Tuesday, April 21, 2009

From Theism to Atheism; From Atheism to Agnosticism

For the longest time I have been referring to myself as an atheism; only until recent, after a deep conversation (via IM while I was at work) with my cousin that I was introduced to a new term -- agnostics. It was then that I realized that I have been mislabelling myself for at least half of the time when I called myself an atheism.

If you have no idea what the differences between atheism and agnostics are, to put it simply, atheism believes in neither deities nor ghosts, whereas agnostics are... pretty much an "I don't know" or that it cannot be comprehended.

Many reasons drove me from theism to atheism, some are more legitimate than others... I was raised Catholic although I'm not sure I ever really subscribed to that idea. It was more a attending masses with my grandmother (yes, raised with grandmother). As a kid, at some point you just get sick of the idea of sacrificing your wonderful Sunday morning beauty sleep to go to church. I remember I distinctively told my grandmother that, "If there is a God, I'm pretty sure He knows that I don't believe. So what is the point of me going to church?" It was not well taken but she never pushed the issue either. I guess a lot of it is having a scientifically-oriented mind. Perhaps it is a good idea that Kansas banned the teaching of evolution. Why let people make their own choice of what to believe when you can just keep them dumb and ignorant and just believe in what you want them to? Even as a resource for a set of moral guidelines for the societies, a lot of the stories/teachings in the Bible are simply bizarre.

Secondly, I found the idea of theism, whether it's the Western (Bible-oriented religion) or Eastern (Buddhism) version of it, very disturbing. The initial Catholic version taught to me was: whether you are a good person or not. My Mormon friend B says her church subscribe to more or less the same idea. In which case, as long as you are a nice person, whether you literally believe in God/Jesus Christ/the Bible or not is not as important. Now the fundamental Christian's version was a lot more difficult to stomach, the way it was explained to me: whether you believe in the Bible/God/Savior (whatever their terminology is) is the sole criteria of whether you will be saved when the apocalypse happens. Ugh. It does not help when the lady preaching to me have all three lines, "God gave you free will (but if you don't choose to believe you are doomed)," "If you believe, you will naturally be a good person," (again, ugh), and I don't believe she ever quite adequately explain how the people who never had contact with the concept of God/Bible in their lifetime will be judged...

That aside, I felt that if I believe there is a God, I will also have to believe that there are ghosts (which are just spirits), and that idea did not sit well with me. Last but not the least, even subscribing to the Catholic more lenient version, I failed to see the draw of Heaven -- being with God, your creator, for all eternity. I guess in the end it all came down to the fact that I think eternity is a very horrible concept, regardless of whether I'm in hell, heaven, or this earthly world.

Buddhism, albeit a lack of a true deity, failed me the same way. I found the idea of reincarnation even more disturbing than Heaven/hell. If life is purposeless, what's the point of doing it over and over and over and over and over again? Problem #1: I was born in a nice middle income family in this life time, I might not be so lucky next time. I can conceivably be born as a female in a country where they still have civil upheaval or, worse, genital mutilation. Or, nobody said you will necessarily be human, I could reincarnate into a pig, raised only as food for humans. Not a very pleasant thought, is it? Some version (only version?) says that what's dealt to you in your next life depends on what your contribution in this lifetime is -- being a good person this lifetime will "earn" you a better life in the next, being a bad person will get you the opposite; you get the idea. I have read a fictional story that wittily integrated the two sets of beliefs by equating "a better next life" as heaven, and a worse one as hell. Ultimately, the goal of Buddhism is to achieve enlightenment, then you come back to this physical world to spread the "gospel" of Buddhism. Again, I ask the same question, "Why? What's the purpose of it all?"

Since I was unable to find a satisfactory answers in the two most mainstream thoughts of religion, I chose to go with the least disturbing choice -- atheism.

(to be continued)

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