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.
Copyright 2010 Sujewa Ekanayake