My Stumble into Agnosticism

February 22, 2009 at 12:01 am 27 comments

When I first started blogging, I found it difficult to articulate my current perspective on religion. Thus, I wanted to use my blog to explain my spiritual development, my journey, and how I got to such a complicated, cosmological place. Through writing entries, and commenting and reviewing other religious blogs, I have found that I am more sure of my position than I originally believed. I now feel the strong desire to articulate clearly my contemporary viewpoints. However, my spiritual history has not yet been entirely fleshed out.

And so, I am going to continue on, explaining my spiritual development.

Through out my life, I gradually began to refute and dismiss certain religious claims.

I didn’t believe Jesus was a God. I didn’t believe I needed to confess to a Priest. I didn’t think St. Peter stood at the gates of Heaven with a book that listed who could enter. I didn’t believe in Creationism. I didn’t believe in the Garden of Eden, Noah’s flood, or Jesus’ resurrection.

It was just a matter of time before I contemplated rejecting religion all together.

Starting in high school, I started to identify myself as non-Christian. But I was still very much tied to a lot of the Catholic ethics and morals. The Catholic guilt ran through my mind everyday.

I was so conflicted with my Christianity. I didn’t go to church, and I felt extremely guilty for that. And although I didn’t believe in certain rules, and I felt guilty for not having faith. Whenever I was in desperate need of something, I would pray to God and say, “If you do this for me, I’ll be a better Christian, I swear!”

At my liberal university, I was introduced to lots of wonderful, non-Christian ideas. But I couldn’t adopt them because I could shake the strong hold Christianity had on me.

One summer while I was an undergrad, I was employed at a public library. One thing that interested me, was the liberal and left-wing stance that the library had. Left-wing on a social level, not an economic one, that is. The Chief Librarian was strictly against the notion of censorship. I was amazed to learn that the library carried things such as children’s books about homosexuality, women’s books about abortion, and many books of all kinds about Atheism.

In particular, it was the year “The DaVinci Code” was on the Best Seller’s list. My sister owned a copy and lent it to me. I remember, turning, page after page, gasping in the social mores being broken by the book. It was like Catharsis for my soul, just to have a published book on something so taboo in Christian society. Of course, I realized the book was only a novel. As thrilling as it was, it was fiction. But it definitely opened up the door to critical theology for me. I immediately borrowed a copy of “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” from the public library.

Now this book, that was liberating. I didn’t agree with everything the Holy Blood, Holy Grail put forth, but that single book effectively helped me to shed my Christian skin. It helped me to confirm that there are such a plethora of holes in Christianity, that I would need to be brain damaged to swallow it all. It made me realized that Christianity is no more than a fraudulent idolatry.

And so, in that summer, I was finally able to release myself from a lot of my Christian tendencies. I finally, coldly decided that I did not believe in Jesus as a divine figure. I would not worship Jesus at all. I would not worship Mary at all.

I started to realized that faith is not the utmost authority. I was part-way through my undergraduate degree, and my classes in anthropology, psychology, even philosophy had taught me to doubt a lot of what religion preached. I started to read more and more critical accounts of religion, and realize even more flaws. It fascinated me to poke more holes in religious dogma.

And so, I started to fall towards science and secularism. Atheism was an attractive concept. I don’t believe in a God the way that North American Christians believe in a God. I don’t believe in a human-like deity. But when I attempted to think more seriously about Atheism, I realized there was no way I could fully adopt that perspective. I found that I still believed in something even though I wasn’t sure what.

Sure, I accept evolution. I accept the big bang theory. But I also think that some force, or something must be behind all of this. Maybe the force is absent. Maybe the force is indifferent. But I know that I believe there was something, at some point.

Because of this belief, I could not identify myself as an Atheist. But I thought all the man-made version of God were pointless as well. So I didn’t feel like I belonged to a specific organized religion. And that was just my belief in a deity.

I also had many contradictory and confusing standpoints on things such as the afterlife, salvation, karma, morals & ethics, sexuality, divination, meditation, determinism, and the world in general. When I started to think about where I stood on all those issues, there was no way you could box me into a label. It was all so complex.

When I tried to explain this to my university friends, they just told me I was Agnostic. I thought Agnostic was just a soft Atheist, so I rejected the label. I felt that wasn’t right.

And even if I was Agnostic, what did that mean? What exactly did I believe in?

I felt I needed a spiritual side. I longed for a spiritual connection. I wanted to learn about a cosmology that made sense to me, that I could agree with.

