||« Outlook on life
With Our Backs Towards AgnosticsAuthor of this text: Andrzej Heyduk
have been tackling the question of God's existence or non-existence for
centuries, invariably to no avail. It became painfully obvious to many great
thinkers that it was virtually impossible to construct a strict proof of God's
existence while maintaining the rigors of standard epistemology. Frequent
attempts to disprove divine presence have been equally frustrating.
this history, it is nothing short of amazing that in very many instances of
public discourse in the United States God's existence is simply assumed as
confirmed knowledge. In a country strongly controlled by Christian
fundamentalists atheism is not only a bad word, but also „non-scientific"
or „naďve" while agnostics are often viewed as weird, confused,
hesitant people who do not know what they believe.
When I moved from St. Louis to Fort Wayne in Indiana, my new neighbors across the
street needed only one day to ask me the all important question: „have you
found a church a yet?". They suggested therefore that (a) I had to be a theist, and (b) that living without being a member of some organized religion
was virtually impossible. Thus they totally ignored the musings, doubts and
fretful ruminations of some of the greatest minds of human civilization.
greatest intellectual crime being committed in contemporary American discourse
concerning God's existence is the epidemic conflation of knowledge and belief. I meet quite a number of people in all walks of life who would say „God
exists" and who — when challenged by a simple „how do you know? -
would respond by saying that they believe so, or they would utter the usual
utter idiocy: "just look around". It is astounding that such trite
pronouncements are sometimes offered by people who are otherwise well-educated
and certainly not stupid.
is worth remembering that if the sharp distinction between knowledge and belief
is upheld, agnosticism is the only rational position to take. When interpreted
strictly, both atheism and theism become untenable. They would be tenable, were
it possible to use strict reasoning to construct a formal proof of God's
existence or non-existence. However, such a proof seems to lie outside of human
intellect. Therefore, within the requirements of epistemology, no one can KNOW
that God exists, and no one can KNOW that God does not exist.
is often reduced in everyday speech to the activity of „doubting". If I went up and down a street of an American town and asked random people who they
thought an agnostic was, they would — if they knew the term — tell me that
either it was someone who doubted that God existed or someone who simply did not
believe in God. This is unfortunate since agnosticism can be a much more
agnosticism of choice, often call „epistemological", can be
encapsulated in the following introductory phrase: „I cannot know whether
God exist therefore…". On such a view, an agnostic can utter the
following two sentences without being charged with contradiction:
am an agnostic, but I choose to believe that God exists.
am an agnostic, but I choose to believe that God doesn't exist.
this sense there is nothing contradictory in the fact that there can be agnostic
theists and agnostic atheists, because we are dealing with a question of faith,
not of knowledge acquisition. Sophisticated agnosticism denies knowledge of
divine existence, but maintains the absolute freedom of belief. Upholding this
sharp separation is the key to rational discussion of religion which -
unfortunately — is almost totally absent in contemporary America. The „Bible
Belt" baptism of southern states has been steadily creeping up the
Mississippi River and is now well-entrenched in various northern cities. As a result, any discussion of religion — be in the media or in public forums -
is too dangerous to even undertake. American TV channels sometimes mention
atheism, but only in the context of more or less exotic court challenges to
things like the presence of „In God We Trust" on coins. Agnosticism is
almost never mentioned or is simply confused with atheism.
baptists are not a highly intellectual bunch. They offer their faith as
knowledge and want all of us to follow without asking any questions. They want
us to reject Darwinism and adopt the creationist credo of „and-then-a-miracle-happened"
without asking any questions. They want us to accept that a newly created
two-cell embryo is a „human being" endowed with personal identity,
again without asking any questions. Yet questions need to be asked, as they have
been for millennia. They need to be asked within the context of rational
agnosticism coupled with skepticism which have always been the foundation of
right now America is sliding toward silly intellectual anachronism, fuelled by
rampant religiosity. The pressures of required theism are being felt virtually
everywhere: in research labs, federal offices, political institutions, etc. The Food and Drug Administration,
whose task is to approve new drugs, for the past few years has been a willing
tool in the hands of the forces which decide which drugs are „moral"
and which transgress the bounds of faith. This is a perfect example of how much
public life in the USA has been subordinated to self-proclaimed ethicists who
are — naturally — „always right".
has become „politically incorrect" to question or examine critically
any articles of faith, and no American politician can hope to achieve anything
if not seen in front of a church every Sunday with the Bible in his hand. Theism
is assumed and expected. Atheism is marginalized and frowned upon. Agnosticism
is misunderstood and absent. These are not the best conditions for a healthy
intellectual life of any nation.
« Outlook on life (Published: 13-11-2006 Last change: 06-08-2007)
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Ur. 1953. Dziennikarz, językoznawca, filozof. Absolwent Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego (magisterium, anglistyka i językoznawstwo) oraz University of Illinois (doktorat z filozofii języka). W 1983 wyemigrował do USA, gdzie uzyskał azyl polityczny. Pisywał do licznych gazet i czasopism, między innymi do "Gazety Robotniczej", "Gazety Wrocławskiej", "Sceny ", "Wprost". Na emigracji był współpracownikiem a później redaktorem naczelnym wychodzącego w latach 80. popularnego tygodnika polonijnego "Relax". Obecnie współpracuje z chicagowskim "Dziennikiem Związkowym". Hobbystycznie prowadzi witrynę internetową, która zawiera jedną z większych kolekcji zdjęć starego i nowego Wrocławia. Mieszka w Fort Wayne, w stanie Indiana, w USA. Private site
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