Sometimes I still catch myself wondering if I might be wrong after all, if perhaps the conservatives and fundamentalists are right, if perhaps there is a God and he is a stern God and he will throw my ass in eternal torment for daring to question his existence.  After all, whatever does not proceed from faith is sin, and if I’m questioning him with logic and reason, I obviously don’t have faith, since faith is the conviction of things not seen.

Then I have to take a step back, breathe, and remind myself of the basic tenets of my agnosticism.

My friend Libby posted about a year ago about her alternative to Pascal’s Wager.  My approach is similar to hers, but a little more detailed and more personal to my own various doubts and fears.

  1. ATHEISM:
    If there is no God:
    1. If there is no afterlife (naturalism), only what we do in this life matters.  See ONE, below.
    2. If there is an afterlife (Buddhism, spiritism),
      • • what we do in this life will affect our position in the next life (see TWO, below),
      • • OR what we do in this life will not affect our position in the next life (see ONE, below).
  2. DEISM:
    If there is or was a God but he is dead or disinterested in human affairs, he may have historical value but is irrelevant for religious/theologic purposes. See ATHEISM.
  3. THEISM:
    If there is a God (or gods) and he is (or they are) alive and interested in human affairs:
    • • If there is an afterlife:
      1.     faith or doubt in his existence/his work/his Scriptures (and/or proselytization) will affect  our position in the next life (see THREE, below),
      2.     OR what we do/how we treat others will affect our position in the next life (see FIVE, below),
      3.     OR what we do or believe in this life will not affect our position in the next life (see ONE, below).
    • • If there is no afterlife, only what we do in this life matters.  (See ONE, below.)

HOW I AM TO LIVE MY LIFE:

ONE — NO AFTERLIFE
If there is no afterlife, only what I do in this life matters.  Pleasure and happiness are only attainable in this life.  The idea of eternity is confined to the length of my lifespan and the preservation of my memory among humans.  It is therefore most fitting that I use my short time on earth for two ends:

  1. To make every effort to improve the world for those around me and those who come after me (since they, too, only have their life here; since that is what I would expect from my forebears; and since that is the best way to preserve my memory among humans);
  2. To seek to enjoy life to its fullest, pursuing every pleasure and comfort that is within my grasp and that will not conflict with (1).

TWO — AFTERLIFE; NO GOD
If there is an afterlife, but no God acts as eternal gatekeeper to oversee who may enter the afterlife and/or which afterlife they will enter, the scale must solely be based on our actions in this life.  See ONE, above.

THREE — GOOD GOD; SALVATION BY FAITH
If God is good, he will give everyone an equal chance. This means every person on earth must be capable of knowing God exists and understanding the qualifications necessary for salvation, either through nature itself or through proselytization/evangelizing.

  • • Nature does not clearly point to the existence of God, since many people (including myself) have searched honestly for any incontrovertible evidence of God’s existence and found nothing.
  • • Therefore, those who would only know God through nature are doomed unless they can be reached by missionaries/evangelists.  Entire nations of “unreached people groups,” whose only knowledge of God would be through nature, would be condemned to damnation for generations.

Therefore either God is evil (see FOUR, below) or salvation is not predicated on belief (see FIVE, below).

FOUR — EVIL GOD
If God is evil, he cannot be trusted.
If God is evil, his will cannot necessarily be determined by what he says or is purported to have said.
If God is evil, having or not having faith, or doing or failing to do good works will make no difference for the afterlife.
Therefore, it is best to live as if there were no God or afterlife (see ONE, above), and hope for the best in the life to come.

FIVE — GOOD GOD; SALVATION BY GOOD DEEDS
If God is good and requires from us lives of good works to determine a good afterlife, we should strive to live our lives in the best way possible, improving our own situation and the situation of those around us, while being willing to proclaim the goodness of a God that wants good things for his creation.  We should, however, be aware that if salvation is predicated on good works, it is not predicated on faith, and that therefore proselytization/evangelism, while useful for sharing the joy of knowing such a benevolent Being, is neither necessary for our own salvation nor for the salvation of those around us.  We should also be aware that, because of this, people of diverse faiths may also find salvation through doing good deeds, even if their understanding of or name for God is different from our own.

IN SUM

  1. Do good to those around you.  Do what you can for whom you can with what you have in the time you have.
  2. Seek to better yourself intellectually, physically, financially, relationally, psychologically/spiritually, and in any other way you know how to improve your own quality of life.
  3. Do not let (2) interfere with (1); do not let, for example, your financial pursuit prevent you from reaching out to those in need.
  4. Belief in God does not seem to make logical sense as a necessary factor for salvation.  Belief/faith/trust in a benevolent being may have great advantages for one’s personal life, but should not affect one’s chances with the afterlife, if there is an afterlife.
  5. These principles hold true whether or not there is a God, whether or not there is an afterlife, and regardless of the character of either.