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American Agnostic: An Appeal for Christian Understanding

American Agnostic: An Appeal for Christian Understanding

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American Agnostic: An Appeal for Christian Understanding

186 Seiten
5 Stunden
Nov 25, 2009


American Agnostic argues that the true worth of an American should not be based on an individual's faith or uncertainty in the reality of a biblical God.

American Agnostic is an atempt by author Raymond A. Hult to bridge the unfortunate gap of mistrust and disrespect that too often currently exists in America between members of the Christian majority and the agnostic minority. Hult places the responsibility for achieving a mutually respectful understanding equally on the shoulders of both those who fervently believe in the Christian God and those who are as yet still unsure. He tries to show that moral behavior is more often than not unrelated to a person's religious persuasion.

American Agnostic engages Christians and agnostics in a frank discussion of the main differences of opinion that separate both groups in regard to the authenticity of the Bible and the reality of the God as presented therein. Drawing on his transformation from a devout Christina leader to a questioning agnostic, the author recounts in detail the thought process that led to his gradual change of belief. He respectively defends this change as reasonable and deserving of serious consideration. He seeks to portray the agnostic in a more favorable light and that there is nothing inherently evil with admitting that a sure knowledge of God may not be so sure after all.

Nov 25, 2009

Über den Autor

At age 62, this is Raymond A. Hult's first published book. With a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and a Masters of Public Administration in Criminal Justice, Hult spent 27 years as a special agent with the FBI. He was also an official in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) where he was called to be a bishop. A converted agnostic, his knowledge of Christianity is based on a lifetime of Christian service and study.

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American Agnostic - Raymond A. Hult


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© Copyright 2009 Raymond A. Hult.

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1. Defining Agnosticism

2. Deism

3. A Question Of Faith

4. Objectivity

5. Moral Conduct

6. Revelation

7. Blasphemy/Apostasy

8. Family Relations

9. Prayer

10. Old Testament God

11. New Testament God

12. Sexual Taboos

13. The Genesis Creation

14. Atoning For Sin

15. Submissiveness

16. Evolution

17. The Purpose Of Life

18. Those Pearly Gates

19. Miracles

20. The Closet Option

21. America’s Religious Foundation

22. Church And State

23. Radical Christian Fundamentalism

24. Spirituality

25. Unreasonable Apprehension

26. Respectful Coexistence


The purpose of this book is easy to explain. I think agnostics in America are unfairly discriminated against. That’s not the case in the majority of the rest of the industrialized world where nonbelievers are far more common. For example, an agnostic can run for public office in most European nations without voters considering such belief as a reason for eliminating that individual as a viable candidate. Agnostics in America are wasting their time by throwing their hats in the ring. If you really want a chance at being elected, the best strategy for a nonbeliever is to remain in the closet and praise the Lord whenever possible.

I consider such discrimination as both unjust and unreasonable. Hopefully, what I have to say can help change the minds of at least a few of those who feel threatened by someone like myself who sincerely has reservations about the credibility of organized religion. My comments and conclusions are directed toward all theists; although my primary emphasis is directed toward Christians who dominate the religious landscape in the United States. My intent is not to convert anybody to agnosticism, but simply to recognize that uncertainty about the existence of God is neither evil nor the basis to judge a person as unworthy of respect and trust.

I should also make it clear from the start that I speak for myself and not for all agnostics who are composed of fiercely independent thinkers who often disagree about a variety of religious issues. I might note, however, that these differences pale in my experience in comparison to the contentious arguments between theists. My goal is to try to convince all concerned that nobody deserves to be ostracized because of a generalized label that only begins to disclose what makes a person tick. Most theists and agnostics I know are generally equally decent people who represent themselves well and care about others.

There may be as many roads to becoming an agnostic as there are agnostics. My particular path is one I’ve found to be common in many respects with others who have reached the same general conclusions as they relate to God’s existence. I was the first born to a father who came from a long line of Swedish Lutherans and a mother who can trace her roots to the first Mormon pioneers who settled the Utah Territory in 1847. Dad converted to the Mormon faith and we moved to Salt Lake City where we all became immersed in living the tenants of that religion.

