Musings of an Agnostic
Agnosticism is the detachment of commitment from any spiritual beliefs due to uncertainty. It is not always a choice.
The switch to agnosticism was quite extreme for me. When I was a child, our family life was centered around the Pentecostal church we attended. As a very young and devout Christian, I wore my faith like a badge of honor and was a nuisance.
According to our interpretation of the Bible, it was my responsibility as a disciple to tell others about Jesus, salvation and the rapture. So, I often “witnessed” to my teachers at my elementary school. One of the teachers, to whom I explained the way of salvation, told me she was an agnostic. At that point, I did not know what this meant and so, I asked her.
She answered by saying it meant she did not have to listen to my spiel about Jesus. Being an agnostic was her ticket to ignorance and hell, if that were the case. She added that she would happily go to hell rather than listen to my “preaching” anyway. It was a rather harsh thing to say to a child but looking back now, as an adult, I get her point. Little did I know, I would eventually become an agnostic myself who would quickly lose patience with proselytizers of any kind.
So, why did I become an agnostic?
My "conversion" to agnosticism was a result of a combination of factors. First, it was an overdose of dogma. Then, it was an after-effect of too much fire and brimstone preaching. And, finally, there was the early exposure to too much hypocrisy - causing enough confusion to last a lifetime. The threat of eternal punishment for not believing becomes weak if over-used and will eventually lose its meaning - as it did with me.
Looking back, I think I was introduced to this Pentecostal religion too early in my life. It was not my choice either and, in fact, was shoved down my throat so forcefully that I was bound to spit it out again. It is also possible that because I was young, I learned from the behaviors of the people around me and saw huge gaps between what they professed and how they lived. For a child, that leaves a lasting impression. Children pay more attention to what they observe than what they hear.
The specific factor or factors which led me to abandon my faith did not matter. In the end, it came down to the reality that the ritual and facade of religion no longer held any meaning for me. Moreover, I did not want to be one of those who I had grown to despise – a hypocrite. So, the option to continue pretending to be a follower did not seem to be a sound choice.
Once agnosticism sets in, unless something changes dramatically, it is difficult to honestly claim anything else. The practice of any religion is founded on faith. But, when that faith disappears, it can be replaced by uncertainty regarding the invisible world - along with doubts as to whether God even exists. It is a hard sell to restore that belief. It just seems safer to say "I don't know".
Unknowing is the heart of agnosticism. What I am definitely not is an atheist. I am equally unwilling to affirm God’s non-existence as much as I am to confirm the way in which God does exist. I agree with the possibility of a supreme being's existence. Once I lost my sense of spirituality and that essence, I also began to recognize my human limitations in understanding what form that existence might take. To date, there has been very little on earth, no religion that I have encountered or studied that has made me feel that a supreme being does exist in the way that had been explained to me. The exception is possibly in the Native American concept of the Great Spirit and Animism.
I do, however, believe in the power of the mind and human spirit to create what is needed to support life. We, humans, are amazing creatures. We are physical, we are spiritual, magical, and we possess amazing power, most of which is either not tapped into or which gets attributed to outside forces. I believe that our true capabilities and potential as spiritual beings are not fully understood.
It seems that it is the human need to resolve uncertainties by putting the world in a box and say “this is how this works” - including the spiritual realm.
But, I don’t believe that we have enough information to know where we have come from and where we are going and what else is out there in the cosmos. It is a matter of either having faith in the theories or learning to live with the uncertainties. It seems the best thing to do is to take life one day at a time and to live the best we can. Just because we don’t know does not render us unaccountable for our actions or free from morals. In fact, not knowing makes it even more important to live responsibly, ethically and compassionately because there may be some surprises in the afterlife.
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