Faithless: Confessions of a (Former) Closeted Agnostic.

Via on Oct 16, 2013

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I’m not alone in that people sometimes make assumptions about me that aren’t true.

When many people hear that I am a yogi/yoga instructor, they often smile and say, “You’re one of those spiritual types!” I usually just smile and don’t respond. However, the truth is: I am not spiritual. At all.

Rather, I am a secular agnostic.

It’s hard for me to admit this. Unlike some, I don’t consider my agnosticism a badge of honor or “proof” that I value reason and science about spirituality. The truth is, I am a little ashamed of it at times. I arrived at this place after years of fruitlessly trying to find a faith that I could believe in but to no avail.

Growing up in the Bible Belt, religion was all around me. Though nominally Catholic, my father was/is a lifelong Buddhist father and there is Jewish ancestry on both my parent’s sides. However, my family rarely went to church, and we never set foot inside a temple.

To their credit, neither parent ever forced religion on me and encouraged me to explore many faiths.

My grandmother, who was a devout Presbyterian her entire life, took me to a few services at the church she attended but I can remember feeling very bewildered by it all.

Even as a very young child, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that there was a God who could and did see all. It all just seemed a little to fantastic to me. Granted, I had no problems believing in Santa Claus, but I just could not believe there was a God.

Over the years, though, I tried. I thought it was just about finding the right fit for me. I tried to keep an open mind. During my freshman year in high school, I attended a few interfaith meetings and even participated in a few Ash Wednesday services for two years, but nothing felt right. I then turned to Eastern religions/philosophies but none of it stuck either.

Years later, when I was working for a retired biology professor, who also was one of the most knowledgeable people I had ever met about the history of the Catholic Church and also a die-hard atheist, I lamented to him my sincere sadness that I could not find a faith that I believed in.

He theorized that I may lack the cluster of neurons that is often found in the brains of deeply religious/faithful people.

While learning that there may be a physical reason for my lack of faith was somewhat comforting, it still did little to take away the sadness.

The truth is, I envy and probably always will envy those who have an unshakeable belief in a higher power. I wish I were one of those people, but in the words of Bob Dylan (himself a great dabbler in many religions), “it ain’t me, babe.”

Still, since then, I have learned to accept it. I have even begun to share my secret with others, even though I sincerely feared judgement or ridicule for lack of faith.

After receiving the initial news, people usually ask one or all of the following questions:

Why do I call myself agnostic and not atheist? If I am open to the possibility that there may be a God, then how do I envision God’s role in my life?

In answer to the first one, I call myself agnostic, because that is what I am. I cannot say for certain that there isn’t a God, because I do not know.

As far as the second goes, that is a bit more complex. One of my favorite ever depictions of God comes from a Twilight Zone episode where a scientist accidentally creates life in a petri dish, which eventually evolves into tiny humans.

When the humans go to war with each other and beg the scientist/God to intervene, he does not. As he explains, it was never his intention to create life in the first place much less get involved in the lives of his unplanned creations. Like the writers of that episode, I have no problem believing that there may be a god who watches us, but I don’t think that Gods necessarily intervene or are interested in our day-to-day lives.

Rather, I believe that whether there is a God or not, it is ultimately up to each one of us to determine how to live our lives. Treating people the way I want to be treated, living my life to the fullest, and hopefully leaving this world a bit better than I entered it is my goal, rather than being reincarnated or entering into a heavenly afterlife once I die.

If I am being 100 percent honest, the idea of having only one life to live is far more appealing to me than having several or an eternal life.

In fact, I am not being sarcastic when I say that the latter sounds like a sort of hell to me. There are some people I can’t imagine spending an hour with, much less eternity. While another person’s greatest fear is that there may be nothing after we die, it is actually a huge comfort to me.

Perhaps at some point, I will find and embrace a faith that works for me. I don’t know. I am open to the possibility. In the meantime, I am interested in living the life I have to the fullest and learning more about the many mysteries of life and the universe.

