The Way of AgnosticismPosted: February 6, 2014
One of the only posts I wrote for a now-defunct blog was titled Catholic No More. I’d struggled with my faith for a few years, and that post was where I had reached my breaking point. I was ready to say “no more” and make a conscious break. The prompting for that break was primarily negative. Flaws I saw in the Church. Flaws in my own relationship with it.
Everything about the decision was negative, ontologically speaking. I didn’t yet have anything positive to replace it with. Explaining my (negative) position has been almost entirely counterproductive. Explaining my reasoning has been taken as an attack on what I am leaving behind. That’s why I feel peace at having something positive welling up inside of me. The negative label can die.
I hate labels. I refuse to label my political beliefs. I hesitate to label my spiritual beliefs, such as they are. But I recognize that words, while imperfect containers of meaning, function to convey understanding. For lack of a better term, I will say that – in a positive sense – I have laid claim to being agnostic. By ‘positive sense’ I mean that I identify as agnostic, instead of as a fallen-away Catholic.
Words are imperfect. Let me unpack what I mean by agnostic. I believe there is something more than reductive materialism. Magic, belief, transcendent pursuits such as art and meditation – all of these have an innate appeal to humanity. Evolutionary psychology can have powerful explanations for the source of this appeal, but full-blown atheism is a barren wasteland which holds no appeal to me.
So, what are my beliefs? They can’t be identified with a single tradition. The closest would be the core of Taoism, that all Ways lead to the Way. Human beings are called to the following:
- Care of nature as the apex predator and only self-aware creature in the world
- Transcending the circumstances of our animal birth. Striving to improve in all things, a sprout reaching for the sky.
- Harmonizing with those around us. Living with as little negative and as much positive impact as possible.
- Accepting that the past and immediate present is unchangeable. We can only influence the future. At each and every moment, presented with the rigid fatalism of the NOW, we ask ourselves: what is the best thing to do NEXT.
I will permit myself a last shotgun blast of labels, trusting the reader to understand that the admixture of these is something I am still working out: Taoism, Zen Buddhism, Stoicism, and Transhumanism.
Ritual, institution, and authority are rife with the imperfections of humanity. Religion, historically, has been more of a political tool than a true aid to human transcendence. This is not to attack it. All Ways lead to the Way. For many, many people it is the right course.
I am convinced in a manner that I haven’t been convinced until now that is is not my Way.