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Discussion 1 to Ask the Patriarch 103
Organising Agnostics

by Brother Incitatus

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I agree that there is neither a great desire nor need for agnostics to 'organise'. We are an inherently heterogeneous lot, and to try to organise ourselves around a particular interpretation of agnosticism, I think, would only serve to emphasise that fact.

If there was to be any kind of organized movement among agnostics, I don’t feel it should be so much about converting people away from theism, so much as demonstrating the reality that moral values can be obtained from non-religious sources, and that these sources in fact often precede and/or underlie religious morality (although in many cases, religious dogma flies in the face of commonsense morality entirely). This is something that many people simply do not understand; hence the common question, 'Without God, why should we be moral?'.

To a great extent, sadly, this ignorance is due to poor education. With the exception of certain old fashioned Catholic schools (there’s some irony for you), the teachings of Seneca, Plato, Aristotle etc. have pretty much fallen into obscurity, outside of specialised academic pursuit. Yet, the basic themes underlying secular morality (much of it being grounded in reason despite the fact that most philosophers believe(d) in God) clearly strike a chord with many people regardless of religion. That’s why these moral codes are so much more prevalent in movies and books and other forms of entertainment; they reach out to more people. In short, they sell better than religious dogma. The high irony of Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’ is that it almost completely abandoned the intrinsically Christian concepts of morality and embraced the more Stoic elements of Christianity. I would argue that this was the prevailing reason it that it was so widely popular among Christians regardless of denomination. Perhaps a better example of the popularity of reason-based ethics in entertainment is of course Star Wars, where George Lucas succeeds in demonstrating the power of basic moral principles, in this case set in the framework of Jungian archetypes, and how they transcend specific religious dogmas. On top of that, you’ve obviously got Harry Potter and just about every movie directed towards children that has been released in the last 20 years. Whether one is talking God, Dharma, Logos, or The Force is irrelevant; there are basic concepts of morality that are consistent throughout. But now I’m just parroting what has already been said many times before by far more erudite individuals.

Basically, I feel it is enough if agnostics simply agree to strive towards showing others that there is a more-or-less solid ethical framework to abide by that need not be subscribed to on the pain of eternal damnation. The discovery that cooperation, companionship and respect for others and one’s self is conducive to a better life having pre-dated religion by some several million years, I should expect.