Saturday, February 28, 2015

Are We the New Sophists?

Around 350 BC, the Agora in Greece was bustling with people discussing different topics that they enjoyed, topics that pained them, or topics that intrigued them. 

The Agora  was a place a Grecian could go to talk about these topics with another or multiple people. Among the bustling of discussion, there were people called sophists. These sophists believed you should discuss a topic so thoroughly that you could turn a weak argument into a strong one. In the sophist's mind, being able to discuss topics through and through was powerful. They wanted to know all sides to an argument or topic in order to fully understand what they were discussing. Topics were sometimes petty and other times profound. Take Protagoras for example...

Protagoras was a man who questioned things and attempted to seek truths even if they were difficult to find. In his search for truths and discussions, religion would of course arise. In fact, Protagoras is known as being one of the first agnostics in the world saying, "concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not, nor of what sort they may be, because of the obscurity of the subject, and the brevity of human life." This was an incredible belief for the time because Grecians had always been so strongly religious. Everything they didn't understand they accredited to the gods, but through discussion and trying to understand the truth Protagoras realized that maybe the gods they looked up to didn't exist and that there was no way of knowing. 

Through time, the word agnostic or atheist have had negative connotations; it has always been negative to question religion because you would, in turn, be questioning authority. But are the millennials the new sophists? We as a generation are more willing to discuss and search for answers. We are more willing to speak our mind and openly question authority, because or our desire to know more and discuss more, could this be the dawn of the new-age sophists?

A study done by the PewReasearchCenter states, "one-in-four adults under age 30 (25%) are unaffiliated, describing their religion as “atheist,” “agnostic” or “nothing in particular.” This compares with less than one-fifth of people in their 30s (19%), 15% of those in their 40s, 14% of those in their 50s and 10% or less among those 60 and older. About two-thirds of young people (68%) say they are members of a Christian denomination and 43% describe themselves as Protestants, compared with 81% of adults ages 30 and older who associate with Christian faiths and 53% who are Protestants."
This is astounding. Why is this the case though? Why is the younger generation more agnostic or unaffiliated? I believe it is because we have more of and open forum. With the new age of technology and blogs, and forums, and other means of discussion, religion is talked (typed) about more. I myself have seen people go to college and within their first year question religion, my girlfriend being one of those people. She was more open to discuss religion when she was out of her parent's house. I believe a lot of other's may feel this way too. We as millenials may be more independent than our older counterparts and more willing to question things that used to be more known as fact. In my mind, that makes me feel as though we are a new era of sophists. As long as we keep discussing and trying to find truths, the sophist spirit will live on.

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