www.whyville.net Aug 8, 2010 Weekly Issue

Veteran Times Writer

The Agnostic

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This article is about religion. You might consider that a warning, since religion tends to be an emotional and often sensitive topic, even on Whyville. It's not an exaggeration to say that wars have been fought and mountains moved in the name of devotion to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or Judaism. Of course, that's to say nothing of non-believers: evangelical atheists who are so convinced that religion is a sham. I have a friend who considers herself to be a recovering Catholic. She is absolutely convinced that there is no God and she makes me watch Bill Maher documentaries, trying to convert me to atheism like some sort of missionary. (You'll be sure to note the irony of that fact.) Yet, I have never felt passionately one way or the other, and so there seems to be one thing that warring theists and atheists can agree upon: it is the idea that my own belief system is woefully inadequate.

I am an agnostic; I believe that the truth about God or the Gods, religions or religions is unknowable. In my experience, people seem to think that agnosticism is simply Catholicism without the organized religion. They seem to think that agnostics are people who believe in God without the burden of a man-made institution. In fact, I'd say that these people are more spiritualist than anything else, but that's really a matter of semantics. The key point is that for me agnosticism is about admitting that even if I don't think there's a Higher Power, I might be wrong - and even though I have no proof, I'd like to hope that there is something bigger out there.

Since agnostics aren't affiliated with a religion, I guess you could say that this article is not really about religion at all, but let's examine the questions of religion and theism because they're still rather pertinent. I grew up as part of a Protestant family that attended church regularly, if not weekly. I was baptized, I went to Sunday school where I learned all the basic Bible stories and I sang in the children's choir. As I grew up, my parents gave me more freedom in choosing whether I wanted to attend church or not and since I attended a public school that unintentionally preached atheism, I gradually started going to church less and less. Then, in my senior year of high school, I was forced to attend a Catholic Church service during an out-of-town trip and I sat through the entire service feeling uncomfortable and squirming in my seat. I felt the same way I do when someone says, "I'll pray for you." My stomach feels like a massive, bottomless pit and the rest of my body feels like it's overrun by worms on the inside.

For a long time, I couldn't figure out why my insides churned when I was forced to deal with issues of religion, since I'd grown up in an otherwise WASP-y family. Eventually, I started to realize that I wasn't buying into the message that was being sold to me by religion. If the only proofs of God that we have are manmade texts, then as far as I'm concerned, there is no valid proof of God and I have no basis for choosing any one religion over another. Furthermore, I can't help but shake the feeling that if I was really meant to believe in a religion, I wouldn't have this lingering doubt at the back of my mind.

At the same time, I don't feel entirely ready to commit to the idea that God doesn't exist, either. You see, while certain atheists like to point to the fact that there is no proof of God, they often fail to understand that there is equally no condemning proof that God does not exist. It's like the black swan: for thousands of year, society accepted that all swans were white because the only swans in the known world were white. Then someone sailed to Australia and discovered black swans - a discovery which was completely unpredictable. Similarly, if the human race has only explored 4% of the known universe, then what's the say that some higher power isn't hiding in that other 96%?

For awhile, I was envious of people who could be so certain of whether God exists or not, because I felt that it gave them some sort of stable foundation. I was convinced that I was as wishy washy as both sides accused me of being. How come I couldn't bring myself to say definitively and with conviction that, "Atheists are wrong," or, "Hindus have it backwards"? How come I was stuck being ambivalent and looking for an answer that was so obvious to millions of people around the world?

And then one day I had my big revelation, if you will. I was walking down the street one night. I was alone and on the way home and I realized that there are some things that are simply impossible for me to know. I may never know if there is a God, and I may never know how anyone can harbor a certainty about the state of his existence, but I expect that if there is a God, then he'll have no problem understanding that maybe uncertainty is the only thing I can be certain of, and that's answer enough for me.



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