Friday, January 24, 2014

Do I Believe? (The Existence of a Pagan Agnostic in Today's World)

I get asked fairly often whether or not I actually believe what I write and story-tell about. The usual conversation goes something like this:

"That was awesome!"
"Thank you."
"But, you don't actually believe any of that, do you? I mean, no one could have thought this was what God was like, right?"
"Well, the ancient Greeks and Romans surely thought these weren't just stories but the reason behind certain beliefs and traditions. Same as Christians believe the Bible is God's word, so the ancients believes these stories were real."
"But, the Bible IS God's words."

At this point, the conversation tends to wander. There is an old saying that you can't fix stupid and it not wise to argue with an idiot... I take that to heart right about now. After a while, though, the conversation comes back around to here:

"You don't in believe it, do you? I mean, you couldn't."
"Why couldn't I?"

Yes, I'm playing devil's advocate. It's fun, sue me.

"It's so foolish... thinking the liver is really where the soul lives and all the other stuff!" (Referring to the story about Prometheus' punishment.)
"Not as foolish as believing Noah really collected one male and one female of all the animals from all over the world to survive God's flood."
"Everyone knows that is just a hyperbole, not real."

Ok, so the person I'm talking to probably didn't say - hyperbole - I doubt any of them even know what that word means, but it works here. Also, makes them sound more intelligent... which, is beginning to lack in the rest of this conversation.

"What about the burning bush? The birth of a son of God from a married virgin? How about the belief that Jesus rose from the dead."
"But, those are just...."
"Stories."
"... so you believe in them, then?"

And, that's it. No matter what I say afterwards, rarely are they listening anymore. They've gotten showed up and now they are moving on towards new prey. Easier prey. But, I'm left standing there thinking.

Do I believe?

The easy answer is, no. I don't believe there are any higher-beings creating and influencing the world and people in it. No gods. No God. However, I leave the option of changing my mind ever present. I won't admit that I know everything and I won't admit that I couldn't be persuaded to believe, but I need proof. That's where the agnosticism comes in. I am a scientist at heart. I need to be shown empirical data to prove one way or the other for real, no lingering doubt. Yet, as any good scientist knows, there are no definites in life. New information is always right around the corner. So, the not so easy answer is, maybe.

I do believe that nature exists in a spiritual realm. There is really no other way to explain all that we can see is true which science has yet to determine how it happens. If you have ever had the opportunity to read Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series, you might be able to grasp what I'm trying to explain here better - his main character, Lord Asriel's scientific appreciation for the dust. So, perhaps I do believe, in some small way, that the Greeks and Romans weren't all wrong. Those nature spirits, the nymphs, naiads, and nature deities, probably do have a place in the world. And, with them, the gods' natural representations of themselves must also have a place in the modern world.

Does that muddy the waters enough for today?

Now, aliens? Well, wouldn't it be a huge coincidence if WE were the only living creatures in all the infinity of space? So, yes, I do believe in aliens.

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