THERE WAS a time in my life when I labeled myself an agnostic. Never an atheist; indeed, even when I was calling myself agnostic I was really more in the deist camp. I certainly wanted to believe there was meaning to my existence.
Agnostics are really sort of half-empty glass sort of people, being somewhat focused on what we don't know rather than what we do. I guess atheists say the glass is completely empty! But I came to realize that we do know things. The glass actually is half-full.
Or at least there's a little something in the bottom to slake our thirst. The universe, God, 'everything' is far from being completely knowable but we do have glimpses of what is. We can understand in part. That makes it no less true.
The problems arise when we claim to know it all, when we become dogmatic.
What we seek, after all -- or what I seek, I should perhaps say -- is meaning, purpose. Belief in an afterlife, in heavenly rewards, is all well and good but I maintain that it does not matter. Choosing to do what is right, to act as though life has purpose, is the thing. It is the true reward.
And what is the meaning of existence, o wise one?
Existence does not have meaning: it is meaning. It is purpose where there was none. I believe in being. That is why I am no agnostic.
So, I'm back to the Catholic Church these days. For quite some time, actually, as I always appreciated the mysticism implicit in Catholic doctrine and liturgy and recognize that we are, moreover, social creatures and naturally organize things -- religion included. I certainly don't buy every dogma; I reckon I'm pretty much the heretic but they don't burn us anymore so that's okay. Religion is ultimately metaphor and the Romans have a pretty good handle on that concept.
Stephen Brooke ©2010