My recent discussion with an ordained minister friend was about agnosticism. My question that prompted the exchange was whether or not being agnostic was due to lack of faith. He said he liked to think of an agnostic as one with an open mind.
The Dawkin’s Scale measuring from “believers” to those who do not believe at all is from one to seven, from a Strong Theist to a Strong Atheist. Sitting in the middle at number four is a Pure Agnostic. Going in either direction from number four would be first a Weak position (either Theist or Atheist) and then a De-Facto position, which is stronger either way, but still with some doubt.
In defining the terms “atheist” and “agnostic,” both have the synonym of “nonbeliever.” That does not seem to be entirely correct since “atheism” is about a belief (or nonbelief, depending on your point of view) while “agnosticism” is about knowledge. From a strict theological point of view, the “nonbeliever” label is likely correct because the agnostic is not admitting a belief or, for that matter, a disbelief in a god. So, yes, the agnostic is a “nonbeliever” in that they have not come to accept the existence of a god.
That is an “open mind” in the sense that the jury is out and one with said mind would be willing to listen to ideas about a god without having a prejudice for or against.
That led me to think about the trend toward people defining themselves as “spiritual,” but “not religious.” That seems to be a rejection of “organized religion,” generally speaking. Everyone who defines themselves as such is not “agnostic” or a “nonbeliever” necessarily, but one who finds it difficult to accept “religion” in the present form of churches or other religious organizations today as the way to express one’s belief. A person does not need to be a member of a religious organization to believe in a god. One might argue that the company of those like-minded believers provides support and such. Is congregation necessary? No. My guess is that many could argue that congregation is, in fact, unhelpful since no one is likely to absolutely 100% align with others in a group, especially a large group, and the lack of passion for all things of a like manner might create some discontent or disagreement. Agreeing to disagree is not eradicating the issue, although some sense of community might exist among those with disagreements.
Can a person be “spiritual” and “agnostic?” Yes, from a metaphysical view. And may be more “religious-appearing” with strongly-held views about spirituality than some in organized religion. Concern about people on a personal level versus more of a material one takes on the characteristics one seemingly should find in organized religion where the soul is the most important aspect of one’s existence.
That seems to be where this year has taken me. Finding peace in organized religion has been lacking, but finding spirituality has been more present. Yes, there are people that are hard to appreciate because of what they do or what they believe or what they say. Does achieving a concern about people on a personal level require achievement of that for every person you know? No. There is no issue in my book of being “spiritual” while also rejecting certain acts or beliefs or words of a fellow human in a way that makes it difficult to accept that person or spend any amount of time with them. Wanting the best for another person sometimes requires that first the person makes changes; however, merely recognizing them does not require changes on anyone’s part.