Religion and Agnosticism
I was going to go to hip church tonight, but I think riding bikes gives me the flu. (How else could one explain the fact that a few hours after my first ride in 3 years I suddenly feel like crap?) Nevermind, I'll use the time blogging and using the magic of the internet to set this so it doesn't appear until tomorrow so that you, my relatively faithful readers, won't get overloaded by too much thoughtful, funny, and interesting commentary in one day. Then I'm going to do some laundry and read some Creation Spirituality by Matthew Fox, who in my estimation moves between brilliant, traditional and WOOWOO(!) effortlessly, but who I'm also enjoying much more than I did five years ago when I first came across him. For now though, a thought from my apparently-illness-inducing bike ride.
I've talked about this before, but my ongoing question is are agnosticism and religion really to be treated as opposites?
Religion, after all, isn't necessarily gnosticism--even Christian religion. That is, it isn't always about possessing and adhering to some esoteric spiritual knowledge in order to obtain release, salvation, whatever. Religion in many of its healthiest forms is a system of rituals and the pursuit of a 'path'. It's a sort of rigorous commitment to a community, a system, and even to a god, but not necessarily to a set of beliefs. A-gnosticism, therefore, while it might be the opposite of 'belief' or 'knowing' or even 'faith', certainly isn't the opposite of (or incompatible with) religion. In the Christian tradition, one element of the honoring of the 'dark night of the soul' is certainly a recognition of agnosticism as a legitimate and even beneficial religious category.
The fact that we see these concepts as opposites points to several ideas, if you ask me: 1) Much of mainstream American Protestantism is off base, and has reductionized and fundamentalized itself to the point of heresy 2) Many of the cultured despisers of religion don't fully understand the complexity of the religious life and 3) The decline in religious community participation today might not be so much about belief as is sometimes assumed. (My theory: the cost/benefit of participation in a religious community has moved dramatically towards the 'cost' side of the equation, in most places in the Western world.)
I also think we need new categories if I'm going to be able to place people as neatly into ideological boxes as I would like.