View Full Version : Why I Remain an Agnostic

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007, 10:25 PM
At times my emotions feel blunt, or vague, about God, about the spiritual, while at others I feel I receive a true "communion" with God..... or whatever one wishes to call It ..... "It" is probably an appropriate enough term for what people usually refer to as "God", I think.

After all, human words can't define or name It, can't even come close to comprehending It. The .... indescribable energy, or "force", behind the Big Bang, for instance, the unifying force in all the universe, the galaxy, all of Nature. Life. The Life Cycle. All of its beauty and , sometimes, all of its destructiveness as well. This too is It. Nature's inherent, but often overlooked, interconnectedness. This is It. The truly vast and unimaginable interconnectedness of all living things, from plants and lower animals, to we human beings. We modern human beings were the first animals with brains powerful enough , brains "wired" in such a way to be able to create a concept of "God"; to make "him" a him, for instance. To give "him" everything from gender to human-like characteristics, to relatives, consorts, sons. "Only begotten sons...", eventually. A personalized deity (or deities) that watch(es) over and care(s) for personally each and every one of us, amidst all our tiny human dramas, our foibles and faux-pas, our rights and our wrongs, our good deeds and misdeeds. In fact I believe It is much much bigger than that. I don't believe that It, whatever It is, if It is at all (although I tend to think It is), can truly be comprehended or approached by we humans. The inevitable question, in my opinion the essential basis for so much of religion, obviously quickly arises, " Well then what about when we die?"

When we die, I believe that what we "return" to is, essentially, something like what the Jewish Kaballah calls "Ein Sof". One way of understanding that term is Nothingness. "Divine Nothingness" ... Without End. Whatever "energy" we have within us, what some call the "soul", is released into the atmosphere, at the very moment of death, like steam wafting upward from a piping hot cup of tea, looked at through a ray of sunlight. And we return to that state, or rather "non-state" , that we were in, or rather not in, before the womb. And we live on, in the minds and hearts, and to some extent literally in the blood, in the DNA, of those closest to us who survive us and who never forget. But I do not believe that there is anything "there" for us, any further extension of our consciousness , so to speak, beyond the moment when it is essentially obliterated at brain death. This can be a hard , for some impossible, thing to wrestle with, or , comprehend, but , I truly believe it to be the hard truth.

I think that, if there is any next "stage" in human evolution, it will be when we are able to set aside notions of doing right and avoiding wrong solely for the purpose of receiving something "in the end" someday, and learn to stand on our own and act as nobly and as ethically as we can just because. Because it is the right thing to do, the right way to be, not because we "have" to, or, because some ancient piece of spiritual prose written down in the deserts of the Middle East millenia ago (for tribes of people who were not even our own), tells us that we ought to, or tells us that we will be "punished" if we do not. I am not however naive enough to seriously think that organized religion, as such, is "going anywhere". Certainly not within any of our lifetimes, and probably not within any of our great-grandchildren's lifetimes either.

For me, however, the fact remains that one need not go to any Roman Catholic Church, for example, to receive any "true communion" with God, with "It". One just needs to be in the right place, at the right time, and in the right frame of mind. Communion could happen when one least expects it, just walking towards a bright sun in a cloudless sky for instance, on a peaceful day. Jesus himself, whoever he was, a wandering Jewish preacher and holy man apparently, with a few radical ideas for his time, would have abhorred the notion of a supreme infallible Church, based in Rome of all places, and dedicated to the actual worship of him as the literal "son of God" -- an idea which a first-century Palestinian Jewish holy man would have viewed as anathema, wholly pagan, just like the myriad "Mystery Cults" followed by the Greek and Latin pagans in the larger world around him at the time. Any mention of a "Trinity" concept, "three parts of one God", that sort of theological mumbo-jumbo which Catholic theologians tend to go after so avidly, surely would have thoroughly boggled the poor man's mind, as it has boggled so many other far better educated minds throughout history long after Jesus's time even up to the present day. The notion of his own mother, who had ( I believe) borne him illegitimately, being worshiped , or offered prayer to, as the "Mother of God" -- again, anathema, blasphemy, to pious Jews such as they were, especially in the time and place in which they lived. Such notions would have been totally unable to be "processed" or understood by Jews of that time and place as being anything other than run-of-the-mill non-Jewish paganism, plain and simple. (This was well before the era of the "non-observant cultural-only" Jew, or the tolerant modern "Western secularized" Reform Jew).

This was a time and a place where the ancient Semitic notion of the One God, and that God's Law, reigned supreme in the Jewish peoples' daily lives, much as such notions do today in the daily lives of devout Muslims around the world. This was a time and place where the Jews truly believed themselves to be the "Chosen People" of their own ancestral tribal deity. The historical Jesus surely would have viewed himself as being one of the tribe, and probably quite proudly at that. The Romans / Latins, in Jesus's day, were only the most recent pagan "goyim" occupiers of the ancient holy land, nothing more, despised and quietly cursed just as the Seleucid Greeks had been before them. Rebellions were hoped for, dreamt of, and sometimes even fomented, by a few radical Jews. There has been evidence that at least a few of Jesus's own disciples were religio-political radicals, would-be insurgents against the Roman occupation. The area of what is today northern Israel near Lebanon, called the Galilee, where these men originally came from, was at that time a hotbed of potential political insurrection and radical Messianic hopes and dreams. In today's terms, these men might be somewhat comparable to Shi'ite Muslim men in the rural southern areas of Iraq , the ones who are the most devoutly religious and chafing under the American occupation, awaiting the coming of the Mahdi (a Muslim Messiah figure, believed by many of the Shi'a to be "imminent"), and living in a daily powder keg of potential violence and religio-political uprising. The Americans, many of them practicing Christians (ironically), might be viewed as somewhat comparable to the Romans. (The latter's penchant for brutal crucifixions however seems to have been replaced in the Americans by one for long hooded torture sessions, and hangings farmed out to shaky local puppet regimes).

I remain an agnostic and do not consider myself an atheist because I allow for the possibility of a "something Greater". That's all. But I avoid the organized faith traditions of Christendom, such as the one that I was baptized into as an infant, because of the knowledge that I have gained as an adult. I cannot "suspend disbelief" enough to profess faith in something like the Nicene Creed , for example, which I essentially grew up being taught to profess faith in. And I believe that if one is not going to say it with heart, with true conviction, then one ought not go to Church and say it at all. I avoid the other organized faith traditions of the world, with all due respect to them , such as the the Semitic desert traditions of Judaism and Islam, and the Eastern traditions of Hinduism, and Buddhism, because I do not feel that I have any "blood connection" to them. I find nothing more personally distasteful than seeing Caucasian European, or Caucasian European-descended Americans walking around in , for example, full Muslim garb, or the robes of a Buddhist monk or "Hare Krishna". If I were going to "suspend disbelief" at all, I would sooner do it through learning about the ancestral ways of the European peoples from whom I am descended, rather than essentially "adopting" another peoples' faith tradition or culture, including Christianity which I do I must admit consider to be ultimately an "adoption" of sorts for Europeans as well. (At base , it is, after all, a tradition rooted in Semitic desert beliefs, and therefore basically "alien" to people who are of non-Semitic origin). Each of us must find our own way to God, or to "It", or ... what-have-you. No two paths will be exactly alike, even if many of us do ultimately "travel in packs" when it comes to religious beliefs. One of the greatest beauties of our modern secular Western world however is that we are able to discuss God, or no God, with freedom and respect for one another's opinions, even if we do not agree, and no one has limbs (or heads) severed, over it, or any other such ...... unpleasantries... occur as a result of the free expression and exchange of religious opinions.