Five weeks to go to release of the agnostic manifesto! Last week I posted the first couple of pages, so now here’s a taste of how the first chapter ends:
It’s time to get beyond either/or, yes-or-no answers, because while such a digital way of thinking may be excellent for computers, it is downright dangerous for human beings. The grim joylessness of fundamentalism is testament to that.
I want to bring color the table — to explore the richly textured terrain in which we really live instead of the narrow black-and-white one in which preachers and pundits have tried to confine us…. And to approach this whole complex, often crazed subject of faith-belief-meaning-mystery-existence not as something to be ‘solved,’ but as an ongoing, open-ended adventure of the mind…
What impels me is a desire to rise above the plethora of things-taken-for-granted, to shrug off the multiple tyrannies of the definite article (the truth, the soul, the universe, the meaning of life), and to find more honest ways — both intellectual and emotional — to talk about such intangibles as God, infinity, and consciousness.
To those looking for certainty, such a stance will be nothing short of a nightmare. It embraces both possibility and its correlate, uncertainty. It suspects all absolutes, all simplifications… It takes delight in the play of ideas, and resists all attempts to shoehorn them into the narrow constraints of conviction.
No ‘answers’ here, then. I make no claim to truth, let alone ‘the Truth,’ buttressed with that capital letter to give it a kind of unassailable grandeur. There are already far too many people convinced that they possess such presumptuous truth, and I do not intend to add to their number.
Neither do I have any desire to preach, or to convert anyone to agnosticism. In fact I’d take the ‘ism’ out of that word if I could, since the last thing needed is yet another pompously ‘complete’ system of thought demanding adherence to some sort of party line.
So while I offer this book as an agnostic manifesto, I recognize that it’s a strange kind of manifesto indeed — one that offers no certainties, and eschews brashly confident answers to grand existential questions. And if this makes it a peculiarly paradoxical creature, that is exactly what it needs to be, because to be agnostic is to cherish both paradox and conundrum. It is to acknowledge the unknowable and yet explore it at the same time — and to do so with zest, in a celebration not only of the life of the mind, but of life itself.
(I’ll be posting later in the week about the pre-order thing, and why I have the gall to keep asking you to do it. Meanwhile… here!)