I began to have questions about the credibility of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, at about the age of nineteen when most male members are called on to engage in a two-year mission to convert others around the world. I didn’t go and became inactive through most of my college years. My wife and I were both inactive members of the Church when we married just prior to my graduation year at the University of Utah. We both became active again and were married in the Mormon temple on our first anniversary.

We had five daughters and remained totally active in the Church for just short of the next thirty years. Although certain things nagged me about Joseph Smith, I put them aside and maintained an absolute faith that he had been a prophet of God and had helped restore the only true church on the face of the earth since the time of Jesus Christ in the meridian of time. My wife and I were united in attempting to raise our daughters with the same unshakable commitment, and I personally held numerous positions of leadership including that of a bishop responsible for the spiritual welfare of several hundred members.

Finally, about the time most of our girls had left or were in the process of leaving the nest, the lingering doubts began to surface to the point where I determined a need to carefully investigate them to insure that I was on the right path. The more I investigated the more I realized that my blind faith in Joseph Smith had been misguided. That was a shock to my system from which I’m still not fully recovered. I think some of our girls are still in the process of trying to forgive me. One thing I know for sure is that religious belief affects those close to you as much or more than yourself. Very few of us are in the position to have our decisions impact only ourselves.

About the time I was done with Mormonism and considering other Christian denominations, I began to realize that my absolute faith in the Holy Bible may have likewise been ill-conceived. Again, the more I objectively considered the evidence and reasonableness of the Christian dogma, the more I became convinced that I really didn’t believe in most of it. It shook me to the core a second time to finally acknowledge I had taken it for granted for so long.

From there, I started investigating dogmas outside Christianity. I haven’t found anything so far that’s any better and most are worse. The closest I can relate to any form of theism concerns the philosophy of the deist who believes in God but is convinced that he has had no contact with mankind since the earth’s creation. Although that may be the way it turns out, I remain an agnostic at this point in time. That’s because the existing evidence is insufficient at present for me to conclude otherwise.

I hope no one wrongly deduces that I am intentionally denigrating sincere theists of any persuasion. Although I may disagree, I don’t want that to be construed as disrespect. It would result in hypocrisy of the worst kind for me to criticize theists who sincerely believe as long as such beliefs don’t infringe on the religious freedom of others. After all, I was one of them for the majority of my adult life. Most of my family and closest friends are devoted theists. Fortunately, most have benefited from Christianity as it has brought them closer together as families and made them better people.

That’s the incongruity of organized religion. Often it leads to a better life even though, in my opinion, it is based on a shaky foundation of misrepresentation and illogical reasoning. I think most would agree, however, that is not always the case. It seems just as frequently that man-made religion has adversely impacted on the welfare of its adherents and those who disagreed. Some denominations have been totally corrupt and lack any redeeming values. Each deserves to be evaluated on its own merits.

Again, my goal is to portray the agnostic in a more favorable light and show there is nothing sinister in concluding that a sure knowledge of God may not be so sure after all. Maybe then the discrimination will lessen and we can begin to realize the true meaning of religious freedom that our Founding Fathers intended and in the process help to create a more reasonable and tolerant attitude regarding divergent religious attitudes in America.


I like to keep things simple. I divide the question of a belief in God into three fundamental concepts consisting of theism, agnosticism and atheism. Theists believe that God exists while atheists don’t. Agnostics contend there is insufficient evidence to prove the existence of a supreme one way or the other. I’m well aware this simplification may raise the hackles of those who insist on more detailed subdividing based on slightly differing interpretations among these three basic classifications. I think they are making this issue more complicated than it needs to be.

No matter how different their particular dogmas might seem, the single common thread that holds all theists together is a faith in a supreme being and the certainty of life after death. Atheists are convinced neither of these two assertions is true. Agnostics hold open the possibility that one or the other may be true, but there is no way now to know without further enlightenment based on more reliable evidence in combination with reason and common sense.

