12 December 2006

Why did you end up agnostic? (Part 1)

I get asked lots about this, so I thought I'd put this one on the table. For some reason, theists and atheists alike can't handle the agnostic point of view.

I don't actually get this myself, because, to me anyway, it's a very easy perspective to grasp.

And, for reasons that I'll explain later, I suspect most people who claim to be atheists are really agnostic anyway.

But I'll get on with it.

My parents brought me up to believe that someone's thoughts on religion or the like were their own business. In other words, you never ask and you certainly don't proselytise.

To this day, I have not the faintest idea whether my parents are even remotely religious - they never made us go to Sunday school, they never went to church. I don't ask, because this little voice in the back of my head reminds me that, "It's none of your business."

My mother's parents never rammed religion down her throat. My father's dad was a Methodist minister who insisted on saying grace before all meals and who never touched a drop of alcohol in his life.

I secretly think my mum is an atheist and my dad is agnostic. But this is me just speculating based on various things they've said over the years. I could be 100% wrong.

Anyway. As a result of all of this, I grew up apatheistic.

Apatheism is another concept that is completely misunderstood by atheists and theists. Wikipedia, for example, considers apatheism to be a subset of atheism. And that is clearly wrong.

Now, apatheism, as I understand it, is where you don't even consider the god(s) question, for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. You don't consider the question to be relevant or important; and/or
  2. You don't even know that such a question exists.

Belief or disbelief doesn't even come into it when the question either is refused to be considered, or doesn't even make it to the interviewee in the first place.

Now this can completely bamboozle your average person. Mainly because most people are prompted at some stage to consider the god(s) question. I was.

But I never directly answered it, as I never believed it to be a question that added value to my life.

Sorry, I never perceived it to add any value. I’ll discuss the “belief” word later.

So I became a happy little apatheist doing my own thing and not really giving a stuff about God, religion, or anything like that.

Oh sure, I was approached by many people along the way to convert me. One of my friends from high school joined a megachurch in the Upper North Shore area of Sydney and managed to get me along to a few shows (services? They always seemed too showy for this word). I went a couple of times out of curiosity, and tried unsuccessfully to pick up one of the girls there.

But after these little fact finding missions – I was the guy with his mouth wide open in the back row as the “congregation” (not sure what you call the parishioners in a megachurch. Not sure if “parishioners” is correct, either) went into the undignified hysteria that is glossolalia – I came out of there with the impression that (a) these guys were nuts and (b) they had no decorum.

So I started at university in Melbourne and continued on as a happy little apatheist.

While I had no ostensible interest in religion, I did have my own thoughts. The overriding ones were that evangelical/charismatic/pentacostal (I’ll call it ECP from now on) Christianity was extremely funny, and traditionalist Christianity was incredibly tedious.

And I continued like that until one day, in about second or third year uni when things changed and I became an agnostic.

And I’ll tell you about that next time.

4 comments:

ted said...

I'd never heard of apatheism before. Thanks...:)

Unfortunately though, I wasn't able to take that path...

Dikkii said...

Not surprised, Ted. It would have been extremely difficult in your case.

Adam said...

I'm looking forward to part two, as I imagine that's where our semantic arguments will begin.

Like Ted, I hadn't heard the term 'apatheist' before, but obviously can't claim to be one. I just think religious encroachments into political, educational and social institutions cause way too many problems to simply ignore. I do agree though, that a person's beliefs are their own, but why should that area of discussion be closed off so completely in the way you describe? I really see no problem in enquiring. If the person wishes then to close the conversation, that should be respected; I have two close friends who simply refuse to discuss the matter, and that choice is perfectly fine with me, although I confess to finding such a moratorium revealing and rather pathetic.

Dikkii said...

"Semantic arguments", Adam, you know me too well.

You packed a few points into that last paragraph, though.

"Like Ted, I hadn't heard the term 'apatheist' before, but obviously can't claim to be one. I just think religious encroachments into political, educational and social institutions cause way too many problems to simply ignore."

Very true, but I would say that most people are far too caught up in their own lives to give this sort of thing a second thought.

I admit to being a selfish pig most of the time, but I have been far worse. Thinking about yourself a great deal doesn't give you much time to think about the broader issues in society.

I equate my thoughts on religion with my thoughts on politics - up until two elections ago, I hadn't even voted formally. Or rather, I'd only ever voted informally.

I developed an opinion on religion well before I ever developed an opinion on politics.

(Having said that, one of my old economics lecturers once said that "politics is merely applied economics", so I could be wrong about this - I've had opinions on matters regarding economics since maybe year 11.)

I do agree though, that a person's beliefs are their own, but why should that area of discussion be closed off so completely in the way you describe? I really see no problem in enquiring.

This is where I equate one's religious perspective with their sexuality.

Mind you, I've broken my own rule on religion and asked people about their take on religion before on quite a few occasions.

But I've never asked anyone directly about their sexuality.

Perhaps I consider that to be more private.