And so, I temporarily accepted my Agnosticism, but I pushed forth in an attempt to find something else which was a better fit.

Over the next few years, I plan on sampling many different religious paths, and I will earn a minor in religious studies along the way.

- Modern Girl (Guest Contributor)

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27 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Josh (guitarstrummr)  |  February 22, 2009 at 12:41 am

    Good post, and kudos on wanting to study other religions. I think it will definitely help you out :)

    When people ask I actually say I am both an atheist and an agnostic. I am an atheist because I do not believe in any of the theisms presented by any of the world religions. I am agnostic when it comes to the existence of a deity. I don’t know whether a god exists or not, but I do claim to know that the God of Christianity – for example – does not exist.

    Anyway, good post and keep searching!

  • 2. DSimon  |  February 22, 2009 at 5:51 am

    Sure, I accept evolution. I accept the big bang theory. But I also think that some force, or something must be behind all of this. Maybe the force is absent. Maybe the force is indifferent. But I know that I believe there was something, at some point.

    Why do you believe this?

  • 3. Modern Girl  |  February 22, 2009 at 11:26 am

    I’m not sure why. No one is forcing me to believe it. I didn’t grow up in a fundamental background or scared into believing it. But it’s something I can’t shake. I couldn’t believe in nothing, because I just truly believe that there is something.

  • 4. Bethlin  |  February 22, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks for the post Modern Girl. I understand where you’re coming from by believing in “something.”

    For some people, the belief that there is no God, no force, nothing – that is the ultimate freedom. Your life can have whatever meaning you choose or no meaning at all.

    For other people, the belief that there is nothing is the ultimate in futility. Sure, you can choose a meaning for your life, but you can’t really escape that whatever your chosen meaning, it is still pointless. And it just feels wrong that a person’s life – every person’s life – is ultimately an exercise in futility.

    I don’t know if this is where you’re coming from, but I think that for a lot of deconverts stripping away that last shred of meaning is a destructive and depressing idea.

  • 5. Quester  |  February 22, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Welcome! I’ve been really enjoying your blog, Modern Girl, even if I’ve only commented once. Labels I’ve recently been looking at, for my own interest, include:

    Deist: There is/was something that can be called a deity- it created the universe as we know it, and we can only learn about it by studying what is (preachers, holy books and supernatural manifestations need not apply). This deity is not active in the universe today.

    Pantheist: All that is, is part of the divine.

    Panentheist: All that is, plus a little more, makes up the divine. That little more is a creative force of some sort.

    Those are my summaries, and others would argue with me. I’ve found the research helpful, though.

  • 6. matt  |  February 22, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    It’s hard to go that last step of dismissing the “special entity that isn’t god or Zeus or Mithra or the FSM”, but you’ll get there. It’s hard growing up believing in a god and then switching to disbelief. But if you don’t believe in Jesus’ divinity, and you don’t believe in this or that divinity, you’re going to either find yourself sucked into a New Age cult or realize that, um, you know, there’s no divinity out there.

  • 7. Modern Girl  |  February 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I’ve also pondered about deism for a bit. I was first introduced to the idea in Karen Armstrong’s “A History of God” I should definitely try to write about that soon on my blog.

    I think a lot of people assume once you give up Christianity you need to give it all up. Maybe eventually that will be true for me, but right now I don’t see it that way. I believe there’s something out there, but humans don’t really have a way of describing it, and we can never really know it. Thus, that’s why it was my stumble into Agnosticism, and not Atheism.

  • 8. Derek  |  February 22, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    I have a feeling there will be more stumbles ahead of you.

    It’s a long and winding road to atheism. And the people who like to accuse us of being certain, arrogantly so, that all god-claims are false, are usually the same ones who are unwilling to sit down and listen and really discover how we got here. I have not investigated all god-claims to completion, of course, but I am willing to reopen the case in light of novel, unexplored evidence.

    For me, the majority of “stumbles” were subtle and happened over time. But the transition from theistic agnosticism to agnostic atheism came suddenly and powerfully. Mind you, it wasn’t a positive, enabling, empowering emotion like one might experience in other religious conversions. It was a feeling of utter solitude or — more simply — all alone. Nobody watching, nobody caring. With freedom came despair, but there it was and at that point there was no going back to the type of unquestioning acceptance I used to hang onto so desperately.

  • 9. Luke  |  February 22, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    here’s what my good buddy claims is a “hopeful agnostic”

    namely, past experience and reasoning thus far states that there is something else out there… but who knows. which ever way you roll is part of your journey. there are some that will claim that this journey ends in atheism while others say you’ll reunite with a deist or back to a new form of christian worldview. who knows! one can never tell how these things pan out.

    but best of luck on your journey. i enjoyed reading your struggles and as a fellow ex-Catholic, i really saw some of my own struggles there. peace!

