Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Agnostic Pause

It's soooo weird. Y'all know I'm taking this bio class (mostly how I bitch about it, but that's all directed at my prof. the material is actually really cool). Well lately we've been going over stuff that TOTALLY APPLIES TO MY LIFE RIGHT NOW. Except it's not the scriptures! You know how the scriptures are supposed to have all the answers, how the spirit is supposed to--well. Anyway. Apparently my bio book does the same thing.


Here's what I'm picking up on lately and what it's doing to my poor, tortured agnostic self (really, ugh)*

Basic introduction: First, The Theory of Common Descent. That is, not that humans evolved from apes, but that every organism on earth arose from a single cell billions of years ago and eventually evolved into everything you see and know of today.

It's like a big family tree. Kind of. To avoid a lengthier explanation, a relatively recent common ancestor of humans is the ape, chimpanzee, etc. It is not saying that we're just apes. Just that it's our most recent ancestor than, say, cats are. Like you're more similar to your grandmother than your second cousin once removed. We've evolved from apes via the process of natural selection. Also, evolution is not about being better, it is not about an ideal. It is the ever changing result of natural selection which states that an environment selects for certain genes in existing species.

It's akin to a flood--if we had a flood and there was a gene for swimming, the swimmers would survive because they could likely get to land. Those without the swimming gene would, well, drown. Not to say that swimmers are better PERIOD, just better suited in the flooded environment. Those without the swimming gene may be selected for in another environment better suited to them. Which is one reason why not all apes are humans.

Also, this shit doesn't happen overnight. Millions upon millions of years.

It's pretty much fact from what I can tell, but here are the three alternative hypotheses my text offers (and later refutes):

Okay, I had all three hypotheses identified/described, but there's no reason for them. They're debunked. They take up a lot of space. Here's what it comes down to:

Scientists have proven that complex molecules can arise from simple, non-living material. Poof! But even if everyone accepted the Theory of Common Descent, here's where my stubbornness comes in. I asked my husband about it:

"So where'd the simple, non-living material come from?"

"Probably something more basic, like elements," he replied. Calmly. Ugh.

"Where'd the elements come from?!" I add.

And on and on, ad nauseum.

But I'd have to be intellectually honest if I'm going down this road: Where'd God come from? The thing is, I've always been content with the idea that God just always existed. Even the LDS teaching that God was once a man who was then exalted to become a god and create his own people who then are exalted to become gods, etc. always unnerved me.

And so I'm sitting here, taking this class, learning about the world and how scientists figure everything out. I get that they don't have all the answers, but they have a lot of them. And they're totally okay with finding new evidence that proves their theories wrong. And I really love what they do: record what you see, not what you expect to see. Consider possible alternative hypotheses: are there any other reasons for this conclusion?

I know science doesn't deal with god, but god sure as hell tries to deal with science. See aforementioned hypotheses and the apologetics that arise from revealed science. It ain't just for those Mormons.

I've my own inner apologist. She's gotten past the whole Maybe God is just testing us and sending us detour evidence. We need to have faith! That's my dad's church talking. Think "dinosaurs." They're also partly responsible for God can inspire those writers to know exactly who Jesus was, what he did, and the thoughts and actions of those who followed him. Also, I get it. Historically, stories have been passed down orally as well, but have you ever played the telephone game?

While my own inner apologist grows quieter by the day, she's still there. Driving me batshit. I don't dig apologetics anymore. I worry myself about the what-ifs enough all on my own.

I don't know. Lately I'm wondering if I might be atheist. Atheism isn't about claiming to know for sure that God doesn't exist, just a belief that all evidence points to "probably not" so you live your life. It's not as if I'm afraid of losing my salvation, because I'm not. I do believe that if there's a god I want anything to do with, I'll be fine.

There's a part of me that wants to believe in God, but there's no really good reason why. Except maybe because I grew up Christian and god was always a part of my life. "Jesus loves you!' and all that shit. I always had someone to talk to, someone who had my back, someone who did only the best for me whether I knew it or not. Someone to help me find my keys. Now it's a matter of having faith in myself, and I'll tell you: I've never really had that. But I really like the idea. I like what it's doing for me.

What's my belief in god, however small, doing for me? What's the point of it?

In the end, I buy neither the biblical account, nor the Book of Mormon account, and I don't really want to come up with my own account. I know some people just figure there's a god and we're his fishbowl, but that's not something I want to expend any energy on.

I do like the idea of eternity, though.

So am I atheist? I don't know. Saying so would in part be very, very relieving but only because I'll have made a decision. I feel as if I'm forever wavering, unable to make a decision. But a decision of what? To what degree I think it's possible god exists? You know? Because I'm not looking back. There's nothing there for me.

As an agnostic, I often feel like I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too. But it's not as if atheists claim to "know" God doesn't exist. And it might be due to my own recently skyrocketing insecurities WITHOUT reading quotes like the following (for my blog)

"Isn't an agnostic just an atheist without balls?" - Stephen Colbert (yeah i know, satirist. still)

"There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can't prove that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with respect to fairies?" - Richard Dawkins

"You happen to be talking to an agnostic. You know what an agnostic is? A cowardly atheist." - Studs Terkel (i know, who?)


