“’What’s the meaning of life?’ Other people.” –John Green
A few readers have suggested that frequent discussion of my doubt has made it difficult to ascertain my beliefs, so I have decided to take this post to outline my core beliefs—the ideas that make my life worth living. Firstly, I do not believe doubt and belief are antonymous. C.S. Lewis writes eloquently on the nature of belief in his essay, “On Obstinacy in Belief,” the first piece in The World’s Last Night and Other Essays. For me, writing about my core beliefs gives me the opportunity to better understand myself and the direction I’m going in as I develop my worldview. My core beliefs aren’t tied to any particular religion but to my own experience and my understanding of universals—concepts that do not change with time, location, culture, or human development.
I’ve always been a spiritual person, and I’ve often felt—however faintly—that there is something sentient bigger than humanity. This something was not necessarily associated with church, or doctrine, or a specific set of rules or rituals. Instead, the intricacy of the ecosystem, to the order of physics, even the beauty and complexity of evolutionary science reveal an elegance and complexity in the laws that keep the universe together. Laws, by nature, condense into principles, and I believe—though I can’t know—there is an ultimate principle, a ‘theory of everything’ that keeps the universe in motion.
On the personal level, Love is the ultimate principle. When applied in conjunction with a pluralistic understanding of liberty—which is itself a necessity for love—love is a universal truth (J.S. Mill’s “On Liberty” powerfully explains the societal necessity of personal liberty, and was instrumental in shaping my worldview early in college). All this leads me to my first core belief: There is something benevolent that holds the universe together, some people call it God.
My other core beliefs are an outgrowth of Mark 12:30-31. I believe it’s my duty to love Goodness and love my fellow man. I want to live my life as a humanitarian, as someone who is devoted in improving the lives of people and the course of humanity. After all, if mankind is eventually supposed to transcend into some kind of perfection, we’ll have practiced here, now, on earth. Heaven is not a nice climate—that can be found in Italy. Heaven is not good weather, or tame animals, or eternal riches for all. What will make Heaven better than a good vacation are the people who inhabit it, and how they treat one another. As skills are best achieved by practice, it is my belief that this is humanity’s time to hone the crafts of love, order, liberty, and justice for the transcendent society of tomorrow.
These are my core beliefs. The list may seem scant to some, but I profess certainty in few things because I ascent to aspects of Huxleyan agnosticism. In “Agnosticism and Christianity,” Thomas Henry Huxley defines agnosticism as adherence to the belief that, “it is wrong for a man to say that he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty…” Huxley continues,
I might hope to hear no more of the assertion that [agnostics] are necessarily Materialists, Idealists, Atheists, Theists, or any other ists…We have not eh slightest objection to believeanything you like, if you will give us good grounds for belief; but, if you cannot, we must respectfully refuse. The course of the past has impressed us with the firm conviction that no good ever comes of falsehood.
–Huxley, “Agnosticism and Christianity,” 1889, 1892
It is my aspiration to hope in many things, but claim certainty of very little.
- What do “Atheist” and “Agnostic” Really Mean? (mechanicalbrain.wordpress.com)