(Chris Bowsman, our resident gaming and comic guru, wrote a two part series on why he is an agnostic. Here is part one. -ed)
“Are we not all our limitations?”
– Professor X: Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous
My first rule in talking about faith (or the lack of it.) is “Respect the freedom of choice.” To be Agnostic to me means to realize that our knowledge is limited, and to respect that and work together, like Professor X does with the X-men, who all come from different backgrounds. I was not raised religious and was given a choice “cafeteria style”, as many Americans are allowed to do. This freedom of choice was the basis for my later Agnosticism, and I’m glad I have it. Basically, I take what’s good from religion, and leave what I think is bad, such as Leviticus, or things I deem as ancillary minor rituals or just unnecessary doom and gloom. But, I am the one who decides. Religion doesn’t control me. I control it.
Because of this, I still think that religion is a useful tool even if all gods (That humans can dream up.) are make-believe. Just because they are pretend doesn’t mean they do not have meaning. I admire, as I see it, the atheistic commitment to logic, and the religious commitment to awe and wonder, but I will never support any fundamentalist views or arrogance in discussions of faith because I believe it is harmful to shame a person simply for what they believe. You can attempt to prove and support your beliefs, but you cannot annihilate someone’s personal liberty. Just because another believes differently doesn’t mean they are stupid and less deserving of respect. Look at it this way: At the risk of sounding simplistic, I believe Science is the way to obtain objective truth, and Religion is subjective truth. Just like Luke learning about The Force.
See, Han Solo doesn’t believe in The Force. And yet, he realizes that Luke’s belief in it makes him a better person by his own non-violent standards and tells him: “May The Force be with you.” in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Han knows that Luke has his own story to complete and The Force is part of his story. I’m all for what gets people to cooperate towards common goals while being respectful. I feel like art is a powerful creative tool for uplifting persons and religion is an art that expresses the hopes of a particular culture or people; thus it cannot be explained so easily as 2+2=4. I invest Friedrich Nietzsche, The Bible, or The Koran with the same amount of authority…though I’m most versed in Nietzsche. In fact, I love learning about new cultures, so if I learn something like a Koran verse or Arabic proverb that resonates with me, I‘ll use it inshallah! (God-willing!) As Miranda Jones and Spock say in explaining Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, the core Vulcan principle: “The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity.” “And the ways our differences combine to create meaning and beauty.” (Star Trek TOS: “Is There In Truth No Beauty?”)
So you see, I’m not interested in one particular version of subjective truth; but if objectivity is in question, Science is the way to go. The scientific method is the only way to obtain objective truth, but hopes, dreams and human potential are part of human experience, and may be well expressed through parables. For example, someone looking at me might not believe that I could write a 79 page thesis using only two fingers in a year. I certainly at the time had my doubts as to whether I could. But, my hero myths from Greece and Germany and pop culture like comic book superheroes kept me going, and I did it. Could I have done it without those myths? I honestly don’t know.
Secondly, I know religion is often used to promote evil, but it also has the potential to do good if it is recognized as a personal tool, and not as a political one. It provides security and a sense of ritual and order. Furthermore, since it is an art, it can also inspire people and instruct them how to live a good life. I’m a believer in the idea that people need to come together and find a sense of Good that is greater than themselves in order to be all that they can be, and understand others. Shaming is not understanding or caring. It is degrading. I can prove my point without attacking the person, who probably believes what he/she does for good reasons in his/her mind.
Therefore, though I may disagree with someone’s conception of God, I try to understand what social, psychological, and cultural needs are being fulfilled by it: they usually have roots in human vulnerabilities, such as fear of death or creating a sense of belonging. Perhaps my own experiences with physical limitations (as a person with cerebral palsy.) have influenced my empathy with people trying to create worlds beyond Science through belief.
About Chris Bowsman, comic and gaming editor: I’m a passionate disability rights advocate, sci-fi fan, and intercultural communication guy. I have cerebral palsy. I like video games. I have a master’s degree in Intercultural communication and a B.A. in German. I hope to go overseas again someday. Haven’t been to Germany. I’ve been to Spain. I like movies. Raised in Port Huron, MI. Went to College in PA. Looking at the world through the eyes of aliens. Blogspot: www.christopherbowsman.blogspot.com