In a way, this feels like the very beginning of my disaffection from the LDS church. I couldn't say outright "I don't believe." The thought of saying that petrified me. Atheism doesn't mean I've closed the door completely, just that chances are slim. I'm not entirely sure about that.

See, I still believe in supernatural things. You know, ghosts. Mostly because it's fun, because I've heard some pretty convincing stories from people close to me--not to mention that it drives Eric up the wall. He's got an answer for everything, so I like to bug him.

Me: "Babe! 'Ghost Hunters' is on!"

Him: *groan*

But you know, I don't believe in god but I do believe in ghosts? Logic fail?

I just figure it's no fun to know everything. But one can make reasonable conclusions.

Besides, I'd like, have to change the title of my blog.

I don't know.


  1. But you know, I don't believe in god but I do believe in ghosts? Logic fail?

    Not if you live in the world of Sam and Dean in Supernatural.

  2. I admit I am a bit bothered by really pushy atheists. It is no more likely that a deity exists than that one doesn't, and no one will ever be able to prove it either way, so really I find that agnostics are in the smarter position because they don't claim ANYTHING.

    Also, I am totally agnostic about fairies, ghosts, and etc. :D

  3. I'm not a fan of labels. "I don't know" works just fine for me. But, here is how someone once explained things to me when I thought I was agnostic. In a nutshell:

    1. Theist: Believes in God and that everything proves God's existence. In other words, a theist can never be persuaded by any evidence tending to prove God does not exist.

    2. Agnostic: Does not know whether there is a God and believes it is impossible to know, regardless of the evidence.

    3. Soft Atheist: Does not believe in any God because has seen no evidence indicating otherwise. However, the soft atheist can be persuaded by credible evidence and is thus open to the possibilities (this is me, apparently).

    4. Hard Atheist: The antithesis of the theist. Believes there is no God and won't be persuaded by any evidence tending to show there is one.

    Don't know if that helps at all. ... Like I said, I'm good with "I don't know." Because that is the only honest answer I know.

  4. i like what the people above said. i think i'm an agnostic theist.

  5. Mmmm... I'm gonna stick with my agnostic standing. I don't know, but I don't completely disbelieve.

    Personally, I figure I'll know if there's a god (as creator) when I die and get to bitch slap the son of a bitch.

    I DO believe that there is some kind of higher power. Whether it be a sentient being or just a universal force I don't know, don't know if I'll ever know and it doesn't really bother me.

    But I can see why it would bother some.

    So yeah.

  6. I have to give a thumbs up to Diana's comment. First, I really love your post and the direction you're headed. I read a quote in one of my text books a few years back that said something along the lines of: research (science) does not prove anything. Research SHOWS us what is probable. I'm ALWAYS a bit hesitant to say "so this PROVES x y z"

    I am taking biology this term as well, and have been thoroughly entertained to learn about who we are as humans, what we're made of, and where we come from. I'm also taking a geology class, and have been studying about where the earth came from. It's just amusing to me to hear a geologist say that their research shows the earth to be millions of years old- while Christians try to claim that it is only 6,000 years old. One thing I noticed about my professor, who shows an immeasurable amount of enthusiasm towards earth science, is that when he stakes a claim, he says "geologists believe..." followed by whatever he is going to say. Even a smarty professor wont say "this proves science is right".

    I do love that you recognize that these are all just theories. Because I believe that at the end of the day, a scientist can no more say "I know yada yada yada" than a Christian/ Mormon can. Even the theory of Pangea is only 50 years old (minus Wegener). Research can show us something that totally discounts Pangea tomorrow. We never know.

    Just so you know, I am an ex Mormon. I do not believe Mormonism to be true, and I don't feel that there is a God. But, I don't KNOW Mormonism to be false, and I dont KNOW there is no god. I just want to give my little piece of advice- if you trying to decide whether to be agnostic or atheist, I would choose agnostic.

  7. As a believer in god I also strongly believed in the evil supernatural forces. Stuff like "Ghost Hunters" scared the shit out of me. As an agnostic and I would say a more atheist leaning agnostic I now love to watch shows like that. They don't even phase me anymore.

  8. I am not agnostic about Santa and it seems to be the same with God. Kind of like this view:

    But, I like to call myself a Soft Atheist because I don't like to come across closed minded. :)

  9. I just finished reading The God Delusion, so your quote about fairies grabbed my attention immediately. Once I read that part in the beginning of Dawkins' book, I realized that I might be an atheist too. (or at least something that resembles one)

    It made me sad to think that I didn't believe in god. At first. Then the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if I believed in god because he really exists or do I believe because I have been conditioned to? I am open to changing my thoughts about god, but the more open I am about believing in him, the more I realize that there's nothing to believe in.