|There's a good deal of honesty in many agonostics, and I admire that. It is easier to be one nowadays, but at one time, it was prosecuted at least as meanly as anything else. Isn't that how it always , though?- Our Way Or The Highway. Well...not quite, more like Our Way Or We Pull Off Your Toenails. But that's a whole other dang thing... about the only useful thing I can salvage out of my comments so far is recommending checking out a Ken Russell film starring Oliver Reed called The Devils, which is based on a work by Huxley called The Devils of Loudoun... but I digress. Do me a favor, though- if you have any squeamish Fundamentalist associates you have it in for, invite them to watch it with you. |
There are lifelong agnostics, but on the whole I think there are more who go through a period of agnosticism and then either become atheist, or convert. In the Unitarian Universalist world, we talk about people who are "seeking". I know someone who is a seeker that has been coming to our church for seven years and still hasn't joined (which is about as hard as signing a directory).
Nowadays, I have seen attacks made on agnostics that are even more severe than those I have seen made on atheists, and that troubles me. Being 47, I remember when atheists were pointed out to me like they were lepers. I search for substance in these newer, meaner attacks on agnostics, but all it seems to be centered on is painting them as spineless, incapable of making a decision about anything, least of all that...
If you look at the nature of conversions, you learn things that help you understand that there are different types of them, why they occur, and what types of religions are converted to; there are particular characteristics and circumstances to be studied. For instance, there are those for which only conversion to a highly supernatural-based religion will do.
If you look at the word "agnostic," it is good to look at the word "gnostic"- he who claims to have direct spiritual experience with The Divine. Gnostics were persecuted long before atheists and agnostics, and it's easy to see why they were, and still are: what you are talking about is an individual, personal religious consciousness- and that does not bow to standard ecclesiastical structures. It is no friend to those who would control. Sound familiar? Autonomy, individual freedom, trust in one's own mind, experience? Historically speaking, churches are no more or less immune to this than political parties. For instance, I look at the origins of the Unitarian church, which had already broken to a doctrine that cost them dearly in human life. Here in the States, it was down to them being a pretty decent organization, but for the fact that they remained (some still remain) adamant that the reason Christ was the one and only, differrent from all men, is because he performed miracles as denoted in The Bible. Again, other than that they were pretty much OK. The thing is, The Enlightenment caused a lot of controversy. For the longest time, science and spirituality were kept separate by the very people who accepted both. This created a very stale environment in many churches, and they became rather dusty, emotionally flat, empirically-run sort ot places. They also became easy pickings for the revivalist movement that swept across the country. Suddenly you had people feeling the Divine again, in many different ways, including laying on the floors, shaking and tongue-speaking. The particular explanation for this in the case of women was that perhaps they were experiencing sexual frustration, and venting it via religion. Nice.
To put it into historical perspective, these matters are as dragged-out and annoying as any of those faced by those who have no religion. Even today, the concept that religion is compatible with science (e.g. evolution) faces a tough crowd.
To those who say they are going with "standard" definitions, I would suggest that that might not do; and that possibility will surely rear up those who rightly put great import on the precision of words, how definitions must be agreed upon, how semantics will be agreed to be looked at (good luck) before entering into debate.
"Theism" is a good example. Pantheism is a good example, even. Conventional language has severe limits when dealing with individual religous experience. I am not sure that language is even useful or appropriate in the deeper realms of it. It can only be conveyed by allegory, which might in turn stir a similar sentiment. This was one of the great beauties of Transcendentalism, along with its optimism. A fine example of conjuring the vibrant experience of living (and still a radical example, in many circles, go figure) was Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1838 address to the Divinity School graduates of Cambridge ( http://www.emersoncentral.com/divaddr.htm) There is much there, but today and for current purposes I like this extract:
But when the mind opens, and reveals the laws which traverse the universe, and make things what they are, then shrinks the great world at once into a mere illustration and fable of this mind. What am I? and What is? asks the human spirit with a curiosity new-kindled, but never to be quenched. Behold these outrunning laws, which our imperfect apprehension can see tend this way and that, but not come full circle. Behold these infinite relations, so like, so unlike; many, yet one. I would study, I would know, I would admire forever. These works of thought have been the entertainments of the human spirit in all ages.