
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