Friday, July 30, 2010

Thoughtful ...

... An Agnostic Manifesto.

The person best-qualified to comment on this, of course, is Mark Vernon, whose After Atheism, which I read last summer, I cannot recommend highly enough.
I am well aware that many churchgoers regard their beliefs with an unwarranted certainty (unwarranted because, if one is certain, there is no need for faith). I never tire of repeating Newman's definition of faith: "being capable of bearing doubt." To assent or dissent to a belief in God is an act of faith, since you cannot be certain either way.
I think that Ron Rosenbaum is not as closely acquainted with the thought of Aquinas as he ought to be. Aquinas, after all, is the one who said that all things runs into mystery, and that we cannot know what God is, only what he is not. The agnostic is not someone who is especially attuned to the mystery of being, since any authentic act of faith must be premised on an acknowledgment of that mystery. The agnostic simply declines to make an act of faith. If agnosticism really involved a reverence for mystery, it would be rubbing elbows with faith -- as I believe Mark Vernon's does.


  1. "Agnosticism doesn't fear uncertainty."

    I'm sympathetic to Rosenbaum's viewpoint, although he makes a few mistakes, the main one being his dismissing of the mystical viewpoint, which makes him sound too close to the cranky atheists.

    A point that is rarely made is that the so-called new atheists are not only anti-religion, they are anti-spirituality. They are the culmination of materialistic logical positivism at its most assumptive. The assumption being that every state of consciousness and human experience can be explained away as materially produced, chemically, mechanically, or otherwise.

    Rosenbaum demonstrates the same basic anti-spiritual bias—which in my previous discussions with other self-proclaimed agnostics isn't a universal position. The most open-minded keep their "I don't know" attitude for matters mystical as well as religious.

    Speaking for the mystical viewpoint, which I have done before in conversations with agnostics, it still seems to me that everyone is asking the wrong questions, based on their already-in-place assumptions about the nature of things.

  2. Well, of course, as you well know, Art, the mystical aspect of religion is the ground of its authenticity.