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What I believe...

I've had folks act very surprised during religious discussions when I've admitted to having no belief in God, so I thought I'd put together my thoughts so that others can understand the world from the point of view of a "real agnostic."

I classify myself as agnostic as opposed to atheist because I'm still willing to entertain the idea of a supreme being in the hypothetical sense. I just don't know what or who it is or what she/he/they want(s) from me (or from the rest of my fellow human beings). I have, however, come to the conclusion that no religion I'm familiar with has an accurate, complete picture of this hypothetical supreme being.

I was raised in a religious household, and was active as a child in the Episcopal Church. I was given an excellent education in the Bible and Christianity in general. I know what the Bible contains and the promises made in it. I find it a fascinating book and intend to expose my children to it.

However, I was also given eyes to see, ears to hear, and a mind to think. Growing up in the 60's and 70's in California, I was exposed to many other groups and could not deny the possible truth in their beliefs. After I spent time abroad as a foreign exchange student, it became impossible for me to shield my eyes from the religious and cultural diversity in this world.

I was always very bothered by the idea that Christianity claims to be "the only way." There are and will be billions of people in the past, present, and future of this world who have not been exposed to Christianity (a fact that also troubles missionaries a great deal) or who have been exposed to it but choose not to follow it. Many of those billions of people live(d) exemplary lives worthy of the same kind of eternal rewards Christians anticipate. Yet by the standards almost all Christians believe in, they are doomed.

Why? This doesn't exactly speak towards a God I'd want to obey. Let me use a more down-to-earth example of how I see the matter (as a former teacher, I often see educational analogies in life). Picture a typical school. A math teacher gives one type of assignment to his first and second period algebra classes, then gives a different assignment to the geometry classes he teaches 3rd and 4th period, and a completely different assignment to his fifth and sixth period calculus classes. At the same time, another teacher is giving different assignments to *her* various classes.

Now we can assume that students from the first period classes of the two teachers might talk to eachother, they might even discuss their respective assignments. However, would either teacher hold the students in the other class accountable for the assignment s/he gave?

It is also certain that students from the fourth period classes might be informed "through the grapevine" what has been given as assignments in first period. Perhaps the teacher posted it. But can we hold either the fourth or first period classes responsible for the assignment given in the other period? Can we hold those who had one teacher for English responsible for the assignments given by a different English teacher?

I cannot imagine that a perfect supreme being would expect such (supposedly) important information to be spread through such inefficient means as "word of mouth." The possibility of the message being garbled in translation is too great. No teacher would rely on students to spread the word about an assignment, so I cannot imagine a supreme being using this method for information far more crucial than homework.

So why don't I follow Christianity anyway?

I seriously considered this question. Following Christianity because it is the primary religion taught in my culture (and that taught to me by my parents) would be equivalent to doing the homework for my "class" in the analogy above. Yes, it is an option I could choose, and I do not fault others for making this choice.

It is here that Christianity "shoots itself in the foot" in gaining me as an adherent. Compare the statements of Christianity with the testimony of a witness in a court of law. A judge and jury are rightfully instructed to consider testimony that is false in part to be entirely false. In my opinion, since Christianity states that it is "the only way" and I have what I feel is clear evidence that it cannot logically be the only way, it is false in part and thus must be discarded. I feel it would be hypocritical of me to follow

What about Pascal's Wager?

For those who aren't familiar with the concept, Pascal's wager says simply - if there is a God, you benefit in the end from following His rules, if there isn't, you haven't lost anything. There are many many folks who use this as an argument in favor of religious practice.

The problem with this is that it's a false dichotomy. It assumes that there could only be the Christian God, and that the rules contained in the Bible are actually from him and completely accurate. If you open up your mind to the other endless possibilities - that perhaps some other culture "has it right" or that the Bible or even any part of it is not an accurate transcription of God's "instructions" you realize that there are many more than the two bald possibilities proposed by Pascal. Consider the high school analogy again, and all the different homework assignments given over the whole day by all the teachers in all subjects. Which one is right? Which one is not garbled in translation?

In my opinion, if I live a life where I have generally followed ethical behavior, and the supreme being refuses to allow me into the final reward for not following some specific rule contained in one particular religion, I'd rather burn.