Agnosticism is Bliss

I had a really great time last night. It started out at The Study Coffeehouse at Lakehead University where I was part of a staged reading of Michael Blieden’s script, Phyro-Giants. The play’s duration takes place over a single outing to a small restaurant where four people have sat down for dinner and the conversation gets loose, a bit sloppy, insightful, and hilarious. For a better idea, here is the trailer from the movie version called Melvin Goes to Dinner.

After the reading, most of us involved went and sat at one of Thunder Bay’s great watering holes, The Madhouse, where life, as they say, imitated art.

We talked openly about bowel cramps, reactions to cheese, and, more to the point of this entry, about religion. This conversation featured a self-identified atheist, a raised Catholic, a spiritualist, a few others that did not disclose their stance, and myself.

Religion has always been a murky topic for me. I wasn’t subjected to any kind of religion while growing up and, as a result, have not felt compelled to sign on later in life. I did, however, have a great deal of religious friends while growing up and was interested by the positive attributions their faith gave them. In that sense, I found myself leaning towards a more spiritual approach for a few years in my late teens and early twenties but then became disenchanted by the amount of commercial hocus-pocus that spiritualist literature tried to make tangible in “positive thoughts” and “good energy”. But, I also couldn’t flat out reject spirituality either! It didn’t work for me but it works for some, in the same way that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Wiccan, Buddhism, or any other faith works for some if not for me. For that reason, I couldn’t accept flat out atheism either. I finally had to concede that I had no idea what the fuck I’m supposed to think anymore…

…and I’ve never been more satisfied in my religious stance.

What bothers me about the battle between religion and atheism is how reversible the arguments against the others are. For example, the atheist stated that all evil deeds that were ever committed originated from a religious place, insinuating that if religion went extinct somehow that all evil would disappear.

I can think of two issues with this argument. The first is that I can think of one thing that knows no religious denomination that can be used to generate evil deeds inflicted on people: money. The drive for economic power kneels before no god(s). Now, one might incorporate a god or gods into their economic struggle but I don’t think that makes religion the root of the evil in this case.

Also, this argument assumes that all non-believers are inherently good. It is only one’s faith in “cloud people” that has warped their sense of morality into something sinister. I believe that, just as religious people can be good people, even if their belief system can be described as an oppressive patriarchy, people that support no such systems can be total jerks without ever having been “brainwashed”.

What I love about being agnostic is the surrender that comes with it. To me, identifying as agnostic is a way to simply say that the conversation is way too complicated and no matter how much I might try, I could never hope to “fix” the struggle in whatever way my faith (or lack of faith) might dictate. It’s also a way to tell those around me that, regardless of their religious background, I am not in this to judge them.

My atheist friend (who, for the record, I hold in high regard) did finally address my agnostic approach and told me that I needed to take a stand. That being categorically undecided was a weak stance.

To that, I had to disagree.  Admitting to my own impossibility of knowing for certain what is “out there”, so to speak, is a validation of all spiritual backgrounds and makes one open to cut through the spiritual décor and deal with people as individuals and not as homogenous groups like “muslims”, or “Christians”, or “Atheists”.


3 thoughts on “Agnosticism is Bliss

  1. I’d never thought of agnosticism in such a positive light. I am agnostic myself, but I guess I’m more likely to look at it as a temporary position. “When I get this all figured out, I’ll be ____.” That’s the thought, anyway. I’m getting more comfortable with the uneasiness of the tightrope act of agnosticism and with the notion that this is terminal.

    Also, I hadn’t thought of agnosticism as “surrender.” It’s really funny that you use that word, too, because, of course, people of religious faith often talk about surrendering to their deity. Agnostic surrender is a totally different thing.

    As you say, agnosticism does require an openness to argument, holding out for that one approach to spirituality that just fits. So I know it’s kind of hard to say at this point in our lives, but do you think agnosticism is a terminal position for you? Under what conditions could you see yourself picking up a faith?

    • Wow! That’s a good question. The weird thing for me is that I find great wisdom in the teachings of religious figured like Jesus, the Prophet Mohammed, and Bhuddha, to name a few. It is the institutions built around these people that deter me.

      The politics of the church always seem so glaringly inconsistent with the message of the deity they are following. Supposedly it was Jesus that told us not to judge others and that everyone was created in God’s image but the convictions made by some identifying Christians, made against queer people and people if other faiths, says something wholly different.

      I also find that religion immediately shuts down any kind of critical dialogue of the worshipee’s actions. You can’t, for example, ponder if Jesus was perhaps a bit patriarchal as, according to the Bible (which I recognize is a problematic source for many reasons), all of his disciples were men.

      And all of which I have just said applies equally to Atheists. When Hitchens wrote “God is Not Great” he was attacking the organization that is the church, an argument that I can stand behind. It is some of followers though that have twisted the message to mean that Hitchens was attacking “God”, a wholly nonsensical and bewildering thing for an atheist to do.

      So I guess, if I were to become religious, the faith in question would have to believe in universal human rights that doesn’t pit certain biological traits and lifestyle choices as “sinful lifestyles” by default. The faith would also need to be constantly scrutinized to ensure that the original point of all of this worshipping is not being lost.

      So, like you, I find myself bracing myself to be terminally agnostic. I had never thought of my stance as terminal but I can certainly see myself as occupying this undefined space for a very long time!

      Thanks for your comment and thanks for reading!

  2. Human beings love to create social boundaries: cliques, in-group/out-group, us vs. them. Embracing agnosticism is, in many ways, the same as saying, “I refuse to be a part of anyone’s group. I refuse to be a part of two competing factions.” It probably won’t make you very popular. If your experiences are anything like mine, you’ll mostly be ignored and sometimes, you’ll get caught in crossfire from both sides.

    I applaud your resolve to choose the boundary lands where so few tread. Welcome to uncharted realms.

    (re-post of a previous comment that was eaten by WordPress)

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