The Great Unknown: Agnostics Leave Questions Unanswered

By By Jennifer Mitchell

By Jennifer Mitchell

Passers-by jolt their heads in Pax Rasmussen?s direction every time he speaks the word “agnosticism.?

Some of them even walk up to join the conversation?puzzled about what he doesn?t see in organized religion. Some are just interested in what an agnostic has to say.

Agnostics, perhaps contrary to public opinion, have plenty to say. Being agnostic means far more than throwing your hands in the air and saying, “I don?t know.”

According to many who claim the title, true agnosticism is a strong belief system that is both moral and spiritual. While they do not center their beliefs on any “God,” agnostics do not deny the fact that God exists.

Rasmussen, an agnostic student and former president of the Student Discordian Society, feels that agnostics are often misunderstood.

“I don?t deny the possibility of God. I just believe that you can?t know anything, let alone God,? he explained.

Deen Chatterjee, a professor of philosophy at the U, is the faculty adviser to the campus? Freethought Society, a group for under-represented student freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, humanists and open-minded believers.

While he considers himself to be a radical humanist, Chatterjee sympathizes with the agnostic point of view. Agnosticism, he says, is, ?The idea that because one cannot prove God?s existence, one should live with it as an open question.”

Chatterjee explains this “suspended judgement,” as he calls it, using the metaphor of a closed door. A man may or may not be standing behind the door.

Since they cannot be sure either way, agnostics wouldn?t assert that the man is or isn?t there. Therefore, their belief system is not contingent on what they cannot know.

John Krenkel, an agnostic who currently teaches history at Park City High School, is a former American Baptist who graduated from Duke University with a degree in world religion.

“The more I learned about religion,” he said, “the less I know about the metaphilosophical. If I had one answer, I?d be a happy man.”

Easy answers are not acceptable to the agnostic, who would say that one should not take a stand on an unknowable issue. Chatterjee says that agnostics therefore feel, “intellectually honest and responsible.”

Along those same lines, Chatterjee asks why faith has to lie in the “supernatural” when there is “abundant reason to have faith in the world around us. There is robust, healthy, rewarding faith in friendship, love, family, human triumph. Why not bring spirituality to the human realm?”

Faith is one of three aspects of agnosticism that Chatterjee mentioned. Agnostics are highly spiritual, deriving their spirituality from “human experience.”

By emphasizing non conformity, agnostics celebrate the individual spirit in a way they find “more rewarding,” Chatterjee said.

Rasmussen considers himself to be a highly spiritual person.

“To say you can?t be spiritual without a firm belief in God closes so many doors,” he said. ?I have had intense spiritual, non-sensory experiences.”

Krenkel agreed, saying, “Just because I don?t know anything about the truth out there doesn?t mean that I don?t have a sense of soul. There are parts of my psyche that I can?t explain in logic?which becomes spirituality.”

“Religion obscures spirituality,” Rasmussen said. “I take it beyond God, to my very being.”

Morality, agnostics also believe, can easily be defined without a concrete belief in God. They look to a more universal, human basis of right and wrong in order to be more objective.

“When morality is based on dogma, whose God?s morality should we follow?” Chatterjee asked.

Krenkel added to this point, saying, “I suspect that people who say that their morality is based on God have underlying notions of right and wrong that their morality is really based on.”

Many people argue that since religion can be a source of comfort and give life meaning, then why not believe in God?just in case?

“I figure that if there is a God and he is anything like he is supposed to be, he would know I am lying,” Krenkel said.

Rasmussen admits to thinking a lot about the supernatural, but still he remains agnostic.

?It works for other people, but it doesn?t work for me,” he explained.

Those who have a belief in God, Krenkel said, “have it easy.?

?Either way, I am screwed,? he continued. ?If they are right, they will all get to laugh at me down in hell; if I am right, they will believe their last breath never knowing, and I?ll never have my chance to laugh at them.”

And if God accepts him as an “undecided” believer anyway?

“Then they?ll be really pissed,” he said.

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