My Theological Pigeonhole
(What I Believe About God and Religion)

Basic Summary

I am an agnostic. Some people say an agnostic is just a cowardly atheist, but I disagree. Credence is not binary in nature, so that you either have a given belief or you don’t. It’s often more like a gradient, for thoughtful people at least, people who have the intellectual courage to prefer an honest search for truth over an argument that simply confirms their previously-decided position. I think this is especially important to keep in mind when it comes to a subject as deeply philosophical yet passionately ideological (for many people) as the question of whether or not there is an entity that could coherently be called “God.” I admit I hope there is a God (mostly because I think eternal life would be nice, and that obviously becomes a far more realistic possibility if God exists), but I do not have a firm belief on the subject one way or the other. I end up being somewhere in the middle of the credence gradient rather than at one end or the other. For now at least.

To flesh this out a little, I’m not an atheist because I think the idea is at least plausible that the ultimate ground of reality might have characteristics that qualify as meaningfully analagous to what we might call “purpose” or “will” or “mind.” This is what I take the question of the existence of “God” to be fundamentally about, even though most people probably have a more anthropomorphic concept in mind when they use the term. I also think it is reasonable to hope that this “God,” if it exists, values and has a good purpose for the personal beings it has created. I do not think it is intellectually honest to claim to know that such a God exists, however, much less what its ultimate purpose might be. I do not see the evidence as being rationally compelling one way or the other. So for me, a reasonable hope does not justify an intellectual conviction.

My belief that there might be something that could be called “God” does not in any way involve a particular God, meaning the version of God held by any particular religion, including Christianity. (More on my relation to Christianity later on this page.) The concept of God that I am open to is rather very generic, perhaps somewhat like the God of deism. I’m certainly closer to deism than to traditional theism at any rate, since I see no evidence that God ever miraculously intervenes in the course of nature or supernaturally reveals anything through mystical experiences, prophecies, or holy books.

Although it can admittedly be unsettling to not know whether there is a God or not, and correspondingly whether there is an afterlife or not, I think in practice the problem is not as significant as it might at first appear. Specifically, I think the ethical requirements that would follow from the theory that there is a God are the same as the ethical requirements that we should hold even if the theory is wrong. These are basically summarized in the Golden Rule, which I would state in a slightly customized way as follows:

Treat others the way you’d want them to treat you if you were in their situation, assuming you’d still want to take this Golden Rule seriously even if you were the one in their situation.
(This wording avoids certain trivial objections to the Golden Rule, such as the argument that if I were in your situation I’d want you to give me a million dollars out of the blue. Ethics is a more complicated subject than that, and deserves deeper attention. So the basic principle expressed here does not eliminate the need for careful thought and consideration, but rather insists on careful thought and consideration, in order to be consistently applied.)

Some Personal History and a Disclaimer Regarding Other Writings on this Web Site

I was raised in a very conservative, evangelical form of Christianity, and I held to most of its core beliefs well into adulthood. My gradual shift to a much more open-minded perspective occurred slowly and only with considerable study and agonizing over the arguments. (Whatever else my character flaws might include, I do not think impulsiveness, in the sense of a tendency to switch views rashly, has ever been one of them.)

Unfortunately, because of this shift in my thinking, many of my earlier essays written for this web site are in serious conflict with my current views. Most of these I have now deleted, which will result in “Not Found” errors if they are attempted to be accessed from external links. But I’ve left a few online, deeming them to still be of some value even though no longer fully reflective of who I am. I hope my readers will not find this unduly confusing or misleading. Here they are, along with some Christian poetry I have also kept on the web site, for any who might be interested:

Specific Beliefs in Relation to Christianity

Although I no longer identify myself as Christian, the fact that I used to be devoutly attached to that worldview makes some people wonder to what extent my current beliefs might still be able to be reconciled with some form of Christianity. I do believe that the Christian movement was generally a step forward in the history of religion, particularly with its emphasis on the Golden Rule instead of a written law as the standard for morality, and also with its insistence that God’s love is not restricted to or focused on any particular nation or civilization. I also still think it is possible to learn and draw inspiration from the history of Christian thought even though I think it got a lot of things wrong. So if anyone wants to think of me as remaining Christian in a very liberal, inclusive sense of that word, I won’t object. For the sake of clarity, however, I have made the following attempt to systematically summarize my current position with specific comparison and contrast to what I would consider to be the major areas of Christian belief.

Epistemological Framework

Basic View of God and the World

Specifically Christian Doctrines

This page copyright © 2011-2015 Edward A. Morris.  Created May 12, 2011.  Last updated December 31, 2015.

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