14 April 2013

My agnostic atheism (a short note)

(originally posted to Myspace 2 December 2007, tweaked slightly 12 April 2013)

I am an atheist, in the literal translation of the word “atheism”—“without theism”. 

At one time, I was an aspirant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America; in fact, in my first go-round through collegiate level schooling I was officially pre-seminary.  Basically, what ECUSA wants is a bachelor's degree in social sciences or liberal arts before seminary, though exceptions are made. 

It was not until mid-second semester my junior year that I decided that was not what was for me, and I began my conversion to the Catholic Church, in which I practiced diligently until finally having to admit to myself my unbelief in the ludicrous.

I've studied pretty much every religion in the world--all branches of Christianity, most forms of Buddhism, all forms of Judaism, Jainism, Sikhism, a little Bahai, Hinduism, neo-Paganism, Taoism, and some Islam--and I've come to the conclusion that no one knows what the hell they're talking about.  The Dao De Jing, the foundation text of Daoism, begins with the words “The Dao that can be described is not the true Dao; the Name that can be named is not the True Name”.  In other words, anything humanity says about the Ultimate, the Infinite, is an illusion; “all is vanity”, as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it.

Organized religions are about trying to define the Ultimate, the Infinite, in terms humanity can grasp, in order to gain control, even as one claims subservience.  There is a certain amount of truth in the axiom of magic that to know a thing's name is to control it, because in claiming to know and in propounding that pretended knowledge to others, the pretenders are attempting to seize control of that Ultimate, that Infinity, as “its” chief lackeys, the “powers behind the throne”, as it were. 

The problem lies in the fact that every form of religion humanity has begotten could only have come from the culture in which it is born; ‘culture’, about which the preeminent anthropologist Clifford Geertz has said, “Man is an animal, suspended in a web of significance he himself has spun”.  Or as 19th century explorer Richard Francis Burton succinctly put it, “The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshiped anything but himself.”

I have too much respect for the Ultimate, the Infinite, if such exists, to make any claims of knowledge or pretend to such lofty authority, and therefore am “without theism”, and without religion.  All religions, in fact, are an insult to “God”.  All religion is blasphemy.  And the worst of all religions are those which claim not to be religion at all.

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