The Joy of Being Agnostic 01/30/2011
Originally I planned on addressing a few key issues in the local news (specifically the issue of same-sex couples where one is a state employee, receiving the same benefits as heterosexual couples, a movement I strongly agree with) in today's entry, but changed my mind this morning after watching the CBS Sunday morning news program. There was a segment on the sad disappearance of the thank-you note amid today's paperless communication mediums. And in light of the fact that recently I have done some things for some people that at least merited a verbal "thank you," and coming a month after the biggest gift-giving time of the year, I was moved to address this and tie it into religion, as the multitude of world religions purport to tell us what the "right thing to do" is.
Although traditionally attributed to Catholism, the golden rule that we should treat one another as one would like to be treated is an axiom found in the majority of religious philosophies. It has bee my experience that most people--at least the friends I've made over the last 44 years--adhere to this theme in their personal dealings with other people. However, I find that the people who espouse the kindest philosophies, the truest motives, are the overly religious. And I don't mean those who openly preach and announce their religion at every opportunity.
I'm talking about the people who attribute particular decisions they make to their religion. "I did this because of such-and-such tenet." I have problems with this because many times these people come across as hypocritical in that they do let certain tenets of their faith inspire a decision, but only in selective circumstances. I say this because of the aforementioned experiences I've recently had where a "thank you" was clearly the obvious expression certain acquaintances should have offered, but were not, yet their daily philosophyappears to be that we should all treat others well. Part of that, in my mind, is expressing gratitude when that seems the normal response.
Many people adhere to their religion's tenets because they anticipate the big payoff, salvation in some form or other. It may be heaven everlasting, reincarnation into a better form or a better life, etc. Agnostics don't have this problem. We believe there's a superior being, we just are humble enough in our human ignorance to not boast of knowing he/she/it's name. So we don't treat others with dignity, decency and respect because we believe good behavior's a ticket to a happy eternity; we do it either because it's the right thing to do, or we know tha this life is it and we have only one chance to treat other human beings the right way. For us, unlike those who follow most of the eastern religions, there are no do-overs. And unlike Christians and Jews and Muslims, fuck this one up and there's no extra innings.