Influential Theologian Spotlight

Being proponents of secularism, we largely attempt to approach things from an agnostic front . . . which brings us to our focus today.
agnosticism detraction
Francis Ellingwood Abbot (1836-1903) was an American philosopher and theologian who sought to reconstruct theology in accord with scientific method. He spoke for “free religion”, which sounds similar to the situation we have in the United States among many non-church-going denizens who continue to claim in polls and workplaces an affinity to or seeking of–at minimum–spirituality.
Abbot met resistance from sectarian angles of religion as he worked to bring individuals together. Problem was, it was in an effort to smear and repress any agnostic notions among people by convincing them that while religions was bad, faith in God was still paramount. Having been Unitarian by birth and raised under Unitarian [probably Christian] influence of organized religion, he often addressed Unitarians in an effort to peak the interests of what’s meant to be regarded as an influential ‘open’ sect. The First Unitarian Society of Christians rejected him.
While many would malign him, Frederick Douglass praised Abbot for “doing much to break the fetters of religious #superstition“. It’s well worth noting that Abbot’s movement included a focus on abolitionism, during a time when religion was used by many as a concurrent method of both oppression and coping within the world of slavery in the United States.

On secularism, agnosticism and coexistence

Abbott had not appreciated the Agnostic point of view, apparently, having quoted, “Agnosticism is the philosophical, ethical, and religious dry-rot of the modern world.”
We disagree. Francis Abbot’s ‘open religion‘ brings to mind modern aims at coexistence, an idea born of a successful project of the same name that has been a valuable tool in spurring of economic relations among religious warring neighbors and seems ideal in basic theory. But, the promising paragon of coexistence has two major issues:
  1. religious antagonism among would-be peer groups, ever-evolving and susceptible to schism and battle
  2. collective disregard of secularists and atheists, which only leads to schism among community members.

Looking at it this way, because coexistence is a form of secular tolerance, we take on a bit of the ‘devil’s advocacy’ of atheism which passively has no room for agnosticism, while militant atheists might suggest that any religion at all, including passive or open notions of  spiritualism and agnosticism should be repressed.  Is it any wonder? An advocate of science, the “radical” Francis Abbot leaned on religion (any religion, by God) to the point of dismissal of any other ideas.

In our view, it’s nonsensical to detract from ideals of agnosticism or secularism. These are the paths of non-discriminatory relation to others in our world.

Peden, Creighton. “Francis Ellingwood Abbot.” Philosophers and Theologians. Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. 14 May 2009. Web. 6 Jan. 2018.

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