In the heat of a discussion on absolute truth, a friend of mine said to me: “What if God came down to Earth and said to you that all of your ideas about feminism are wrong and the job of women is to stay home and raise babies?”
My immediate thought was, this is exactly why I am an agnostic. In fact, it served to renew my agnosticism. I have been often tempted to atheism; “Touched by an Angel” is more convincing than any logical argument that there isn’t a God. And, agnosticism has such a bad reputation as a watered-down, wishy-washy version of atheism, kind of like a vegetarian who eats fish. Actually, I believe that agnosticism is far stronger than atheism. I tend to believe that God does not exist. It is a far more plausible hypothesis. That’s not the point, though. I don’t build my own moral code out of necessity because God doesn’t exist. I choose to build my own moral code because I believe in the value of independent, rational thought. In this distinction lies the strength of agnosticism.
I distrust absolutism in any form. I ask myself, is the mere belief that God doesn’t exist a good enough reason, in and of itself, to reject religion? After all, the nature of the concept of God makes Him elusive, untestable, and unknowable. You certainly can’t prove the existence of God; all of the arguments for a God turn out to be circular. You certainly can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, any more than you can prove that there aren’t parallel universes. Sure, Okham’s Razor seems especially applicable to God: He is an unnecessary complication of our vision of the universe. So, however strongly you believe that God doesn’t exist, it’s a poor basis for all other assumptions. You need to look beyond the non-existence of God and find your arguments elsewhere. So, what if God did appear before me and start spouting sexist nonsense?
“Never happen,” an atheist might argue. “It’s impossible; there is no God.” Well, put that aside for a moment, and examine the hypothetical question. If I were an atheist, I might experience a syntax error. There is no God, but here He is. What now? Do I quit my job and take up knitting booties? I think not. I think there are stronger reasons to reject religion than the non-existence of God.
I’m proud to be an agnostic. I have my answer to God ready. God may have omnipotent power, but that doesn’t make him right. Might makes right is a dangerous concept. We don’t accept it from our political leaders. Why would we accept it from God? I question, not so much God’s existence, but God’s authority.
“Well, God,” I say, “you can send me to hell if you want, but I’m right and you’re wrong. Women’s rights make society not only more fair, but more efficient. Women’s rights help control skyrocketing population growth and increase quality of living. You may be all-powerful, but I doubt you’re powerful enough to present me reasons sufficient to change my stance. If you have them, I’m willing to listen. From everything that’s said about you, though, I’m pretty sure that’s not how you do things. Well, if you’re not willing to logically discuss the issue, and I’m not willing to concede to you just because you’re powerful, then we’re at an impasse. I’m not going to fall into the trap of the Nazi soldiers who ‘just followed orders.’ I’m not going to sell out my morality for the sake of heaven.”
I don’t suppose I could convince God of anything He wasn’t already inclined to agree with. Growing up as a Catholic, though, I was instilled with a strong sense of the glory of martyrdom. My belief in martyrdom apparently is stronger than my belief in God, because I’m willing to martyr myself in the causes of rational morality, human kindness, and sensible ethical behavior. Perhaps when I’m burning in hell, I’ll regret it. For now, I thumb my nose at God. He can exist, or not, whatever He likes. He’s not going to dictate my beliefs or actions.