The running gag behind agnosticism is that agnostics are indecisive and afraid to take a stance on anything. It’s not usually said with sincerity, and compared to other belief biases it is extremely tame. Nonetheless, who doesn’t benefit from a bit of clarity?
I identified as an agnostic for nearly ten years, and in that time I met many others who also identified as such. From my experiences and conversations with others I maintain that agnosticism is not about not knowing; it is simply not caring.
As I grew older and slightly more enlightened I slowly came to realize this, and at that point it was easy to let go of the anger that I had as a teenage atheist. Maybe there is a god, maybe there isn’t. Some people worship one, some don’t. Eventually my life became so busy that I didn’t have time to think about it and I just stopped worrying. Regardless if religion is right or wrong, I decided to conduct my life the way I saw fit and allow others to do the same, and I have met several agnostics who share this conviction.
I say it’s not a matter of not knowing because most agnostics will tell you they lean towards atheism, but they identify as agnostic so as to avoid coming off as pushy or asserting a higher power doesn’t exist. For my own part, I firmly disbelieved in any traditional concept of a higher power. When I acknowledge that there might be one my idea is more of an alien species that started life on earth by injecting some DNA into the primordial ooze that once covered this rock.
Mind you, I do not believe this is how homo-sapiens were born, I simply acknowledge it as a possibility (however microscopic), and to my sensibilities a more plausible one than a single omniscient entity. Whether this is true or not, and it’s probably not, I do not care. I do still identify with agnosticism in that apathetic sense. It’s not about proving who’s right or wrong, it’s just maintaining a belief within but not letting it overwhelm your sensibilities as a definite world truth, and therein lays the true importance of agnosticism.
Without a firm, unchanging view of reality it is much easier to adapt to new information. Why did so many protest the idea that Earth wasn’t the center of the universe? Why did so many Christians fight evolution? Because it forced a major shift in their perception of reality.
“The church can’t be wrong, the bible can’t be inaccurate- it’s the basis for how I’ve conducted my life! If it’s wrong, then my very personality is based on a lie! No, science is wrong! Evidence is wrong! You laud theories as facts. God is all knowing, and damn you for claiming otherwise and trying to throw society into chaos!”
One statement remains true in that hypothetical and exaggerated line of overly zealous religious ranting, those ideas did throw society into chaos. But the fault did not rest with the scientists making new discoveries- it was with the people who allowed their world view to be too hardened.
I do not speak atop a mountain peak, chastising all the “fools” who act this way, as I too am guilty of the crime, as you might be in a manner you don’t yet realize.
My personal hump in world view has to do with transgender individuals. I hold nothing against them nor do I not condemn them for their desires. I don’t understand it, and a part of me feels we are meant to play the hands we are dealt, but I cannot begin to pretend I understand the turmoil that rages in their head over identity crisis so I keep my personal feelings silent. It is an issue beyond me, and I will not pass judgment.
The true conflict, for my part, comes with engaging in a… romantic or physical relationship with a person who has transitioned gender. I simply could never make myself do it. Maybe many of you feel the same way, and might say there is nothing wrong with that line of thinking, but as I said to a friend of mine the other day I could imagine a couple of generations down the road saying “Who cares what gender what they were before if they’re a man/woman now?” as the fight over transgender rights reaches new heights, which I predict to be the next civil rights movement after our homosexual hump.
My perception of reality cannot handle loving a woman who used to be a man, at least on my own behalf. If I were to ever engage in something physical with a transgender person without knowledge until after the fact I feel certain I would have some serious mental scarring. This attitude may be wrong or narrow minded, but I simply cannot grow past it. If other people can, well, more power to them. I respect you for it.
In this way, however alien it may seem to my original example of people not accepting science because of their religion, I can slightly understand their feelings, though mine is not based in religion. It is hard to shift perception, but it is an important step for our species so we can evolve into one without bias and prejudice, or at least less of those vices.
Ah, I’ve really strayed from my topic of agnosticism here, but I feel I can tie it back in. Agnosticism is the philosophy of nonchalance. It allows you to accept the differences of others easier and without worry. It is not an automatic trigger, and it takes effort on those who wish to adopt it, but once you realize the goal it becomes a lot easier and once I did I realized how ridiculous it was to argue with people over religion just for the sake of arguing. Though I no longer identify as agnostic, I still keep these values with me.
Let us simply stop caring who believes what. So as long as they do not try to use their religious biases to restrict society I have no problem with them carrying on as they do.