Saturday, November 15, 2008

Agnostic Via Media

Anglicans like to call their faith a via media, or middle way, between Rome and Wittenberg. Much the same is the place of the agnostic, I have found.

I am not talking of those who are religionless by default but fearful of the cosmic spanking they might get in the afterlife. Those who call themselves "agnostic" to avoid the stares and frowns prompted by "atheist."

No, I am talking as someone who once believed with conviction. Not just in childhood, either. Not just as a matter of good manners or custom. Not as a cultural expression (well, perhaps a little).

I had faith and now all I have is doubt I cannot overcome. I offer this mindful of Romano Guardini's definition of faith as the capacity to overcome doubt.

The terrible thing is that I am reasonably well educated about religion. I am conversant with the salient issues in theology, biblical research and ecclesiology and the gallons of ink spilled attempting to resolve them.

Indeed, I enjoy a good discussion on these themes. I can articulate with very reasonable fidelity the prevailing consensus concerning the basic teachings of Christianity, the Catholic Church and some branches of Protestantism -- even though I do not believe in any of it.

To my mind, the question isn't even whether God exists, but whether Jesus of Nazareth ever really walked the face of the earth, which I highly doubt.

There ought to be a church in which people who do not believe can go and discuss these things. I'm not interested in socials, bake sales, services or the like. Just a good discussion in which I can speak with like minded people and broaden my understanding with the comforting knowledge that none of these questions can ever be definitively answered.

Give me the church of St. John Dominic Crossan, please.


Anonymous said...

"Few possess the mental equipment and discipline to engage in fruitful conversation that is not anchored in the mundane."

thailandchani said...

I also would like to see discussion groups like that, something without agenda that just gives people the opportunity to explore things beyond the "mundane". (Good word for it.)


Anne said...

In my area a Chabad Lubavitch has been newly created & among the news coverage was one showing its rabbi conducting theological discussions (among other venues) witin a gathering of men as they ate rustic sandwiches. Chomping on meat & words. It rivited me. I wanted to take the idea to my own but knew it would go nowhere.

Two-way communication is a key that my church does not offer.

Anyway, God knows my mental equipment is lacking among the elite, but the philosophy of church was not designed for a few.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Crossen is a fascinating figure who managed to combine Catholicism with individual thought, which was no small achievement. I would very much enjoy engaging with him, too, for his multi-faceted perceptions.

I believe that Jesus existed but think that perhaps he was one of many wise rabbis (teachers) of his day. Many of the sayings attributed to him were actually uttered by Rabbi Hillel, born about 65 BC.

Since religion exists (or should) for the purpose of teaching us to be better people and not so that we can be better-controlled people, discussion of important issues, both Biblical and modern, should be a part of every worship service. Rote recitation of prayers may be vaguely comforting, but an exchange of ideas is far more so.

Cecilieaux said...

I had not expected this topic to draw as much interest.

To Anonymous: went to the site. Thanks.

Chani: with you in Thailand and me here I think there's not much likelihood we'll be in the same group, but it could be fun.

Anne: I've heard of Theology on Tap groups at Pubs, but then again, it's the same old, same old, no?

Heartin: I didn't use to like Crossan, but I do now. Re Hillel, check. I am of two minds on teaching to be better.