Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Atheist, Agnostic or What?

Yesterday, I listened to Dr. Bart Ehrman, professor of religion at UNC/Chapel Hill, speak on suffering. He had been an evangelical at one time, but is now agnostic. His views were interesting and freeing.

In June, when I started this blog, I had suggested that those who base their authority mainly on reason, but have not denied tradition are agnostics. Otherwise, reason alone will lead to atheism, as it rejects religion's role in human life. I believe this describes Dr. Ehrman. The atheist's agenda is to undermine any value in religion and undo all religious conviction and commitment. Even though Dr. Ehrman does not believe that religion's purpose serves as the only moral compass for man, he does say that the "new atheists" do not seem to have understanding of religion's "good".

Just recently, I read the summarization of a book "Border Lines" (Quadralateral Thoughts' side-bar recommended books). This author's theory is Jewish montheism leaves room for the development of Christian expression, as one of many expressions of faith.

I find this is an interesting concept, as I do believe that this is how man is made. Difference and uniqueness imprint us from our DNA to our fingerprints. This fact alone should underwrite the need for diversity of understanding and functioning of one's faith. Faith should wear no labels, really.

I think that if "Border Lines' is correct in its analysis, then, it also would underwrtie scholarship's understanding of religion and the different ways of understanding in the history of traditions, philosophy of religions, and the psychology of religion. These divisions represent different approaches from experience, tradition, and reason. I find that fascinating and liberating!

So, what would be the "correct" term for one that bases their faith on reason (philosophy of religion), agnostic mysticism; one who bases their understanding on experience (psychology of religion), an existentialist humanitarian; one who bases their understanding on tradition (history of religion), a social/political/cultural reformer....I know I am indentified with agnostic mysticism, but am grappling with the implications of the others...

Each one defines their faith on faith (agnostic mysticism), hope (existential humanitarian), and love (reformer)....and all are connected to the "real world" of the here and now....and is not defined by creed (religion's d0gmatics), or religion (labels of definitions based on dogmatics). it is an undefined faith in life itself, not a system, a culture, or group identity.

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