Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Nihilism, Agnosticism, Angels, and Belief

I thought it was about time to revisit my discussions on various points of view. This time I would like to discuss belief. What do you believe in? This is a very important question, one which sheds a floodlight on who you are as a person. This question can be applied to small things like, do you think (believe) that it will rain today? It can be applied to the big things like, do you believe that the universe started in a massive outward explosion of particles? Or everything in between, do you believe girls fart (yes I do), or do you believe that people should be put to death by the state (no I don't), do you believe that there are guardian angels?

Turns out that approximately 55% of Americans DO in fact believe that they have their very own personal guardian angel watching over them and protecting them (according to this Washington Times article from almost 1 year ago):

"Half of all Americans believe they are protected by guardian angels, one-fifth say they've heard God speak to them, one-quarter say they have witnessed miraculous healings, 16 percent say they've received one and 8 percent say they pray in tongues, according to a survey released Thursday by Baylor University."

Now, that's fine with me, sure a little on this side of delusional, but hey, to each their own. I've said this before, but I happen to be agnostic. This basically means that I think the verdict is still out on the whole God thing (which, in my book includes angels at the very least). The question that I'd like to pose is, does that mean that I believe in something? I mean who's verdict am I waiting for while sitting on the fence? Is it the scientists? If that's the case then I believe and have faith in science, logic, and reasoning (I'm cool with that). Or am I waiting for God to show me a sign of her existence, in which case I will believe fully in that God? If that's the case then I believe and have faith in God (something that is not independently verifiable- which leads to existentialism- something I'm not so cool with). Or do I not believe in anything and am just sitting on the fence for the shits and giggles...

That leads me to Nihilism which according to Wikipedia:

Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is the philosophical doctrine suggesting that values do not exist but rather are falsely invented. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life[1] is without meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality does not exist, and subsequently there are no moral values with which to uphold a rule or to logically prefer one action over another.

How is this position possible? To me it seems like circular logic, I don't believe in anything except for a firm belief in nothing. I mean think about it, how can you believe in nothing (We believe in nothing Lebowski!) when the statement of the belief in the absence of belief is belief itself. Not to mention the conundrum of the fact that there seem to be some absolute moral truths; don't rape children, don't murder if possible, genocide is bad, hugs are good, sex is good, sure I'm leaving a bunch out but those are some moral truths that I certainly believe in right now. To believe that morality does not exist on some level just seems to be naive and hopeless. Maybe I just don't want to live in the same lonely dark filled world that nihilists and existentialists believe in living. I really don't think that what I believe or what anyone believes is just as good as any other view point. There are somethings that we can all agree upon and that is where we can start, on what we all can agree to be true.


Kate said...

Hi Jesse! I'm with you - squarely on the fence. It's interesting - I thought I was agnostic and then I read this book ("Atheism" by George H. Smith) with a definition different than I expected. Agnosticism, it said, is stronger than atheism. Agnostics believe god is unknowable - that our simple minds are incapable of grasping even a small part of something so complex. Atheists, on the other hand, are passive, they simply lack a belief in a higher power. Seems like many people vilify atheists when they are not anti-god at all, but instead entirely neutral.

Big Sway said...

I think of belief as a delusional form of faith (even in scientific and mathematic "truths"). To say you will get one result from an action every single time (ad infinitum) is silly, even with "quantifiable datum" since we can not know infinity with our finite perception and finite logic and EVER-PRESENT bias of subjective consciousness.