Regular readers know Mr President loves a good political debate, which is rather appropriate given his name. He’s often commented on various political blogs but finds that when tempers flare, the arguments get personal and his blood begins to boil. The participants lose sight of the issues in a war of ad hominem attacks, and the whole saga becomes too emotionally draining.
Political Friends is different. It’s a place where people of wildly differing political persuasions can come together and engage in heated but civil discussion. That’s a lot harder to achieve than it sounds, because if you try and curb the more personal attacks you might inadvertently end up with arguments which are quite placid or boring. Not so on Political friends, where the debate can get incredibly fierce on both sides.
One such recent debate was started on a post about a book by Dinesh D’Souza called “What’s So Great About Christianity”, and become so heated that Mr President found himself defending agnosticism from unwanted association with atheism. D’Souza states that, as far as Christianity is concerned the two are practically indistinguishable and according to a strict interpretation of the Bible, he seems to be on solid ground.
Mr President, however, takes umbrage with the idea that agnosticism is the same as saying that there is no God. He feels as though he has not made any such decision, but rather has decided not to decide. What about agnostic theism? Mr President could arguably be called that, given that at times of immense emotional turmoil he has prayed before. It hurts nobody and gives him a sense of inner peace. After all isn’t that the reason many of us turn to religion? For hope, guidance, a sense of understanding?
Anyway, he is agnostic on primarily philosophical, rather than religious, grounds, and his journey down this road began by reading Plato’s Republic. The allegory of the cave in particular began him questioning how much human beings can ever “know”. If we cannot even trust our senses, if we’re only capable of verifying things subjectively, then we’re incapable of knowing the natural world. How then can we know the supernatural?
Even the Bible says that humans are “flawed”, hence Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden. Our knowledge is limited; we have not all eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, to continue to use the Biblical metaphor. Thus to claim we “know” whether God exists or not seems to be a futile exercise that seems to serve little purpose.
Can one not lead a good life without believing in God? For Mr President leading a good life is more important than following religious tenets. In fact, most of them are how he leads his life, he just refuses to do things (such as condemning homosexuality) that he feels are wrong. Yet he doesn’t think this means that he has decided there is no God.
In fact he’s not even decided that he doesn’t believe in God, merely that he doesn’t need said belief to be good to his fellow man. If people lead good lives, isn’t that ultimately going to be more important on one’s deathbed? We’re told by theists that God is benevolent, that he loves his creations. If this is the case then surely he will reward those who lead good lives, not merely those who lead seemingly pious ones?
He may yet end up going to Hell, but at least he’ll know he’s lead a good life.