Whether or not the universe was put here by a higher power with a purpose or merely the result of chance, there is no denying that the universe is a beautiful, mysterious place capable of evoking awe even in the heart of this agnostic.

Perhaps the universe is all the “God” I need.

 

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Ed: Cat Beekmans

About Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.

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10 Responses to “Faithless: Confessions of a (Former) Closeted Agnostic.”

  1. karlsaliter says:

    Nice one, Kim.

  2. Brittany G says:

    Hi Kimberly, I don't know exactly where to begin or how to say this without offending you. I truly hope I do not do that. I am a Christian and have been my entire life. Just because I fully believe there is one God who put us on earth, watches over us, and has a plan for us, doesn't mean I haven't had plenty of questions or times of doubt as well. It's important to know that God's amazing power is way beyond our comprehension. We are not always meant to understand, but that's where faith come into play. I also realize certain religious practices and types of worship aren't for everyone. Religion can't be forced on someone and I don't want to do that to you. However, I do want to let you know I am praying for you and for your relationship with God. He loves you and is a part of your life whether you accept it or not. But He is waiting for the day you turn to him and give your life to him. Yes, eternity is an overwhelming thought sometimes. Sure, it's scary to think about FOREVER. But you can't think of it as being with people you can't spend an hour with…because in heaven there is no pain or discomfort. You aren't bothered by those on earth who you didn't get along with. It's pure joy and time is not measured.

    I hope one day soon God reveals himself to you and you can accept him in your life.

    Your sister in Christ,

    Brittany

  3. Auki says:

    Thanks for an honest post, Kimberly…

    I must be one of the folks that are hardwired to see God. Ever since I was a wee lad the Divine Spirit / Creator has been vividly real to me.

    However, I respect agnosticism. It takes genuine humility to admit that one simply does not know for certain whether an Almighty exists, or whether there is an afterlife.

    The smug blind certitude of religious fundamentalists who insist that God & heaven exist ~ and the smug rigid certainty of atheists who insist that God & an afterlife are not real because they are not provable by science ~ both strike me as arrogant & intolerant.

    The humility of simply acknowledging that one does not know anything for sure can be a beautiful quality.

  4. Adam says:

    Wow, this really resonated with me. I've been an agnostic for decades now… and you're the first person I've heard about that has struggled with this as I have… approaching Belief with an open mind and open heart, and yet truly unable to envision an all-powerful God.

    Growing up, I actually had many private 1:1 discussions with a kindly and supportive rabbi, was a church organist (for a truly wonderful church, filled with people who knew I wasn't Christian, yet appreciated the music I brought to their worship), took a comparative religions class in college, but — as with your situation — all to no avail re: cementing any belief in God.

    Now that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and work in high tech, I'm surrounded by many more non-religious people, and so the feeling out of place and yearning to believe has largely subsided. And yet when I see the comfort and peace that some of my very religious friends get from their faith, it still stings a bit.

    Anyway, thank you for your thoughtfulness in sharing your feelings; I appreciated reading them, and I'm glad that many others may gain a greater understanding and respect for agnosticism (and agnostics) after seeing your post.

  5. Tasha says:

    I went to your website to try to understand your point of view. It is comforting to know you are agnostic which to me means you are undecided. I have a beautiful, intelligent daughter much like you. I have found comfort in feeling the existence of a higher being although I am not active in any organized religion. I feel a presence, events beyond coincidence, and the existence of a protector I can not empirically prove–but know. It brings me comfort. I wish you a wonderful life!

  6. Faith says:

    This is such a beautiful post! I felt like I write this, cause I completely relate to everything you said. I've been brought up in a somewhat Christian family… going to church every sunday. However, we don't go to church often but my family are firm believers. Coming out as agnostic is really hard, considering the majority of my social circle is Christians and I've also attended religious schools as well as secular schools. I have only confessed to one person my true agnostic beliefs, as I fear being judged. And I do feel a sting when I do go to church, and see people so passionate. I feel like I live a double life. But reading your post made me feel like I am not alone is this.
    Very well written.

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