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The Agnostic's Bible: Great Stuff on Doubt

Sometimes I call myself a Zen Buddhist and sometimes I call myself an agnostic and sometimes I call myself “spiritual, but not religious.” The truth is probably “all of the above” or even “that and even more” or perhaps something else. “Searcher”? “Seeker”? “Still working on it”?

I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot lately, as I find myself doubting everything, including my own doubt, and trying to find a way to make uncertainty all right. To make uncertainty itself my path. (An approach to the spiritual life that, mysteriously, seems to annoy everyone from atheists to Christians).

This week I finally got the nerve to write down my meandering thoughts about doubt and atheism and cats. In the process, my reading and my wanderings around cyberspace led me to some thought-provoking material, which I’d like to share on this Great Stuff Saturday.

The best of the lot is Michael Krasny’s 2012 book Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic’s Quest. Krasny, host of the NPR program Forum, describes his own personal journey as he explores complex, mostly unanswerable questions about goodness and God. He doesn’t shy away from pointing out the similarities between some atheists (note: some) and fundamentalists—the absolute certainty, the proselytizing, the intolerance for other viewpoints. But mostly he delves into the reasons for his own uncertainty, stressing the value of questioning—questioning as a spiritual path.

Also excellent is Robin Le Poidevin’s Agnosticism: A Very Short Introduction. Le Poidevin  presents the philosophical argument for agnosticism and provides a brief historical overview. I like the book largely because it helped me define what I mean when I say the word “agnostic,” and enabled me to place agnosticism in a cultural context.

There are also some good blog posts out there. For example, check out Aimee Larsen Stoddard’s, “Are Agnostics Cowardly Atheists?” I love the fact that Stoddard is addressing this question because some atheists lobby the accusation of cowardice at agnostics rather vehemently. (These are usually the same atheists who claim that religion leads to intolerance. Go figure.)

Finally, there is a nice little post by the World Pantheism Movement. The WPM is a small but growing group that focuses on reverence for nature and the Universe, the rights of humans and nonhumans, compassion, the arts, and the intellect.

Their post, “Can You Be an Agnostic and a Pantheist?” is at core an invitation for agnostics to consider pantheism. It’s a concise and convincing read, and something to consider for anyone who is looking for a nontraditional spiritual home, or spiritual community. I should say that, though the WPM presents itself as a group open to all sorts of spiritual approaches and philosophies, from my experience, they’re not quite as flexible as they like to think. Try even suggesting that there may be something to claims of the supernatural on their discussion board and watch the fur fly (I know: I did it once, long ago). That aside, there is some interesting and insightful reading on their website, including this one on "natural meditation."