As we embark upon the next great journey in our lives, Brian and I worry about a number of things: will we find friends in the suburbs of Houston? Will our liberal views mark us as lepers in a largely conservative community? And most recently, will our lack of religious faith go so far as to shun us from society?
You see, Brian and I are agnostic, a word that many, many people in this country misunderstand. As a result, we don’t talk about it much. Part of that is our mentality that spiritual beliefs in general shouldn’t be thrown in others’ faces. Also, people get mad or worried and want to save your soul and/or hide you from their children.
So before we make the move to Houston (where I’m already receiving invitations to church functions), I wanted to take the time to spell out our agnosticism and clear the air. Let’s start with common misconceptions…
What agnosticism is NOT:
· Devil worship
· An excuse to do whatever the hell you want
So what is agnosticism? Essentially, it’s the belief that there’s really no way of truly defining god. It doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in god. There are things in this world that even science can’t explain, but I’m not willing to claim that I can prove god’s existence or make-up. And yes, the Bible/Koran/Talmud have been around for a long time, but were written by man and therefore fallible in my eyes.
Which brings me to another point: there are too many different faiths in this world to claim that only ONE of them is the right way to live. Religion is largely geographic. If you were born in the Middle East, you will likely be raised Muslim. If you are from India, chances are you’ll be born into a family of Hindis. If you were born in the United States, you are probably Christian (and depending on the area of the US you call home, you might be Baptist, Catholic, or Protestant). We tend to adopt the religion of our ancestors, never truly questioning if they got it right. And if we do question the validity of our faith, we tend to face some heat for it. Those who go so far as to claim that there is no god are some of the most mistrusted people in America. In fact, a recent article in The Week had this to say about the issue:
Most polls suggest that atheists are among the most disliked groups in the U.S. One study last year asked participants whether a fictional hit-and-run driver was more likely to be an atheist or a rapist. A majority chose atheist. In 2006, another study found that Americans rated atheists as less likely to agree with their vision of America than Muslims, Hispanics, or homosexuals. "Wherever there are religious majorities, atheists are among the least trusted people," said University of British Columbia sociologist Will M. Gervais. As a result, avowed atheists are rare in nearly all areas of public life.
Now I’m not saying I’m an atheist. I’ve mentioned that agnosticism and atheism are not synonymous, and it bears repeating. But I am saying that since I don’t follow the traditional religious path of most blue-blooded Americans, I do face some flack for it. It doesn’t really bother me unless I’m painted as hedonistic or dangerous because my views are different. And it happens more than I’d like to admit.
The reality is that most religions on this planet share the same message (extremists and hate-mongers aside…I’m talking to you Jihadists and Pat Robertson): love one another and live your life with the well-being of others in your heart. And just because I refuse to adopt a certain religious view, it doesn’t mean that I don’t take strides to follow that message. It’s the basis of my parenting, my teaching, and my day-to-day living. And those desperate to save my eternally-damned soul might do well to examine that mantra and ensure that it’s the basis of their lives, too, before worrying about mine. I’d like to believe that any supreme deity will judge me for my actions, not my definition of faith. And should I be wrong on that count, well I don’t really want to spend eternity with a god like that anyway. It seems like a teacher that took ten points of your paper because you used the wrong color pen.
I should say at this point that if you're a religious person, I completely respect that. Just as I don't want to be judged for my beliefs, I would never judge another for theirs. I understand why religion exists and is so important to many. It's just not for me. So let’s agree to respect one another’s beliefs and acknowledge that we’re never really going to change one another’s minds. Besides, talking about sports or music or books is more fun anyway and far less likely to end in a shouting match.
Unless, of course, you’re rooting for the Sooners. That's when I get rowdy.