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6 Varieties of the Agnostic Experience

2. Agnostic-Atheist-Postmodern-Contrarian Jerk: "I don't know if God exists and I'm not interested in finding a real answer. Instead what I care about is telling others how stupid they are for sharing their religious beliefs. Both atheists and Christians need to shut up in their dumb fight so they can listen to me and realize that I'm so much more humble and advanced than both of them."

The Contrarian in our political culture acquired an overinflated reputation -- mainly sustained by the late Christopher Hitchen's endearing talents as a performer. This is the guy who steps in and seeks to elevate himself above the emotional zealotry "on both sides" (as though only two answers existed to every question.) In politics such people often advocate for "centrist" third parties or leap back and forth ideologically every couple years. They try and perpetuate themselves using the myth of the bold truthseeker with the courage to stand apart from the crowd, even if iconoclasm isolates them from the "ideologues."

Give me a break.

Such people wear ideas like clothes -- picking up what's fashionable (and profitable) at the time -- and then parade around like peacocks for all of us to marvel at their elegant prose and "edgy" positions.

In the religious world this habit emerges as the agnostic eager to debate and cast himself above others. The root of this behavior: the agnostic's religious belief in postmodernism. Nothing can be known and every life-sustaining institution of Western Civilization awaits deconstruction until each component of American life lies at our feet like shards of a broken Christmas toy.

This variety of agnostic takes nihilism in a less destructive direction. Instead of obliterating other people's lives with his amoral behavior, he pollutes the intellectual world with nonsensical jargon which by his own admission shouldn't be taken seriously.

Having abandoned the rituals of the religious world the agnostic-contrarian must find doctrinal engagement through provocations. In arguing with believers and trying to convince others their religion false, the agnostic pursues a quest justifying his own conclusions. He's not arguing to convince anyone really -- except himself. That's all the discussion is about -- not honest truth-seeking or friendly intellectual engagement, but another notch in the agnostic inquisitor's belt to prove to him that he's the mental superior. Such a person still worships his own insecure ego, just not quite as explicitly as the agnostic-atheist-scientist.

This temperament manifests in internet comments consistently. You see it in its purest form when commenters copy and paste large chunks of articles and then rebut it sentence by sentence. I spent about 8 years -- most of the previous decade -- in varying degrees of this intellectual stage, both religiously and politically.