> I consider myself somewhat of an agnostic, although, I have not looked into the precise definition.
I'm going to try to be very civil here, but I have to admit. Right off the bat here, I'm super annoyed. You have the audacity to criticize people for lack of insight into religion and yet you can't take 5 seconds to do a google search about what you think your OWN ideology is?
Lazy, hypocritical, and embarrassing.
Hopefully this will help you on your journey.
Gnosticism is a claim to knowledge and Theism is a claim to belief.
If you actively believe in a god, you are a theist. Otherwise, you're an atheist. If you claim to KNOW what you believe, you're gnostic, otherwise you're agnostic. Pretty simple.
As a note, most Atheists (at least in the western world and certainly on reddit) are Agnostic Atheists.
> Also, I have been raised Catholic and have been a student of religion/theology classes from K-12. This includes classes on other world religions and discussions about the shortcomings of the Catholic Church.
And throughout the rest of your post, you've made it clear that you've invested a lot into Catholicism and very little into any other religion or non-religion. Another hypocrisy against your criticism of "lack of insight into religions."
Let me give you my background for context. Cliff's Notes version, I was raised Fundamental Christian, branched out around age 16 and became obsessed with studying and discussing religion. I led my youth group and taught Sunday school, but also spent two years attending a new church practically every week. Began studying religion with the intent of being a pastor. Realized I didn't believe but felt a "religion shaped hole" in my life that I filled with Secular Buddhist practices. Went to college, studied Philosophy as my second major, and I now teach a world religion class.
> From a young age in a Christian household, you are taught very basic concepts of religion. God created the universe, God is good, God loves you, etc. Slowly you are taught more things as your brain develops and more complex concepts become manageable. Jesus is the son of God, he died on the cross and was resurrected. Now this, and the teachings of Jesus and a few others, is the bulk of what you learn if you did not receive further instruction from say a Christian School or a devout parent hardset on pushing religion onto their child. You are never really taught what God is, or how he created the universe. When asked who/what God is, the image of a bearded man in the sky who grants you wishes is the best many many religious kids can ever muster. This image remains static if the child is never taught further theology. Once that kid grows up and can reason for themselves, they look up, see there is quite obviously no bearded man in the sky, no one that grants wishes, no one that protects the man who got killed by that drunk driver last week. And don't even get them started on the creation story.
This is very accurate for many people. Religion is intentionally obfuscated to make it confusing/harder to question. But you'd do well to not use such a broad brush to paint everyone with this experience.
There are religious people who are happy to think about and talk about more complex details of their theology. Likewise, there are atheists who take it upon themselves to explore these "intricacies" whether through conversation with religious leaders, books and podcasts, etc.
> Now I have been in those classes for 13 years and I still have barley scraped the surface of understanding fully the theology of the Catholic Church
I'd suggest a new class. The Catholic ideology shouldn't take you 13 years.
> It has taken years of theology study to come up with my best approximation to the definition of God, which is something like the highest possible virtue and the being of the universe. this is not the Catholic definition of God, this is just my interpretation based on all the theology I know.
Then why do you continue to study, or even care about a religion whose theology you obviously think is flawed?
Moreover, what do you even mean by "highest possible virtue?"
> I'm still far from a real answer to what is God, but it's a long shot from what I assumed as a child and only rectified through a series of religious teachings and theology courses.
Really? Because this honestly sounds like you took the first day of "intro to religion" or watched a William Lane Craig "lecture." This isn't exactly a new, interesting, or justifiable definition of god.
> This is why I have a huge problem when people ask "do you believe in God".
Your answer would be yes. Your notion of God isn't unique and it falls squarely into standard Deist ideology that's been around for centuries. Which I would hope you would know after 13 years of studying theology.
> What do you mean by believe,
believe: to accept something as true
> what do you mean by in,
In this context, it's part of the phrase "believe in" which means "to have faith or confidence in the existence of something"
> and what do you mean by God.
That's up to you. You're the one claiming a god exists. I'll meet you where your definition is so we can have a conversation that means something. At this point you're just arguing semantics. If you claim that god exists and claim that "this toaster is how I define god." Then sure, I believe in god. But I think it's silly to twist definitions that way. It's easiest for us to convey ideas to each other when we use language in the way its generally understood.
To me, a god would at least be an immaterial, conscious being. But perhaps you have a different definition.
> Of I answer with an honest and simple 'yes' many would I assume I meant that I think a bearded man in the sky exists.
You probably shouldn't capitalize "God" then, as that suggests you're talking about the "God of the Bible" the Abrahamic god Yahweh as presented in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
> That is not accurate. I believe in the idea of the God I have described. Believing in this God is believing that there is a highest possible virtue, and that there is more to the universe than what humans can observe and study.
I'm going to have to ask again what you mean by "highest possible virtue" because, frankly, that just sounds like a deepity to me.
And of course there is more to the universe than what humans can observe and study. But if we cannot observe and study it, then how could you possibly presume to know anything about it? And yet here you are assigning it qualities.
I could never claim to believe in something I have no way of observing. I could never claim to know ANYTHING about something I cannot observe in any way. I can't rule it out, but I have ZERO justifiable reason to believe anything about it. I would have to be a "pure agnostic" (in the academic sense) on this issue because it's literally unknowable.
> These statements are non falsifiable, but their inverses are also non falsifiable. This is where faith comes in and you choose to believe the statements and live accordingly. Religion is more about believing statements like these and living in accordance with them.
And that's exactly why religion is bad. You're believing something that's equally as justifiable as the statement "there's an unknowable, unobservable god that will send you to hell if you don't rape everyone you see." Faith isn't a reliable pathway to truth. It's a tool for making people behave a certain way. And frankly, all religions carry a lot of negative baggage.
> There are many other flaws atheists have against religion besides 'believing in God'. And many of these flaws overlap with the flaws that I recognize. However, I think that by being atheist and throwing away religion, you are doing yourself a disservice. Many great ideas that can have profound effects on people's lives are found in the religious teachings.
Everything good in religion can be found without religion. Then you avoid carrying the baggage that every religion inevitably comes with.
That said; one of the great things about being an atheist is that I can evaluate bits and pieces of all religions. If there's any value I hadn't considered (many fables that illustrate virtue for example), I can adopt those pieces and ignore the others. Moreover, studying these religions helps you to better understand the history and culture of the populations that follow them.
I haven't thrown out religion. I've only thrown out the notion that they contain unique truths.
I suggest taking all that time you've supposedly been putting toward the study of Catholicism and enroll in a world religion class from an actual reputable university.
Here's a good course I've audited: https://www.coursera.org/learn/philosophy-science-religion-2 - this one only takes 14 hours, so you can finish it in the same amount of time it takes to binge a season of a Netflix show.
Here are some more specific ones from Harvard I'd recommend taking after the more general course: https://online-learning.harvard.edu/subject/religion
And this isn't directly related, but I also recommend this book for you: Elements of Moral Philosophy by James Rachels