What is agnosticism and how does it relate to a positive approach towards Sri Lanka and the diaspora?

By Sujewa Ekanayake

[First published in New Agnosticism For Sri Lanka & The Diaspora blog on 4/15/10]

Agnosticism, in my view, is an approach to religion that states that a person may not believe in all or certain aspects of a religion or of all religions, or that a person may be comfortable with some aspects of a religion or religions and may not be comfortable with the more fantastic aspects of religions – such as gods, life after death, etc.  The text book definition of agnosticism is the position that certain philosophical or religious questions cannot be answered by human reason, with typically the biggest question being the existence of God.

A positive approach to living on Earth is one that is useful to many or all humans.  Generally, in my view, work that assists with the goal of ending poverty on Earth, ending hunger, ending homelessness, and helps in creating societies ruled by just and humane and effective laws, and work that supports individual rights, protection of individuals from both illegal and evil physical or mental harm, work that assists with safeguarding freedom of thought & expression, work that assists individuals with building wealth and securing property, work that provides people with health care, are all positive actions, and are a result of a positive approach to living on Earth.

Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean, as many readers of this blog post may know, is a nation with a long history. Civilization in Sri Lanka reaches back to the far distant past, with remains of past societies still visible on the island in the form of ruins, sculptures, etc. Modern Sri Lanka – since independence in 1948 – has struggled with poverty, underdevelopment, and a series of armed struggles – the longest running of which – the war between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, ended last year. At this point in time Sri Lankans exist either in Sri Lanka proper – on the island – or world wide, in various countries, as a part of the Sri Lankan diaspora. An agnostic and positive approach from both within Sri Lanka and outside – in the Sri Lankan diaspora – can lead to the improvement of the quality of life for people in Sri Lanka and the diaspora.

Full development of Sri Lanka – of the island becoming a place that is competitive with the most developed countries on the planet – has been delayed by the lack of cooperation (to put it mildly, outright violent hostilities at some points which led to a nearly 30 year war may also be an accurate view) between the two main groups of people on the island – the Sinhala speaking Buddhists & Christians & others (mostly Buddhists) or the Sinhalese and the Tamil speaking Hindus & Christians & Muslims & others (mostly Hindu) or the Tamils. Agnostics, positively oriented agnostics who are interested in building a better Sri Lanka – from within Sri Lanka and from the diaspora – may be able to function as intermediaries, a buffer perhaps, and a positive force that can help guide people from both groups towards action that benefits Sri Lanka as well as the rest of the world.

In my view a positive agnostic does not seek the destruction of religions (as religions are a part of the intellectual and creative heritage of humans) but both freedom of religion for those who wish to practice a religion and freedom from religion for those who do not wish to participate in religions. In addition, a positive agnostic will help save non-believers or believers of different religions from any excessive & evil (aimed at destroying human life) actions initiated by extremist factions of one or more religious groups. In the Sri Lankan context, positively oriented agnostics from Sri Lanka and the diaspora may be able to assist the people of Sri Lanka with maintaining peace and dialogue between various groups/communities/ethnic & religious factions/”races”, etc. Also, agnostics, who are open to useful knowledge from any part of the world – unlike conservative Sri Lankans who distrust the West, for example, may be able to assist with the modernization of Sri Lanka in areas useful to Sri Lankans: education, industry, employment, finance, security, etc. Positively oriented agnostics can assist Sri Lankans talk to each other and work with each other and can assist with the conversation that needs to happen between Sri Lankans and the rest of the world – since we do not favor one religious or ethnic group over another, and we seek development of Sri Lanka & the diaspora so that all Sri Lankans and the rest of the world may benefit.

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Copyright 2010 Sujewa Ekanayake

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About sujewae
Indie filmmaking agnostic who is in favor of working with the religious and the secular to build a better world for all.

7 Responses to What is agnosticism and how does it relate to a positive approach towards Sri Lanka and the diaspora?

  1. ron says:

    No offence, but this write up sounds just like every other religion going on about why it is the “best”….

    • Sam says:

      Sorry this is me “sam”

      • Lahiru. says:

        Hey,we see our system as the best since it is the least prejudicial and most productive system still know to man which does not make exaggerated claims and superstitious nonsense.We make claims that have been proven in an scientific manner(if you say scientific method work I suggest you look around)which if we cannot prove we leave as hypothesis or simply as I DON”T KNOW as we are not into professional lying aka religion.

      • Lahiru. says:

        Hey,we see our system as the best since it is the least prejudicial and most productive system still know to man which does not make exaggerated claims and superstitious nonsense.We make claims that have been proven in an scientific manner(if you say scientific method does not work I suggest you to have a look around).For those issues we cannot prove we leave them as hypothesis or simply as ‘WE DON’T KNOW’ as we are not into professional lying aka religion.

      • Sam says:

        Lahiru, every religion sees itself as the “best” and would give out the same reasons that you do.

        You are certainly not an agnostic, because you actively argue against things that you cannot prove (like God).

  2. Ron,

    It is not a promotion for any religion. It is a suggestion that non-believers – agnostics & atheists – if they are interested in improving Sri Lanka & the world (improving the quality of life for people, basically) that they could try to work with mainstream moderates of various religions, as well as the secular world, in Sri Lanka & the diaspora. As non-believers, we do not automatically have to withdraw to our own camp as many who believe in various religions do. Nonbelievers can appreciate religion as a tool invented by humans for survival & making sense of existance & then proceed to work with religious people who are interested in working with them to accomplish positive/mutually beneficial goals. I seriously dobut that a poor person in SL or diaspora who receives a donation, or assistance for schooling, or assistance with starting a business, a legal matter, etc. will be offended that the person who is offering the help does not believe in their religion or has no religion at all (i know i wouldn’t).

    Also, the above article is merely the introduction to a way of doing things. A definition of terms/concepts. Much more detailed, concrete plans (such as positive projects that need assistance in SL & diaspora or projects that need to be started) – actions that can be taken to make real some of the ideas lightly described above are coming soon. But first, to get a new discussion going, or to begin a new project, it helps to clarify what certain terms and certain approaches that will be referenced in the coming discussion mean.

    – S

    • Lahiru. says:

      Hey,I know this Sam fellow as he only tries to pick a fight with the new comers ,which is his right,therefore do not try to lose focus as he only wants to do that.

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