I become somewhat exasperated when pollsters combine atheists and agnostics under the same general grouping of nonbelievers. I think they need to be separated. My opinion is that a significant divide separates not believing and not knowing. Although it is probably accurate to say that both atheists and agnostics harbor common doubts about the surreal claims of organized religion, it’s incorrect and misleading to imply the same belief as it relates to the existence of God. That’s a significant difference apparently unrecognized by many religious preference pollsters.

Again, atheists have generally determined through whatever means that a divine creator is a fallacy. Most agnostics I know think that position is currently just as unprovable as the theistic contention that such a godly entity exists. I choose to join this middle ground in asserting that both atheists and theists have jumped the gun by claiming unerring certainty when there is no credible way to know for sure. I don’t understand why that difference alone isn’t significant enough to warrant more often separating agnostics from atheists in the preference surveys.

How many agnostics are there in the United States? It’s hard to determine an exact figure because many of the religious polls include agnostics along with atheists and other groups in a generalized category labeled unaffiliated. The latest survey I could find that actually separated agnostics from other nonbelievers was published in February 2008 by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Entitled U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, Religious Affiliation: Diverse and Dynamic, the poll disclosed that 2.4 percent of the adults surveyed identified themselves as agnostics. That was part of the 16.1 percent of the respondents who identified themselves as unaffiliated with any religious denomination. I’m suspicious that the real total of agnostics is higher, but I have as yet been unable to find a survey to support my cynicism that more people lean toward an agnostic philosophy than they are willing to openly admit.

It’s apparent that agnosticism in most other parts of the industrialized world is far more popular than in the United States. I base this assumption primarily on numerous less revealing religious preference polls which lump agnostics with atheists and others in the nonbeliever category. I haven’t seen a survey that didn’t place the U. S. near the bottom of the list when comparing the number of admitted nonbelievers. For example, a safe estimate of acknowledged nonbelievers in major European countries such as France, Germany, Britain, and Sweden is easily more than ten times the estimated number in America.

Again, does that prove that the actual number of agnostics in America is actually that much lower? I have my doubts. I suspect the number may be greater here if it wasn’t for the adverse stigma associated with being a nonbeliever in America. With the vast majority of citizens identifying themselves as Christian, I have to wonder if many closet nonbelievers deem it unwise to admit their true religious conviction openly. For example, in my private conversations with numerous individuals who claim membership in various Christian denominations, many of them tell me in confidence that they have serious doubts about portions of their dogmas but feel it unwise for various reasons to cause waves in their personal lives.

The word agnosticism can be traced back to the root word gnosis which means knowledge in Greek. Without going into all the various meanings that have resulted from the use of this word, the meaning of interest herein is the one where Gnosticism refers to a sure knowledge of a supreme being based on faith, spiritual insight or other metaphysical means. Thomas Henry Huxley is credited with adding the ag to gnostic in 1869 as his way of reversing the meaning and emphasizing his opinion that there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the Gnostic claim. In other words, he felt it was wrong to claim to know that God exists when such an assertion is unknowable and not provable.

It’s common for someone to criticize me for being a fence sitter who is unwilling to take a stance as either a theist or an atheist. Most often, they say I appear to them to be more atheistic, charging I’m just trying to soften the blow and make myself seem a little more acceptable to my theistic family members and other close associates. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I try to explain to these doubters that I’m totally sincere in trying to explain my position that theists and atheists are both wrong to conclude that God does or doesn’t exist. I commiserate totally with Robert G. Ingersoll, often referred to as the Great Agnostic, who explained in his 1869 lecture titled Why I Am An Agnostic the following: . . . Is there a God? I do not know. Is man immortal? I do not know. One thing I do know, and that is, that neither hope, nor fear, nor belief, nor denial, can change the fact. It is as it is, and it will be as it must be. . . . So it is with me; it would be dishonest for me to side with either theism or atheism when the truth is that I

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