  • 10. ArchangelChuck  |  February 23, 2009 at 11:51 am

    The reason we use labels is to make conversation about the subject less tedious and mind-numbing. The problem comes when we use labels in a dogmatic way, i.e. when we say that a label necessitates a certain political opinion or behaviour. That’s why I choose the most generic and vague, yet relevant, label I can imagine when describing myself.

    Take myself for example. I am an atheist as a logical consequence of being a bright; gods simply don’t fit into the picture. Technically speaking, everybody is an agnostic, as nobody is able to know for certain one way or the other with respect to any god, so to proclaim one has “the truth” on the issue is absolute nonsense. I’m a freethinker because my reasoning doesn’t appeal to authority and dogma, but rather, evidence and sound logic. I’m a secular humanist because I don’t think that morality and justice have any supernatural influence at all. While all of that is true, Christianity is ingrained in my own cultural heritage. Without understanding Christianity, it’s impossible to fully understand the culture in which I live. That said, I would fancy myself a cultural Christian.

    So what am I left with? Agnostic secular humanist Christian atheist naturalist freethinker? Isn’t it easier to simply describe myself as non-religious, then expand on it if I’m asked to do so?

  • 11. Luke  |  February 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    “Isn’t it easier to simply describe myself as non-religious, then expand on it if I’m asked to do so?”

    absolutely! but the fact that you can articulate beyond “there is no god/gods” shows the journey. and in this context, it’s important to note that.

  • 12. ArchangelChuck  |  February 23, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Luke, yes. It seems too often that people say, “There is a god,” or, “There are no gods,” and then just stop thinking about it. There’s so much more to it than that. It’s an open-ended and multifaceted journey that allows us to evolve as individuals and as societies.

    Call me naïve if you like, but I like to think that is what religion is meant to be.

  • 13. Luke  |  February 24, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    exactly! i’ll go ahead and naive right with you.

  • 14. anti-supernaturalist  |  February 26, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    . . . choosing to walk with a despised minority? it’s not easy.

    ** Super-size me Jesus! **

    A nation overwhelmingly god-fearing also overwhelmingly rejects science. Millions lack the critical intelligence to evaluate the garbage they put into their brains. Junk-food faith for a fat-head nation.

    The US is an aberration among developed nations in its affinity for xian enthusiasms and in its failure to accept now elementary basic truths like evolution via natural selection.

    • On the road to internal exile

    America the free? Nonsense. I am an atheist, an *anti-supernaturalist* to be precise. Therefore, I belong to the most despised minority in the US. Why according to GHW Bush, I’m not fit to be a citizen.

    I’ll tolerate fundies only when everyone’s “freedom of conscience” under the US Constitution is restored and respected. The US is still a secular state which has the misfortune of selective amnesia towards the political ideology of christo-fascism, dominionism. Read Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel about a xian state in America in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

    • religious cover for frauds, pedophiles, and plotters

    The US has been a secular state from its inception. It is *not* one nation under a non-existent god. Nor under child molesting priests, nor under fanatical tax-dodging televangelists, nor under cabals of delusional fundies (dominionists) seeking to overthrow the Republic.

    The people are sovereign. (for now.)

  • 15. jeremiahandrews  |  February 28, 2009 at 12:25 am

    It is said that a good agnostic understands that we understand little yet we still extend a hand into the darkness reaching for something.

    Life is a journey and all about what we find along the way. Is there a God, did Jesus exist? If he did was he human or divine? What am I doing here, and what lesson am I supposed to take away from here.

    I have a degree in Relig Studies and I have spent the better part of 15 years studying “everything” I could get my hands on when I learned that I was terminal. I lived obviously. There is more to this life than Christianity. I used to sit in Barnes and Noble and read until my eyes crossed.

    There is a wealth of teaching that spans the rainbow of topics. From spirits to astrology to Eastern Religions back around to Christianity. It’s not a bad thing to be agnostic or to admit that you are on a path to rediscovery.

    I think you will find what you are looking for. But I think we are all born with a kernel of belief that something exists out there. Expand your horizon and study well. I enjoyed immensely the Eastern Traditions. There are so many that will occupy much of your studies if you go in that direction.

    It’s not a bad thing to question. I think things die when we stop asking questions.

