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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Atheism vs Agnosticism vs Universalism

First and foremost, I am writing this article without a trace of prejudice or being bias. I just want to simply convey the facts, as much as possible, of what these three philosophical contexts mean. Personally, I would also like to be straight to the point in telling everyone that I am a universalist. Period!

Today, I was browsing for 'Buddhist meditation chants' on Youtube for my daily yoga practice, however, what caught my attention is a video about atheism as one of the suggested videos on the left panel of the page. I bookmarked it and planned to play it after my yoga... Well, honestly, I've been so interested about topics related to Atheism since a long time ago and asked why there are people who think as such. Is it really a big deal to be such or not? As years, decades and centuries came rolling by and unfolded a new dawn of history, new philosophical school of thoughts seems to also be emerging.

In this article, we will be leaving behind the concept of "theism" because almost everybody knows it. We will just have to define these three, often misunderstood, concepts of religion or spirituality.

Disclaimer: Some facts and persons in the list contained herein can sometimes be ambiguous since different sources have conveyed different set of information. As to the preciseness of the material, I suggest you do your own research and NEVER rely solely on this article. Moreover, the choice of certain individual may change from time to time, therefore, the lists provided are subject to change without notice. Names on the list are not the only person who adhere to the category they belong to and there could be more.

In it's broader sense, by adding the prefix "a", which means "not; without," we get atheism - and hence "not/without belief in gods."  Atheism among atheists is quite simply "not believing in any gods." Atheism has to involve all gods, not simply one god - and an atheist can often approach different gods in different ways

Theists normally make the serious error of focusing only on the specific god in which they believe in, failing to recognize the fact that atheists don't focus on that god particular god alone.

As mere observation, most Atheists are Humanist and philanthropists who are involved into several charitable deeds. Famous slogan from American Humanist Association is "GOD MAY NOT EXIST. BUT YOU DO. Take goodness into your own hands."

Atheism revolution, join their cause at (Stand Up. Speak Out. Be Counted)
It's like a social networking site where atheists around the world gather.

April 21, 2012 - PATAS convention at at the Bayview Hotel
PATAS relief operation
Here in the Philippines, we have PATAS, founded in February 14, 2011, the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society is a trailblazer of critical thinking, free thought and scientific inquiry in the Philippines.

Famous Atheists: 
Björk (award-winning singer-songwriter from Iceland)
Sasha Grey (famous American porn star)
Sigmund Freud (famous neurologist and the “Father of Psychoanalysis"
Bruce Lee (influential martial artist and actor)
Morgan Freeman (Academy awardee, The Shawshank Redemption)
Bill Gates (chairman of Microsoft, philantrophist)
Angelina Jolie (actress, UN Goodwill Ambassador)
Brad Pitt (actor, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
George Clooney (actor, Batman)
Natalie Portman (actress, Starwars)
Keanu Reeves (actor, The Matrix)
Joe Rogan (TV host, Fear Factor, UFC)
John Lennon (singer, The Beatles)
Jodie Foster (actress, The Silence of the Lambs)
Billy Joel (Grammy awardee, pianist and songwriter)
Pierre Curie (1859–1906): French physicist
Thomas Edison: American inventor
Lance Armstrong (road race cyclist)

Names were mined from Celebatheists.

Agnosticism can simply be defined as to have no absolute knowledge thus they are "unsure" whether a god or gods exist. Strictly speaking, agnosticism is about knowledge, and knowledge is a related but separate issue from belief, the scope of debate between theism and atheism.

If a person cannot claim to know, or know for sure, if any gods exist, then they may properly use the term "agnostic" to describe themselves. Some agnostics limit themselves to saying that they do not or cannot know if any gods exist, some go further and maintain that no human can possibly know if any gods exist.

Famous Agnostics:
Zac Efron (actor, Highschool Musical)
Antonio Banderas (actor, The Mask of Zorro)
Winston Churchill (British politician, Prime Minister)
Charlie Chaplin (famous comedic actor)
Albert Einstein (famous scientist/physicist)
Mark Twain (American humorist/writer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)
Matt Groening (American cartoonist, The Simpsons)
Larry King (TV and radio host)
Charles Darwin (English naturalist)
Stephen Hawking (British theoretical physicist)
Sean Penn (actor, director, Mystic River)
Sting (rock musician, activist, actor, philanthrophist)
Siddharta Gautama Buddha (spiritual teacher, founder of Buddhism)

Famous Buddha philosophy:
Knowing how the world started is not going to end your suffering, it’s just going to give you more stuff to think about.

Names were mined from Celebatheists and Dombestlist

Universalism, in its primary sense, refers to religious, theological, and philosophical concepts with universal application or applicability. In its secondary sense, a church or community that calls itself Universalist may emphasize the universal principles of most religions and accept other religions in an inclusive manner, believing in a universal reconciliation between humanity and the divine. -Wikipedia

There are several accepted definitions of universalism in the dictionary:
~a theological doctrine that all human beings will eventually be saved (which I strongly do not agree and do not accept)
~something that is universal in scope
~the state of being universal

On many websites, they have a third classification for those persons who can neither be an Atheist or Agnostics, they call it Ambiguous, in the sense that they do not claim themselves as non-believer or unsure. However, it seems like the people included in this list are people who do not deny the existence of higher beings which I would synonymously refer to as universalists here in this article.

