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Atheist or Agnostic?

Author/DatePost
Laura_Kasman
Apr 21 2009
Priest's view of atheist vs. agnostic in the P&C

I've heard many debates about the difference between atheists and agnostics, but an essay in the April 19 Post and Courier by Orthodox priest Fr. John Parker contained one I hadn't heard before. I don't agree with it, but it is novel. Here is the link to the complete article (and don't miss the excellent related essay by an SHL member) http://www.charleston.net/news/2009/apr/19/frparker79126/

But what about the faithless? What about those who doubt? Well, God can work with them, too. But there are at least two kinds of doubters: Engagers and agnostics. From a Christian perspective, it is the agnostics who actually suffer spiritually the most (even if they are unaware of it) since they appear most sincerely unable, unwilling or uninterested in pursuing God. It seems that they really couldn't care less. At least externally, they are not moved by the mercy and love of God. Jesus addressed a whole church suffering from this spiritual malady in the Apocalypse: "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing." (Rev. 3:15-17)

Engagers are different. Engagers are those who are troubled by their own doubts or unbelief and motivated to resolve the tension. This group, I'd submit, even includes staunch atheists. God can work with these! They want to see God, but for whatever reason right now, they cannot. Even the most ardent atheist is looking for God: Its just that so far, he's only had convincing proof that the gods already presented to him aren't the True God. And I'd be willing to go so far as to say in many cases, I'd sympathize with their doubts! These haven't, so to speak, found the real nail-printed hands yet, or felt the holy hole in the pierced side. Doubt or faithlessness in the case of the "engager" is actually an active path toward belief.

David Agnew
Apr 28 2009
Re: Priest's view of atheist vs. agnostic in the P&C

Pomposity is not an uncommon trait amongst priests. I guess absurd statements tend to be more believable if they are made with conviction.

it is the agnostics who actually suffer spiritually the most (even if they are unaware of it)

almonsky
Apr 29 2009
Re: Priest's view of atheist vs. agnostic in the P&C

My definition of being agnostic is being without knowledge of the existence (or not) of a god. It says nothing about belief in a god, a separate matter altogether. I believe that it is impossible to know whether or not a god exists, both for me and for everyone. In other words, I think that, regardless of what we believe, we are all agnostic when it comes to the existence of a god. Nobody can truly know the unknowable. This includes Fr. Parker (even if he is unaware of it). I hope his spirit doesn't suffer too much.

Amy M

sne3646
Feb 23 2010
Re: Priest's view of atheist vs. agnostic in the P&C

Exactly, Amy. Being agnostic does not imply a lack of searching or a lack of interest in the idea of God. It simply implies that one cannot know for sure one way or another. There are agnostics who would tend to not believe in God, and there are agnostics that would tend to believe. But, anyone who identifies as being agnostic has very likely explored the question of God in depth.

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