I Don't Know
I’ve never written a hub on religion…well not specifically on religion, I should say. In several hubs I’ve made vague rather non-committal references to the existence of a higher being. How carefully I chose my words while writing those! For some reason, it has always been important to me to ride that middle line between one extreme and another. I’ve no desire to offend either end of the spectrum when it comes to religious preferences for many reasons…although, upon careful examination, it really just boils down to one.
I don’t know.
Why is it that so many people feel it necessary to have an answer to everything? It’s as if being caught with a lack of knowledge on a subject is a reprehensible crime. Personally, I’d rather hear those simple words, “I don’t know,” then to have to endure an hour of bullshit from a person too enamored of his own opinion to recognize his ignorance.
As far as I’m concerned, admitting to a lack of knowledge is simply a first step toward enlightenment and only becomes a crime when you allow yourself to remain ignorant.
But who is the victim of this crime? Is it the person forced to listen to the crap spewing from the know-it-all’s mouth or perhaps only those gullible enough to believe it? Or maybe the only victim is the "expert", since by denying his or her own ignorance they effectively rob themselves of the curiosity to look further into a subject and find the truth.
I don’t know.
My parents raised me as a Catholic complete with all of the sacraments and a Sunday school education. Growing up, it gave me comfort and a strong moral compass. If anyone were to ask my opinion on whether or not religion is important to a child’s growth, I could honestly say from my experience that it didn’t hurt.
But as I grew up and learned that there really wasn’t a Santa Claus, an Easter Bunny, a Tooth Fairy and that my parents were human beings like myself and therefore fallible, I began to question the world around me. My mother was rather liberal and encouraged my hunger for knowledge, allowing me to experiment by attending a Southern Baptist church with my best friend, going to synagogue with others and reading anything that I could get my hands on.
It was because of this search for the truth that I sat down at the kitchen table one day in total confusion. “Mom," I asked, "What makes Catholicism right and other religions wrong? I don’t understand. I’ve been to other churches and experienced other religions…and I have found no reason why they couldn’t be considered right. So…who is right?”
And my mother….bless her forever….said to me, “I don’t know. The answer is different for everyone and that’s something that you will have to decide for yourself.”
I didn’t decide there and then, of course. The funny thing is…I don’t think I’ve made up my mind even now. I’m perfectly fine with admitting that I still don’t know.
For me, faith is a journey and one that lasts a lifetime. But it’s my own personal journey. I swear at time it seems as if half the world mapquested the shortest route to a belief. They've put up their tent and are now perfectly content to spend the remainder of their lives there. Some manage to do it quietly and with dignity. Others seem to think it’s some sort of contest and the side with the most campers wins.
Seek and ye shall find. I like that statement…because it’s simple and true. It doesn’t tell you what you will find because there’s a good probability that whatever you find may cause you to seek something else. It’s like ultimate googling. You might think you know where you’ll end up…but more often than not the result is totally unexpected...your individual tastes taking you on a never-ending journey through a maze of ever evolving information.
Probably the closest religion I was ever able to identify with was the Unitarian-Universalist church (not to be confused with the Unification church). Although they celebrated a mass, it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. They gathered as a community to share a common freedom of faith. I remember a moment, during an after-mass “coffee hour” when I confronted a rather militant lesbian and said, “So….I could tell you that I believed God is a giant bug and you’d say….?” With good humor the woman looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and replied, “I would say that your belief seems rather interesting and would you please share your thoughts on it with me?”
Of course I didn’t really believe in an omnipotent cockroach. I was simply testing people randomly to see if I could shock them into telling me that I was wrong and they were right. Instead, I received a new variation of my favorite three words.
“I don’t know…and you don’t either.”
Belief is not knowledge. Knowledge can only be gained by admitting that you might not have the right answer and continuing to search for it. Once you say the words, I’m right and you are wrong…you may as well pitch your tent and set up camp.
I’m not saying that where you’ve chosen to pitch your tent is the wrong or right place. For all I know, you’ve made the perfect decision and are now enjoying a nice cozy campfire, your feet up while you toast some marshmallows. Perhaps after I’m done with all my searching, I’ll be pitching up a tent beside you. I don’t know.
Faith isn’t a contest. We all arrive where we will in our own time and no amount of advertising the benefits of your campground will change that. Having more people on your side doesn’t make you more right because conversely, to the people on the other side…it just makes you look more wrong.
Sometimes, in my heart, I think that if there is a God, He would find the battle over His existence to be amusing. I know if I were in His shoes, it would also annoy me that so many people claimed to be the only ones to know me, to understand me and to deserve my favor. It sounds petty and somehow beneath the dignity of a being thought to be so powerful. It sounds…human. Like a phrase you would hear from a petulant child declaring that “daddy likes me best!”
No amount of proof will budge a true believer…and that goes for those that have a religious belief as well as those who are of a more scientific persuasion. Their conclusion has been reached based upon the amount of knowledge they have chosen to absorb. For them, the journey of faith is at an end and they are content.
Trying to convert one would be like trying to change the sexual orientation of a person. Although, ironically, there are still some people that believe even that is possible and can’t resist trying.
At times I have to laugh at the term "individual freedom". Perhaps the idea has become unreachably Utopian. Skin color still matters. If it didn’t, then having a black man for a president wouldn’t have been such a cause for celebration. Sexual preference is still considered a personal choice and if yours happens to be in the minority, then you are considered aberrant. The religious right still fights rabidly with the liberal left, defending its right to believe and maligning those that don’t.
Tolerance doesn’t exist. We deflect the spotlight from ourselves by pointing the finger elsewhere. It’s not me…it’s THEM! They’re niggers, chinks, whities, towel-heads, dykes, fags, heathens and fanatics. I’m the only normal one here…and everything that’s wrong with the world is THEIR fault. Let’s kick them out, ostracize them, ban them, humiliate them, degrade them and deny them their basic rights until they agree with us, behave like us and mend their ways. Life would be so much better if we were one big homogenized lump of humanity.
Or would we then be forced to focus on another difference? Maybe left-handed people versus right-handed people. I’m sure that brunettes outnumber blondes. Let’s make them dye their hair so that they conform to our standards.
No matter what you believe in…whether it’s God or evolution, we were created to be different. It’s a comfort knowing that there is nobody on this planet exactly like me…and I’ll admit at times, that same knowledge leaves me feeling a little lonely or vulnerable. It’s one of life’s greatest ironies that although humans were created to be individually unique, we have this tendency to thrive in social situations where we feel accepted.
It’s safe to be a daisy in a field full of other daisies…but after a while I would miss the riotous color of a garden filled with variation.
There will come a day when I will have to finally decide what to believe in. Perhaps I’ll be standing in front of my Maker and if that is the case I will simply say, “I looked for you every day and now I have found you.” Should the converse prove to be true, then I will not have wasted a precious moment of my life being so sure I was right and everyone else was wrong.
I don’t know…and I’m just fine with that.