Gotta start taking James Taylor’s guidance more often if I’m gonna survive this ghastly patch in our history, come out on the other end not wishing I hadn’t. He was on the Tonight Show years ago, and was asked whether he had seen the Super Bowl the day before. His answer was a stuttering bit of secular scripture:
“No, y’know, I…I was, uh, walking around…outside…and I missed it.”
I guess he didn’t believe in football, and likely has not converted since then, so it’s similar to my preference for walking around outside during church time on Sunday mornings.
Preacher’s kids get pretty inundated with the world of belief, and it can take a lifetime to shake it off. Church itself, Sunday School, choir, Wednesday night supper, et cetera. I had already begun to suspect that the magic came from a kit when the deaths started hitting. Just all kinds, no need to detail them here except to realize in retrospect that they accelerated my journey to backsliding agnosticism. I didn’t know from theodicy at the time, but it was pretty clear to me that God as advertised needed to choose between all-loving and all-powerful. If He was one, he wasn’t the other, and vice versa.
Why backslidingly agnostic, says you? Wavering in your unbelief from time to time? No, just realizing that gospeldegook* is one of many signs that we’re on the lowermost rungs of the evolutionary ladder, and that we have a long way to go.
Agnostic, according to my friends at the OED, was neologized in 1869 by T.H. Huxley. He was riffing, obviously, on Gnostic, and it’s an elegant undermining of the original–just add an A, and you get the grade for the person who answers the question honestly:
I don’t know.
The Gnostics, of course, could not be countenanced by the Ecclesiastical powers-that-were, nor would they be allowed to thrive in the modern day, insistent on their unmediated spiritual capabilities. There’s no money in that.
Robert Ingersoll raised the ante:
The agnostic does not simply say, “I do not know.” He goes another step, and he says, with great emphasis, that you do not know.
*Gospeldegook, of course, is a riff on the original gobbledegook, which our South Texas neighbor Maury Maverick, stalwart progressive, coined to describe the political chatter that was all around him. And Dr. Dennett has helped me to understand why it’s so varietal: there are countless more or less intelligent designers out there, attempting to hybridize it in a way that maximizes the spiritual validity without undermining the profitability. It’s been proven, in our time, that the less validity there is, the more profitable it’s likely to be.
It seems to me that this is a little like a secure password: the more irrational it is, the less susceptible it will be to decryption/disputation.
Imagine for a minute what it would be like if our ORs Organized Religions (let’s call them OSs Organized Superstitions) were subjected to the scientific method. Would there be fewer of them? Or would there be none at all?