    Jeremy

  • 16. Yurka  |  February 28, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Jeremiah, have you ever read your namesake’s book? That might answer a few of your questions. I can’t imagine it’s satisfying or comforting to question absolutely everything. We can’t take what may be virtues in certain circumstances (such as questioning, or tolerance) and turn them into unqualified virtues, else we end up in absurdities. The devil’s in the details.

  • 17. Joshua  |  February 28, 2009 at 11:07 am

    “I think things die when we stop asking questions.”

    What an incredible point. I’m going to have to start applying that to my own life and attitude :)

  • 18. Ubi Dubium  |  February 28, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Jeremy, just ignore Yurka. Keep on questioning everything!

  • 19. jeremy  |  February 28, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    When I come here to read, and to comment I leave my religious views at the door. Questions are like the fuel that fires the mind and heart. If we stop asking questions, that fuel dies and so does the fire that burns within us.

    I enjoy the process of learning. I don’t press my beliefs here, I am just enjoying the ride, living vicariously through someone else’s eyes when I come here. You can come by my site and see where my allegiance lies.

    Jeremy

  • 20. Yurka  |  February 28, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Jeremy, have you decided on the ‘questioning’ approach because your sins are more important to you than anything? Jeremy, you can triumph over sin. Please don’t condemn yourself and lie to yourself that your enslavement to sin is set in stone, that it is part of your identity. I suppose that makes me a bigot, but I hope you will consider that viewpoint, since you are into questioning things.
    That is not my sin. Mine are perhaps worse, but what is unimaginable to me now would be the possibility of loving my sins. Please pray that God will give you the gift of hating your sins (Romans 7).

  • 21. ArchangelChuck  |  March 1, 2009 at 12:01 am

    At least we have someone like Yurka to remind us why we left Christianity…

  • 22. jeremy  |  March 1, 2009 at 12:59 am

    Oh God I created a monster by leaving a comment. Yes I am familiar with the book of Romans. sin is sin is sin. I don’t sin, at least that I am aware of. So I don’t need to have anything. but thanks for the suggestion.

    J.

    Go and sin no more … let the first man without sin cast the first stone? Oh there are none left to condemn you? Well, neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more…

  • 23. andrew Kenny  |  March 1, 2009 at 10:32 am

    I appreciate your disillusionment with the Church and Christianity. I couldn’t wait to leave the Church when I was about 13 years old even though I had nothing against Jesus as such.I never expected to return. But I did I don’t really know why. I

    On my return I did experience the presence of God and his love for me. I was less impressed with some of the Christians I met, some where proud, selfish , hypocritical, self righteous. Some on the other hand were what you would expect Christ to be like-
    inclusive, kind, sacrificial.

    It was seeing Christ in THese people that drew me back. I’m not a Christian because of the promise of everkasting life but because of knowing God on a day to day basis, of living to reach out to the lonely, the sad, the
    disillusioned in a winsome manner.

    Many I have known who have discovered the reality of God despite the negative impact of those who call themselves Christians yet are not Christlike. ( See what Jesus call the religious of his day).

    Thanks anyway fand I appreciate you letting me comment on your most honest blog.

    Peace and Grace
    Andy

  • 24. Modern Girl  |  March 6, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Thanks so much for all the comments on my rant. Jeremy, I especially enjoy your comment about a good agnostic reaches their hand into the darkness in search. It definitely rings true for me.

    I just wanted to clarify a small detail. I’m currently writng a blog to attempt to track my spiritual development. However, given that I started the blog at age 24, I’ve been writing “back chapters” to record all the development I’m accomplished before I started blogging. This entry was one of those back chapters. I still have several back chapters yet to write, but the next one (Buddhism) is up on my blog page now.

  • 25. Mike  |  December 5, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    I apologize if I repeat something in this post that was already said, I didn’t exactly read all 24 comments.
    You seem to me to be something of a Deist. You believe in some sort of God, but you don’t believe that any of the big 3 religions are right. The problem with Deism is that you’re free to suppose anything you like about God. Why not believe that God created people so that they can kill each other, or that God watches us with some sort of scientific fascination, but doesn’t really care about us at all.

  • 26. Joshua  |  December 5, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    The problem with Deism is that you’re free to suppose anything you like about God.

    From my perspective, that’s just a problem with any religion that proposes a deity, not just deism.

  • 27. Lyra's Alias  |  June 6, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Lovely story. It’s hard for me to label myself at this stage as well. It’s good to be reminded that many people have faced a similar experience.

    Yurka, you are turning me from Christianity more quickly than anyone else on this site. Good hustle, sport.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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