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6/2/08                                                                                       View Comments

Mentally liberated, but socially imprisoned

Sent in by an Ian L

I really need some encouragement and feedback right now. I've recently become an agnostic, and, while I'm not afraid of what happens after death (if anything), I am afraid of how my wife and family will respond (I'm not brave enough yet to tell them of my change of heart and mind).

Anyway, the process of reasoning my way out of belief began when I realized that I couldn't bring myself to go up to someone of differing belief and tell them that I am absolutely right, and that s/he is absolutely wrong. Such a claim would be groundless.

My line of thought goes like this:

1. Religious belief is founded on fundamentally irrational assumptions (that there is a god, that a particular scripture is literally true, etc). With irrationality as the source of religious truth, anything can be claimed to be true, and anything claimed to be true based on irrationality is equally defensible and refutable using reasoning corrupted by irrationality. Therefore, religious belief should not be synonymous with absolute truth.

2. The apologist may counter this by saying that there are many good reasons to make the irrational leap of faith. But if you review them carefully, the reasons commonly given (design in nature, coherence of scripture, "look all the intelligent people who have been believers," etc, etc, etc.) are all applicable to one or more OTHER religions as well. Therefore, none of the reasons commonly given for belief are good reasons, and do not justify a claim of absolute spiritual truth.

3. The only good reason I see for belief is if one has had a mystical experience of a spiritual/divine nature (that can't be explained by epilepsy, an acid flashback, or simply a very emotional experience as a result of intensely wanting to see god).
However, while this establishes spiritual truth for the individual, it cannot be used to convince anyone else of this subjectively experienced truth. Further, belief is irrelevant if one has had a spiritual experience, since faith/belief is unnecessary in the presence of experience, so once again, belief seems to me to be invalid and groundless as an act and state of mind.

I'm not an atheist. I can't prove there's no god, nor can I prove that there is one. I refuse to squeeze 'truth' out of irrationality, have no good reason to believe, and I have not had a spiritual experience. I am therefore agnostic.

I think that agnosticism, based on this line of thinking, is an extremely reasonable position to take. Yet I find it so frustrating because I know that those around me will not accept this. They will say that I am just using faulty human reasoning (corrupted by my fallen nature), and that I should rely on scripture and prayer. They will say that the devil is misleading me. I know that they will say these things because several months ago, I began to question basic assumptions about Christianity and recanted after the intense backlash that I felt from my wife and in-laws.

I don't want to disappoint my family. I don't want to lose my wife, whom I love. But how do I, someone who desires to be rational, compete with the drone of irrationality?

While I feel spiritually and mentally liberated, I also feel, socially, more imprisoned than ever.