Agnosticism for Dummies

Robert Anton Wilson

I’ve got a confession to make. I’m an agnostic. I don’t believe in anything.

I don’t believe in science. I don’t believe in art. I don’t believe in religion. I particularly don’t believe in newspapers or TV or anything that’s reported on the news.

Robert Anton Wilson said that belief is the death of intelligence. Once you believe you stop asking questions. You think you already know. Questions are quests of the mind. When you stop questing, you are no longer truly alive.

That goes whether you believe in something, or disbelieve. Both are aspects of belief. If you say, “there is no God” you have closed the door on the possibility of ever knowing. You’ve already made up your mind.

An agnostic, on the other hand, doesn’t know and doesn’t pretend to know. Nothing is certain, therefore we can play. We can can use our imagination instead of blindly following the crowd.

Einstein came up with his theory of relativity by imaginative means. He imagined a train travelling at the speed of light and saw, from this perspective, that everything else was relative, even time.

Einstein began by not believing. He didn’t believe in the standard model. Had he believed he would never have bothered to do his thought experiment and everything would have remained the same.

Earlier, in the 15th Century, Copernicus came up with the idea that the Earth went round the Sun rather than the other was round.

Giordano Bruno

Even more startling, in the mid 16th Century, an Italian Dominican Friar by the name of Giordano Bruno lay on his back one brilliant, moonless night and imagined the stars as distant suns surrounded by their own planets.

What an extraordinary leap. Most people hadn’t even begun to accept the Copernican view, let alone envisioned the Universe as this vast, infinitely expanding space.

Giordano Bruno was an agnostic who was burned at the stake for refusing to accept the dogmas of the Catholic Church. He questioned the belief in eternal damnation, in the divinity of Christ, in the virginity of Mary, and in the transubstantiation of the host in the Eucharist.

At the same time he suggested that the Universe might be alive, and that the soul might be reborn in another body through reincarnation.

Both Giordano Bruno and Copernicus had read the newly rediscovered pagan works of Hermes Trismegestus, dating from around the 1st century AD, which some say helped to kick start the Renaissance.

So it took an ancient text, something outside the normally accepted world-view, to start making people curious again.

The word “renaissance” means rebirth. And it’s precisely a new renaissance we need right now as our dangerously out-of-control political and economic system is driving the world off a cliff edge onto the rocks of ecological disaster.

Just as Church dogma in the 15th and 16th centuries restricted imagination, so economic dogma now does the same.

Prior to 2008 the majority of commentators thought that the economy could just keep expanding. Until the whole system collapsed, that is, and the world was thrown into crisis. So we need a new imagination, of an ecologically sustainable future, living with nature, as opposed to against it.

We need to free the wealth currently hidden in off-shore accounts so that it can serve the whole of humanity and not just the greedy few. We need to stop listening to the propaganda that says that nothing can ever change.

We need a Green New Deal, of the kind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is offering in America.

Most of all, we need to question everything we are told. We all need to become agnostics.


From The Whitstable Gazette 09/05/19

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