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Agnosticism: Where is the threat?
Is "I don't know" forgivable?
One of the foundations of our moral and judicial system is predicated on ascertaining "intent" when judging whether one has committed some vacuous deed. Did that man "know' that he was going to kill that pedestrian as he sped around the corner?
In many areas of our life "I didn't know" absolves us of our responsibility to the action we had been involved in. "You can't blame him. The bird escaped when he opened the door. He didn't know!"
Why is it then, when we are faced with the biggest unknown ever, the afterlife - that "I don't know" is not only insufficient but in some areas of the bible, an unforgivable crime? To drive the point further home, we are given the story of "Doubting Thomas".
"Doubting Thomas" does not believe in any of the stories circulating that Jesus has risen. He then confronts Jesus, becomes a believer and then is looked down upon as Jesus says, "Happy are those who believe yet who have not seen."
I have many reservations where religion tries to enforce belief without any rational questioning. Is there sufficient proof from Jesus' time that he actually existed? No. It has been scientifically hypothesized that the earliest Gospels had only been written down about forty years after the crucifixion.
We don't know who wrote the Gospels. The earliest works are not in Jesus' language of Aramaic but in Greek. None of the apostles can be historically located in their time. There is plenty of tradition as we move out into the second century but that does not give us any concrete ideas about who Jesus really was.
While we are on the subject, we have no idea if Jesus Christ was his real name. "Christ" is of Greek origin not Hebrew. What would a first century Jew be doing with a Greek family name? Did Joseph not have the "Christ" family name? We are not given his name. We are not given Mary (Jesus' mothers name).
So let me summarize what we are being asked here. We don't know who wrote the four Gospels. By the way, Matthew and Luke were copying large parts of Mark. If Matthew and Luke were followers of the disciples, why did they plagiarize someone else's testimony? We don't have any historical account of Jesus' existence here on earth. Now, after all the amazing things that happened at least someone could have wrote something down within forty years to corroborate what was done.
We have four different and sometimes conflicting accounts of the bible story. Of those four accounts, very little is supported in the same way by Paul in his own writings. It is a strong possibility that none of the writers expected two thousand years to go by. Many were preaching the impending apocalypse before the next generation passed.
We have prophesies that are not linked to the old testament. There are amazing claims that should have made the Ancient headlines (such as the dead walking and appearing before the city of Jerusalem at the conclusion of the crucifixion), yet there are no such reports from Philos of Alexandria nor Justus of Tiberia (whose works are now extant).
When all of these and other things are added up and truly reflected on, there is one question that I direct at all the believers who insist that I should believe. Before I get to that question, I would like to frame it into the summary of this article.
I had read recently that there was a local debate between a religious scholar and an atheist intellect on the proof of God. With all the arguments going back and forth, many in the audience felt that the debate ended in a draw. That God's existence could neither be proven nor denied. My Catholic priest seized upon this as some sort of hollow victory. However, I asked him a question that I put forth as my conclusion.
If God's existence can neither be confirmed nor denied what does that say about His power to establish His presence among the world without a shred of doubt? Why would a God, Jesus or any other deity consider it an unforgivable crime for me to not affirm my belief when in all fairness, He did a poor job of not transmitting his truth either by His own direct effort or through those of whom he works with? The world is only 33% Christian. If Jesus said that "the only way to the Father is through me" then someone or something did not complete their job to convert the whole world. They did not make it even to half the population.
I have been given free will to accept or reject what has been written in the bible. I have been given a brain with reason to sift through what is and what isn't true. If I declare that after carefully studying and finding a lack of integrity in the bible, how could I be punished eternally for seeing and recognizing such ambiguities?
Finally, is an "I don't know" really all that bad of a response? If Johnny cannot guess accurately that there are 6,575 gum drops in the machine, does he get punished severely? There are many mythological and real stories out there that are inspirational. Whether I choose to believe in them or not, should not tip the balance of my existence. I'm just telling the truth - "I just don't know if there is a God out there".