An Agnostic’s View of Society and the World

October 30, 2009

A Grand Rants Op/Ed

Hey… How about that for a concise and laser-beam title? Way to narrow down the subject matter, ay?

Truth be told, the title, “An Agnostic’s View of Society and the World” isn’t all that “universe-encompassing”… (At least not for me, and I’d imagine that there are other agnostics who would sign on to what I’m about to type…)

Does it ever occur to anybody (religious) out there that maybe, just maybe, their “Holy Book” is a crock? Maybe it’s just a 2,000 (+/-) year old urban legend gone horribly righteous and viral? Take your pick… Bible, Koran, scrolls, sayings… Whatever… Kind of reduces the humongous to the minuscule, pronto, doesn’t it?

Here’s the deal… When I was an engineering student, I watched two brilliant teaching assistants (both working on their masters degrees in electrical engineering) battle it out over the nature of gawd… One claimed that proof of gawd was someone rising from the dead, and the other claimed that gawd had something to do with a snake… And both men were damned serious about their views, and each had their “Holy Texts” to back up their claims…

Ummm… Did it ever dawn on anybody that so much of existence, cognition, love, physics, mathematics, self awareness, astronomy, blah, blah, blah are wildly complex and way beyond the machinations of the human gray stuff? It is irony lost when simple under-grad fodder like calculus, differential equations, and thermodynamics challenge (if not vanquish) the vast majority of us, yet we en masse continue to claim that because of our “Immaculate Tomes” we can somehow have insight into the mind and maneuverings of gawd. (Or perhaps better yet “know” that there is no gawd.)

A couple of days ago, a bomb blast in the Pakistani city of Peshawar killed more than 100… All because someone(s) firmly believed that he/they had a direct line to gawd and wallowed in the powers attached.

As an agnostic, I’m of two minds… The first is that of profound sadness – the senselessness of it all. But the second thought falls along the lines of a mix of anger and indignation. How dare you impinge your indoctrinated beliefs on me or others. I don’t care about your, “Well, I just believe…” or, “My<insert your sacred transcript here> says…” Fine. If you want to believe in Jesus, Allah, or even the Most Right Reverend Ultra  Salty Potato Chip… Fine…  Just keep it to yourself. And no matter what, don’t attack me physically or intellectually because I don’t buy into your brainwashing, and Pollyanna-ish denial of the harsh reality of it all. Sorry… I don’t buy into arks that can hold all gawd’s creatures and I don’t buy into afterlife rivers of honey and virgins… Call me irascible…

Look, I understand the want for religion… probably more than most. I dare say I’ve had more than my fair share of tough times, and it would be nice to be able to lean on a higher power… As just one example, my father’s death rocked my world… but not my logic. To be an agnostic (or atheist) can be damned lonely. Still it’s the intellectual disingenuousness of, and often violent nature of, faith that keeps me away. Simply put, it doesn’t make any more sense to me than does atheism. As if I could be so smart as to grasp the gears of gawd.

Often, I think back to my two teaching assistants and wonder whatever became of them on 9/11. What did they think of the omnipresence of their gawd (or lack thereof) when they watched 3,000 people being incinerated, broken, and crushed to a paste.

Anyway… As an old engineer and an agnostic, about the best I can do is marvel at the whirring of the universe and the gall of those who claim to understand the “Man Behind the Curtain”, or pronounce authoritatively that there is no “Man” at all…

Alan Speakman


Agnosticism – Time is Running Out

November 15, 2008

Take a look at the “Resources and References” links below and to the right. Browse through the “Significant Terrorist Incidents 1961 – 2003“. No really, take your time. Now think of the pathetic legacies of Tim McVeigh and Jim Jones. And of course there’s the insane horror of 9/11. With that as a backdrop, what are we going to do as a culture?

Let me backtrack… Many moons ago, I was a struggling engineering student. Where others (far more gifted than I) could attend class and lab and do quite well, I had to relentlessly pester my teaching assistants for help. The T.A.s were folks working on their Masters in Electrical Engineering and were brilliant. They weren’t bright, they were brilliant. (They were the guys who thought Algebra and Trig were childish, and Calculus III was a sodden exercise into the intuitively obvious.) I remember three teacher assistants in particular – two were friends from India and one (Jim) was a local guy.

And as the labs grew longer, the inevitable debates concerning God grew hotter. One camp couldn’t beleive anyone could be crazy enough to believe that a being could be crucified and then rise, and the other questioned how there could be “levels of existence.” And so it went. Each had their ancient sacred texts, and each had their own “obviously true” explanations. There were no allegories involved. This was a knock down drag out fight between geniuses each armed with his own proof.

That was when I began to question the objective ability to understand the “Mind of God”. How was it three geniuses could be so silly? Many years later I was to “armchair study” astronomy and get just the slightest glimpse of the magnitude of the universe… Ummm… “Sacred Texts” don’t quite pass muster. In fact, if anything, they’re rather insulting in the grand scheme of things.

So here’s where we’re at as I see it.

  • All religions are pathetically out of touch with reality.
  • Our best modern religion (science) still has a very long way to go.
  • Atheism is silly in that the concept of God is extraordinarily complex. (I’ll make a deal with all you atheists out there… You explain one second before the Big Bang and we’ll talk.)

And where does all this leave us? It leaves us in a world increasingly populated with folks earning their Masters and PhDs in things like Electrical Engineering, Chemistry, and Physics who are thoroughly convinced that they understand “The Mind of God”. Ultimately, a few will act on those convictions, and when just one of them does, he will make the insanity of McVeigh, Jones, and the beasts of 9/11 look anemic.

Sorry guys… I’m an engineer. I went to school with some of these religious ideologue types… We need to put religion behind us post haste.

Alan Speakman