*Warning: naughty language ahead!
Whenever religion is brought up and I tell someone I’m agnostic, I’m almost always met with one of two reactions: “What does that mean?” or “Oh, so you’re atheist?”
Well, no. It doesn’t mean I’m atheist. Agnostic means I just don’t know.
I don’t know if there is a higher power or if there isn’t. And even though this might be a struggle for some, I’m A-ok with not knowing. I guess it just kind of dawned on me that not everyone grasps it so easily.
I mean, it’s not like I’ve always been agnostic.
There was a time I was pretty sure there was a god. Hell, I was even baptized as a Mormon at one point—though not devout. I definitely drank coffee and mostly only went to church when times were hard, but I was part of a stringent denomination of Christianity nonetheless.
I was raised in a Christian family, baptized as a Christian and surrounded by friends and acquaintances that followed all different denominations of the Christian faith. I used to pray, rush to ask for forgiveness after saying something that might send me to Hell and questioned myself for even questioning the existence of God.
Then one day, I just stopped.
I don’t think it was a conscious decision. I just realized I didn’t believe in all that stuff the way I did at one time. I looked at my life and realized that good things and bad things kept happening to me—just as they always had.
Sometimes I had a horrible day. Sometimes I lost someone who meant the world to me. And then, as life goes, sometimes I had an amazing day. Sometimes a brilliant new friend entered my life. I think that’s when I started to realize that good and bad are constant and inevitable, no matter what you believe.
I follow a philosophy of “to each his own” when it comes to religion, but when it comes to me, I view atheism (the belief that there is no higher power) and theism (the belief that there is a higher power) as one and the same. When I’m scrolling through my Facebook news feed and stumble across a post filled with defensive arguments between an atheist and a religious person, both sides dumbfound me.
Whether you embrace a god or science (or both), there is just so much we don’t know. We live in a world that most of us have never stepped foot beyond, in a galaxy our top astronauts have limited access to, among billions of galaxies we have no access to whatsoever—all in one universe.
Of course there are things that happen that cannot be explained. Sometimes, such occurrences do seem miraculous. Many times, they turn out to be coincidences.
And without a doubt, hope and faith are good. They’re associated with positive emotions, faster healing and a general sense of purpose in life. All good things!
I’m not saying I don’t have hope that there may be something else out there. Maybe there is. If it’s as great as most religions promise, I can see why it might be worth looking forward to. With that said, I just can’t bring myself to cling to the belief that a second chance exists after this life.
Life is just too short for that.
When I explain this point of view, I’m often told that I’m simply on the fence or a “closeted atheist.” Then there are the many instances when someone says they’ll pray for me or concludes that I just haven’t found my relationship with God yet.
But I really don’t think so.
Over the years, I’ve contemplated theism and atheism quite a bit. I’ve done some deep soul-searching, asked a lot of questions and arrived in a spot where I can comfortably and confidently say, “I don’t know.” Because I don’t.
I’m agnostic because no matter what I read, what someone tells me or what I see, I truly do not know nor can I trust the writings of humans from thousands of years ago. I mean, out of billions of galaxies, we’ve only been able to delve into (some of) the Milky Way, for fuck’s sake. What do we really know anyway?
Well, here are some of the things I do know:
I know there have always been religions. I know the Greeks believed in Zeus and Athena and Apollo just as strongly as my grandma believes in God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost. I know Muslims believe in Muhammad and the Qur’an just as strongly as Jews believe in Abraham and the Torah. I know Buddhists believe in Nirvana and Hindus believe in Moksha. We can even take a look back at the Aztecs and the human sacrifices they made in the name of their beliefs.
Regardless of which religion we look at, one thing remains the same—all of these folks believed their faiths to be the truth.
And who am I to tell them they’re wrong?
What would give me the audacity to think I could or should? Having a Bible or the Qur’an on a bookshelf? Posting a motivational quote by Joel Olsteen on Facebook? Or what about the deep internal feeling of faith that many people truly feel within themselves?
No, I still don’t think so. I don’t think I can say any of these people are wrong or right—because I don’t know.
To those with personal certainty, I give a non-sarcastic thumbs up. I can acknowledge and appreciate that there are millions of people in the world who believe (or don’t believe) in a god and religion just as strongly as I embrace not knowing.
But when people ask me, “What do you mean you’re agnostic?”
I mean I don’t fucking know—and I’m okay with that.
One of my favorite quotes sums up my belief system quite well. It is often attributed to Marcus Aurelius, but that attribution has been rebutted several times, so I will leave the attribution as unknown. I’ve seen it associated with atheism, but I think it explains my embrace of agnosticism perfectly:
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
Life is short and I’m here right now. I have the ability to read and write and walk and help others. I’m certainly not going to rule out the idea of another life or a higher power, but I’m definitely not going miss out on this life by betting on another one either.
Author: Stacey Johnston
Volunteer Editor: Nicole Cameron/Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Atheist Bus Canada/Flickr