Famous universalists (ambiguous):
Oprah Winfrey (famous TV host)
Tina Turner (singer, actress, Buddhist)
Sir Edmund Hillary (New Zealand explorer and philanthropist)
Elton John (English rock singer-songwriter and philanthropist)
Sandra Bullock (actress, Miss Congeniality)
Napoleon Bonaparte (French emperor, political leader)
Meryl Streep (actress, The Devil Wears Prada)
Bruce Willis (actor, Pulp Fiction, Armageddon)
Mick Jagger (English rock star, The Rolling Stones)
Sarah McLachlan (Grammy awardee, Canadian singer)
Marilyn Manson (American rock icon)
Christopher Reeve (actor, Superman)
Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama:  (spiritual leader, human rights advocate)

Famous Dalai Lama quote:
“Whether you believe in God or not does not matter so much, whether you believe in Buddha or not does not matter so much. You must lead a good life.”

Names were mined from Celebatheists and Dombestlist

So personally speaking, I am a universalist because:

1. I am a believer of a Higher being.

The circle of friends closest to me identify me as a person who do not conform to any fundamentalist religions yet I believe in a form of a higher mystical force. The nature of what I conceived as a Higher being is not those subject to the characterization of certain fundamentalist religions. Christians has their own characterization of their own God which maybe different from how Muslims, or Jews or Hindus characterized theirs.

However, I am more inclined into the neo-Pagan concept that this Higher being is in duality (male and female aspect), omnipresent (being present everywhere), omniscient (knowing everything) and omnipotent (having unlimited power). With these being said, I characterized my god/goddess as one that can be called or addressed using any names that I feel convenient for me. I may used established names like Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Apollo, Venus, etc the way I like it, in the end, it's all up to me. I also would like to stress that I pray almost everywhere since I believe that my god/goddess is omnipresent. You do not have to be attending services, masses or collective prayers in a church, mosque, or temple to do it, although doing so is not against my will and is okay.

2. I am spiritual NOT religious

I do not strictly conform to any religion or to any of their religious' specific rites and exclusive teachings. (ex. Catholics - worshipping of saints, idols, Sto. Nino, etc while Islam consider it a sin and strictly impose all followers to practice the 5 pillars of Islam. They are (1) the shahadah (creed), (2) daily prayers (salat), (3) almsgiving (zakah), (4) fasting during Ramadan and (5) the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime. )

3. I study and apply NOT apply because I'm required.

I accept the universal principles of most religions and not conform to a singularity of a religion's theological and philosophical teachings. In simple terms, these are general concepts which you may find from every single religion that I personally believe to have a universal application or applicability to myself and for others.

And what are these universal principles I'm referring to? For example, the famous golden rule, if you come to think of it, have versions that can be found on almost all mainstream and minority religions, including both old and newly blossomed faiths. The idea of this rule is to simply do goodness to others.

Confucianism: "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you." —Analects XV.24
Buddhism: "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." —Udanavarga 5:18
"For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this;Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Galatians 5:14 "Do to no one what you yourself dislike."—Tobit 4:15 
"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31
Islam: “That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.” —Muhammad's hadith
Jainism: "Just as pain is not agreeable to you, it is so with others. Knowing this principle of equality treat other with respect and compassion." —Suman Suttam , verse 150
Judaism: "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." —Leviticus 19:18
Scientology: "Cause only those things which others are able to experience easily." —Scientology: A New Slant on Life, Two Rules for Happy Living
Taoism: "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss." —T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien
Wicca: "These eight words the Rede fulfill, 'an ye harm none do as ye will." —The Wiccan Rede

4. I view life as a journey NOT destiny.

Life for me is not a predestined path. I believe that it is our journey towards greatness and self-realization. I felt that we were all born here in this world to bring goodness for ourselves illuminating it to the world around us. 

I do not simply rely on what fundamentalists called "prayers". They normally ask, gratifiy, and thank their deities for things which are mostly and commonly abused by followers of these religions. Most people rely on prayers for their deities to give them good lives but conveyed less to no actions at all. I work for myself, I persevere and I am totally accountable to what I am now and what I would become. I believe that God is within us and strongly agree that we do not need any mediators like a priest, imam, sheik, rabbi, monk, or any religious leader per se to communicate to our own God.

I am also against the idea that our life should outline what has been practiced for generations especially in a patri-archal society. My parents had always told me to study, get a good job, marry and have family. This is a kind of life we've been told and encouraged by society. I am not adherent to the concept that humans should grow and have family. It is an option. The most important aspect of living is for us to live a life with purpose. Whatever that is, we find it within ourselves on our individual journeys.

Aside from these, there are several ritualistic concepts which for me is should be optional like baptism, circumcision, marriage and strictly heterosexual-love.  My idea of life is different. I want to live a life where I just follow my heart without being imposed on by society regarding the things I should do.  In the end, it's just a matter of being happy and doing the things you want with great aspirations and good heart.

I'll update and add more insights once I've got time. I also wrote this right then and there without proofreading. I apologize for the grammar slips. ^_^


Anonymous said...

"I study and apply NOT apply because I'm required." exactly how i feel every sunday mass when I'm forced to go to church.

I agree with you about the universalist concept.. I'm an agnostic and read theosophical digest... I study universal laws of religion

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