The Agnostic’s Survival Manual
Dear reader, are you really hoping for a book of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’? Do you want gentle ideas and a comfortable corner in which to rest your half-formed prejudices? Alas, you have come to the wrong place.
The truly employable in this world are harmless blobs of not-quite-anything, or heroic knights of flaming conviction (best employed by others after safe removal to a site of sacrifice), or good old fashioned hypocrites with opinions for hire. This particular writer is entirely unsafe to hire or to know, being addicted to a deadly combination of moderation and candour. Luckily few people ever understand what he is talking about.
Readers will quickly notice that this is not a “course”, or even a coherent discourse. It is not especially well informed about the patient, though (it seems to me) often futile scholarship on religion which has consumed the lives of countless academic-type personalities for several thousand years. The Agnostic’s Survival Manual is merely Thor May’s survival manual in the supermarket of the spirits, a collection of observations and self-reminders which make sense to the author. Since the entries are a-ha! moments jotted down over the years, there is a degree of repetition, for the writer has sometimes been dim enough to think his sudden insight of the moment personally original, instead of recognizing last year’s dinner reheated. In fact, there might be a noisy crowd in heaven when I finally get there, waiting to sue for breach of copyright. Diligent hunters after nonsense are also sure to find plenty of inconsistencies. No problem, that’s your call.
Since this material was first written in 1997 I have lived a couple of extra lives, notably in China and South Korea. Not surprisingly, some of my ideas have developed or been modified, although the general tone has not changed greatly. A small part of the content is more recent, and some of the old content has been slightly edited. The original title of this document was “The Atheist’s Catechism” which was a bit too smug, and probably misrepresented the extremity of my attitudes to religion. In December 2014 I published a further speculation separately, with the title “Does religion emerge as a product of complex systems? – exploring an allegory“. A title like that will surely destine it to a small readership, and I’d be fired from any copy-writing agency, but the concept it deals with, a kind of cognitive “god-space” in the systems of mind, does seem credible to me.
There is no attempt or intention here to seek converts to a cause. I am perfectly happy if the reader has quite opposing views. From a shockingly brief career as a law student, I still recall the first words of the reigning professor’s lecture: “You will forget most of what you come across in this place, but if you learn just one thing, learn to agree to disagree. Then you will have become a civilized man.” That sounded pretty good to me at the time. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go around. Use this text as a striking iron for your own concepts, pro and contra. Enjoy. Continue reading