A reader sent me the following quotation.
"Even if I throw in my theoretical lot with agnosticism, I am nevertheless compelled in practice to choose between two alternatives: either to live as if God did not exist or else to live as if God did exist. If I act according to the first alternative, I have in practice adopted an atheistic position and have made a hypothesis (which may also be false) the basis of my entire life..." -The Pope
Here is my response:
Thanks for the link, Sic. I'm actually a fan of Andrew Sullivan. I link to the daily dish over in my 'Free Refills' section.
The pope is wrong here (hail mary). To be open to the existence of God while not being convinced that he or she wrote one of our religious books doesn't defacto lead us to the necessary adoption of any kind of theological worldview. You can be an agnostic and live according to a christian worldview, a muslim worldview, a sikh worldview, etc. To accept the precepts of a religion as true (or simply reasonable) doesn't mean you have to be 100% certain that there is a God. In fact, I'm more of an agnostic when it comes to the validity of world religions than I am in regard to the existence of God. Where does that leave me?
There is no default atheist worldview*, so that option is off the table. All people must ultimately rely on what Norman Mailer referred to as 'The Authority of the Senses' when it comes to making choices about religious belief. There are plently of moral conclusions you can come to without the aid of a religious text: Many are strikingly similar to the dictates of Christianity.
The discovery of the existence of God & what God wants from us is a pursuit that is beyond reason. For a person to say that they don't know whether their is a God, or that they don't know if any of the world's religions accurately capture the mind of God, is simple honesty. None of us know for sure. You could argue that on some level we may "feel" what is true, or some part of us may "know", but I wouldn't stray too far from the safety of those quotation marks. We know very little about our selves and our own world. The farther we get away from statements about these domains, the more dubious our claims are bound to be.
Faith is a fine thing. Have faith. I have some, and it's great. When it comes to God however, I've decided to stop trying to make him fit into my tiny human mind. GK Chesterton had an awesome quote that goes something like this: The reason scientists go insane and poets don't is that scientists want to get all of heaven into their heads, and poets just want to get their heads into heaven.
I don't know whether the particulars of that statement are true, but for the sake of this argument, I'm with the poets.
*Atheism (unlike other faith assumptions) does not come with a user's manual. Therefore, atheists are pretty much free to go wherever they want to philosophically.