I've been thinking quite a bit lately. Maybe too much. Or perhaps thinking is just what I do. All the hundreds of math modules I'm learning in school are essentially teaching me to think. Clear, logical thinking is very necessary for all the computing I do as well. Anyway, I thought I just get some thoughts down onto here.
I decided in Grade 9, I think, when I first heard the definition of the word, that I was agnostic. I am a scientist and mathematician, I'm not usually willing to accept things without good evidence. Usually I'd like to see clear proof, but good evidence would be enough for me to have strong faith in an idea. Now I definitely see no proof of any religion I know of. I don't even see much evidence. Take Christianity, for example. I wasn't brought up to be very religious, I never went to church weekly or anything, but I was basically brought up to be some sort of Christian. Apart from being told so, I don't see why this should be any more true than any other religion. When I was young and we were taught in school the stories of Jesus, I took them as fact, but when I realized how many other religions there were with very different beliefs I started to question it all. As well as other religions there's so many different types of many religions (I'm not a religious man, I don't know all the proper words, you'll just have to put up with my rambling): Catholics, different types of Protestants, Orthodox and Non-Orthodox.
My basic argument is that most of these religions only allow their own to be "true" even if they can tolerate other people believing different things. By a religion being "true", I mean all beliefs about afterlife, deities etc. actually "happen" (if you believe you will go to either Heaven or Hell after you die, then that is what will happen if the religion is "true"). So if any particular religion is "true", then every other religion can't be "true" (exactly to the letter at least). So why should I pick one religion over all others? For most people this is because that is how they were brought up, but that's not good enough for me. So I am agnostic; that is to say I don't know whether there is a god. Stealing an idea from Homer Simpson: What if I've been worshipping the wrong god and the right one's just getting really mad at me? I am not atheist; I'm not saying there is definitely no god. Personally I see this as the same as picking a religion when I assume only one of them can be right.
So all I think I can reasonably do is leave my mind open. I don't intend to go on any sort of vengeful killing spree because not everyone agrees with me or anything like that. If people want to believe something and it doesn't interfere too much with my life then I say leave them to it.
Although I say that I don't see particularly good evidence for any of the religions I know about, I think there is a good chance that some sort of god does exist. Although scientific ideas and theories that clash with many religions I know of seem to be able to very accurately describe what we see in the universe, why did the universe bother to come into existence? That question is nearly stolen from Stephen Hawking in A brief history of time which I just read. He doesn't answer it. I don't know if anyone ever will be able to, at least in a manner which convinces me.
So basically, I don't think I can have completely blind faith. If I'm told an equation in math works but we haven't done enough work yet to understand the proof of it, I'll probably accept it because I doubt my math teachers has much reason to lie to me. I can test the equation and see if it works in some situations, and that combined with what I've been told will satisfy me, for a while at least. Of course false proofs can easily fool me if they look convincing. I remember a proof that i did where 1=2, in which I understood every line and agreed with it. I think the problem was dividing both sides by x when x could have been zero (and anything divided by zero is undefined) or something like that, but until someone pointed this out I agreed with every line of the "proof" except for the last one. In another math lesson, when the teacher was introducing us to complex numbers he compared "belief" in complex numbers to belief in the existence of God: we just use either idea because things seem to work better in the world if you accept one to be true. I agree that math seems to work better with complex numbers, the same way I can have negative numbers and irrational numbers even though I can't have negative numbers or irrational numbers of apples to count. And I agree that the universe just might make a little bit more sense if there is some sort of God behind it all. I don't agree that that gives me reasonable grounds to accept any particular church of Christianity because that's how I was brought up.
We were told by the reverend in our school's Founder's service (compulsory event in a church) about how post-modernism and nihilism are bad, and that apparently there is good evidence for the resurrection. Most of the way through I was just sitting there quietly disagreeing, but getting told that there was good evidence for something I didn't strongly believe in (I just believe in the possibility of it) piqued my interest. He then said something about "doubt being a folly". Doubt is a fundamental part of how I think and have been taught to think though. If I had have accepted the "proof" that 1=2 above I'd probably have had to have given up math because it doesn't work. Of course I doubted it because it didn't look right. I doubt most religions I've heard of too; they don't look right. Then again if I could see what I thought was good evidence, I might be more convinced. The Bible is not good evidence to me. Plenty of religions have their own holy books which contradict themselves and each other, and that results in very little meaning. Some Roman records about who was crucified don't mean much to me either. Maybe if I knew exactly what this "good evidence" was I'd be more convinced, but he didn't mention that. Shame. I'm going to continue with my doubting, post-modern nihilism until I'm given good reason to otherwise, because that's just my nature; it's how I am.