Sunday, September 26, 2010

Deism or Agnosticism?

Following is an inquiry, a reqest for help. It is certainly not intended as an affront to anyone else's beliefs. As context, I sincerely offer this from the assumption that my reasoning is flawed-

I am myself an Agnostic. I am overwhelmed by the evidence that we cannot now know how much we don't yet know. I do not believe we today have nearly enough information to conclude that God, in all forms, including some we may not yet envision, is impossible (aka Hard Atheism). Similarly, I do not see how our current knowledge provides any support, let alone adequate proof, for any 'traditional' concept of God.

As an Agnostic, I struggle with the possibility that we don't know whether human life has any meaning. As the father of four, and as a 56 year old, I sometimes find this struggle troubling, almost debilitating.

My request is for help to challenge an analogy, comparing my Agnosticism to a hypothetical parent of a seriously ill child, an analogy which seems to suggest Deism.

  • Like the Parent, I find my possibility of pointlessness to be such a troubling malady, or undesired condition, that I desperately seek a favorable solution.
  • This Parent doesn't know whether the child can be cured, much as I don't know whether our lives have meanings transcending our mortality. In this very narrow sense, we are both agnostic.
  • Like the parent, I have a strong preference for the outcome. I want to find that there is meaning to Humanity and our actions, for my own children's sake and for myself.
  • As a parent, I believe with certainty that the hypothetical parent must act and must choose his/her actions based on the assumption that a cure is possible. Those choices may be constrained by opportunity costs, such as treatment A now may preclude Treatment B later or Treatment C may cause the patient side effects or add new patient risks, but the choices would still derive from that one assumption that a cure is possible.
  • As an Agnostic, and IF I assume no oportunity costs to acting based on an assumption that there is a 'higher force' willing a 'transcending absolute purpose for Humanity's actions', how is it invalid to apply the parent's logic, basing my choices of actions, and not of beliefs, on the assumptions of Deism?

I have emphasized the bolded assumption above in recognition that one effective counterargument would be to provide an example of such an opportunity cost. My own limited such efforts have found only negative opportunity costs, benefits. In that limited sense, this argument is structured akin to Pascal's Wager. An irony, of course, is that if the above logic was correct, and one acted accordingly, (s)he would accrue both the benefits of purposefulness in this life and the possible (infinite &/or eternal?) benefits of the as yet unconfirmable afterlife.

I realize that my conclusion assumes my personal definition of Deism. Please address the concept, a higher force willing a transcending absolute purpose..., even if you would not term that belief Deism.

Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

1 comment:

Peter Hollings said...

In such matters as ‘belief in a higher power’, there are no objective answers to consult for the truth. There are no Wikipedia answers. There are no authoritative text books. The holy books of the various religions can be ignored. They ‘preach to the converted’. Those who go to them for answers have already made their choice.

It is left to each individual to do their research, ponder the results, and come to a verdict that is right for them. In my mind that leaves us only two choices, deism or atheism. I reach this conclusion because all the theistic choices are a choice among brands (the very notion of branding God is repulsive to me) and agnosticism is not a choice‒it is just a way station for those who are ‘in transit’ in their decision making.

I choose deism over atheism in the same way as I choose hope over nihilism, activism over resignation, concern for the future over live-for-the-day.

It is my sense that your philosophy is very close to mine. The ‘hidden message’ that I read in your post, however, is a desire to know that you are not alone.

You are not alone. It only takes two of us to make ‘we’. I hope others will join us.