Thursday, March 15, 2012

Letter from an Agnostic

Usually I have more questions than answers. Maybe that is part of the reason that I lean toward being an agnostic.
I have had debates with atheists about the definition of agnostic so I know that people define that word in different ways. I know many atheists think the evidence strongly leads to the belief that there is no God.
Part of my agnosticism entails being flexible with the definition of god. I think that many times people are intentionally vague about god. They don't have and can't offer a definition. Why would anyone want to interrogate someone about his definition when it might lead to animosity? Why not let it be vague? Why not interpret the word god within the context of his sentence? Sometimes people may mean inspiration, placebo effect of hope, the web that holds society together, the strength of the camaraderie of the group, the awesomeness of mother nature, or some vague delusion that helps them make it through some dark period of life.
I might answer my own question in a couple of different ways:
1. They might know something that I don't know
2. I should not let people hang on to stupid beliefs
3. I love the good debate
I think those three reasons are perfectly acceptable reasons for asking someone for her definition of god after she uses the word in a sentence. I, however,still plan to resist the temptation. I do not think the following is a good reason for asking someone to define what she means by god: Everyone needs to agree on the definitions of all words before a conversation can be meaningful. Again I would like to emphasize that I think that few (if any) can define the word god satisfactorily. I feel it is better to just use a definition that makes sense to me when I hear the word god used in a sentence. Interrogating someone about his definition of god might lead to animosity. As I grow older, I want to learn to communicate in such a way that animosity isn't created during the dialogue.
Sometimes I will interpret the meaning to be inspiration whereas another time I might interpret the meaning to be the placebo effect of hope. Perhaps I might say "would you mind if I use the word inspiration instead of god when I interpret what you are trying to tell me since I am an agnostic?" If the context of the sentence calls for another interpretation then I might substitute something more appropriate for inspiration. One of the uses of God that completely baffles me is when someone tells me she bases her morals on God. That seems a dangerous statement. Whenever anyone uses the term god in an attempt to control or condemn other people then the wording has gone beyond the benign. It has become dangerous although I still believe that a skilled
communicator can discuss morals without debating the definition of god. If the person means that god speaks directly to him then I would assume he means the voice in his head. We all have that inner voice and we have to discern which ideas are good and which are not so good.
If people mean that god speaks to them through a holy book or another person, then I guess I would have two follow up questions:
1. Do you follow the advice even if it makes no sense?
2. Could the person (giving you advice) be wrong?
I am reading a book called Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong by J. Mackie. It has me thinking that the discussion about morals, values, and/or ethics is a serious one with serious consequences to our society. I hope that free thinkers will join in that discussion without getting lost in the god debate. It isn't about god. As I said in the beginning, I believe that most people use the term god in a very vague way. If you get stuck in
debating god's existence, then you may never move forward to the really important stuff.
Susan Ert-Ker


  1. Very interesting point, Susan. I appreciated your differentiation of the two. Might make me rethink my own position.
    Thank you.