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The Purgatory of Agnostics

Updated on November 8, 2011

Doubting Thomas

The Inner Struggle

Agnostics profess that the existence of God can neither be proven nor dismissed. Sometimes I can see the face of God in the eye of an ant (as was suggested by the fictional Christ in "The Last Temptation of Christ.")

Sometimes I feel God when I get bailed out of a near calamity -- and I actually say a few prayers of thanks. Other times, the idea of a big daddy in the sky seems preposterous, self-centered and slightly delusional.

Frequently, the idea of an omniscient source focusing on my behavior is a killer -- it seems to squash all my possible joy in life because I can not act upon animal instinct and senses (which are not altogether a bad thing given that these traits have kept our species alive for millions of years).

I see many, many flaws in my fellows who profess to be of the faithful.

My view basically boils down to living a life that is acceptable to my conscience.

It is incorrect to assume that agnostics and atheists will swirl out of control because of their lack of faith. Personally, I gain strength and fortitude from the teachings of Christ. I do not feel the necessity/proof of his resurrection to revere him as an evolutionary step forward in the consciousness of man.

Prior to the New Testament, men/women felt the constraint of the ten commandments and lacked a personal identification with God. God in the form of man gave us a map about how to live our ordinary lives -- the exact interpretation of which has always been dependent on the mind of the individual.

Christianity has been polluted by the church, which is like a false fourth part of the holy trinity. Jesus never had a church or a temple. He preached in the open air. He asked his apostles only to remember him by the simple act of the last supper.

The vast cathedrals built by the church would not have pleased the son of God/the son of man. He preached a belief that worldly things must be left behind, so give them up and let your spirit be free to embrace the will of God. Jesus provided us with all that we could consume, and a bit more.

While I cannot dismiss the possibility of a higher, conscious power, I see a benefit in abiding by what Christ would have regarded as right or wrong. For many "believers" fence sitting is something like cowardice or hubris. To some extent they could be right, but I have learned of so much evil emanating from the church, that I flatly refuse to join any collective.

The lessons of Jesus are in my heart/soul, and I will cope/struggle with them on an independent basis. Not following the heard is a great deal more difficult, but I believe that this is what Christ intended. My interpretation of the New Testament is for every individual to follow his/her heart toward spirituality. There is nothing written in these chapters that suggests all of us blindly follow the herd, without doubt or questioning. Christ would never have diverged from the Jewish faith if he had not doubted and questioned, so I sense an encouragement within his words to put his teachings to the test -- and follow him freely, not as a matter of social propriety but out of genuine identification and understanding. Jesus never asked for drones. He wanted his flock to be comprised of self-examined individuals who embraced his words after much contemplation and practice.

The test indicates that the church has failed to differentiate real believers from those who are too frightened to do anything but follow the herd. I may have one leg in disbelief, and one leg in belief, but the dilemma is genuine. It is my struggle. No one will be able to pull me over to one end or the other. This is what Jung referred to as the inescapable process of individuation.

For a full and true examination of the self, and the ability to suspend disbelief for genuine acceptance of the divine can be a life-long struggle. The struggle is often painful and disillusioning. Sometimes straddling these two hemispheres seems like the only genuine position -- though it brings no comfort, joy or certainty. Though it may be nothing more than the branding of my early upbringing, in times of impossible pain or stress, I find myself reciting prayers once learned to be eligible for my first communion.

To overcome the misery often felt in our existence, we clearly need a relationship with a personal God. As a species we do not seem capable of undergoing the various tortures of reality without the benefit of a higher sympathy. While we are in a state of torment, the plea to God or Jesus is in earnest. Once free of suffering, we can dismiss our lapses of mental impartiality. As an agnostic I would like God to make himself known on earth on a generational basis. If he were to do that there would be no lapses of faith, no wavering. But, for whatever reason, God presented himself in the body of Christ 2,000 years ago, and in his mind this should be sufficient. The church tells us the gap between belief and disbelief is a matter of a leap of faith. Much has changed in 2,000 years. Men have discovered the testable reliance of science, and this process of recreating truth through rigorous testing seems to weaken the case for making a blind leap of faith.

Yet, no matter how concrete science may affirm our physical world, the non-physical world remains a void without the church's leap of faith.

So, what is a good agnostic supposed to do? Is he capable of dismissing the questionable comforts of a God that would shatter our objectivity -- especially in times of mental/physical duress, dismiss the impulse in a wholesale fashion, or embrace the unknowable to sooth our feverish minds?

Inside that ambiguity is our personal Purgatory.


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    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      rj - Very interesting article on the weaknesses and problems often inherent in religion and the strength to be found, pursued, claimed in embracing the teachings of Christ. I think those of us who believe are honest and more healthy when we can admit that we have moments of unbelief, that we struggle, that faith is a process, not a final absolute destination. I appreciate your honesty and your faith. SHARING