BY: SYDNEY MCINNIS
I walk into a softly lit room with tall ceilings, the powerful sounds of voices joined together in chorus echo between the walls. Having arrived to the service late, I slink into the very back row of the auditorium and sit while everyone stands, their eyes wide while they listen intently. Those in front of me are moving their bodies exuberantly in correlation with the beats of a heavy drum. This is not a regular church.
My journey with the non-denominational Christian religion came and went in what felt like a whirlwind. Fuelled by curiosity and an undying feeling of emptiness, I filled my Sundays with the unusual and magic-seeming services like these – once in the morning and once in the evening.
Curiosity spiralled quickly into true acceptance, and perhaps even an obsession, of that faithful state of mind. I slid nicely into the church community, since the church that I was going to worshipped through the magnificence of music and the concept of togetherness. It was a hip church, so I didn’t feel too geeky. Plus, I really loved feeling like I was part of a community.
The feeling of loneliness that I was stuck with when I was 15 years old vanished. I really thought that God had done it. I didn’t need to search for a fix anymore. I thought to myself over and over again, “This is where you belong. God has filled all of your holes.” God became present in all of my actions and thoughts.
This continued for about a year and a half, although fairly silently, with my study bible tucked away in the bottom of my backpack everyday. I was involved with a progressive, agnostic group of friends – friends who valued science and the questioning of the same things that I was heavily involved in. In the summer after Grade 12, I spent eight hours travelling to a folk festival in a Honda CR-V, tightly packed with friends who asked me many questions about my religion once it was exposed.
That car ride resulted in a changed state of mind, to say the least. I was presented with points that totally obliterated mine. I realized that the only thing keeping me believing in what I was believing in was the fact that I only talked to people who shared the same views as me. In those eight hours, I realized that topics are to be debated and discussed and that if they aren’t, you’ll end up being utterly ignorant to the other side. And there’s always another side.
Agnosticism. What a word. According to Michael Vlach on Theological Studies, “the term comes from a which means “no” and gnosis which means “knowledge.” Thus, agnosticism literally means “no knowledge.”
Essentially, agnostics embrace the fact that it’s impossible to know that God is real, but it’s also impossible to be sure that God is bogus. Having this belief allows you to question everything, talk about everything and absorb everything, but you never have to make a decision because there is really no decision to be made. We simply don’t know.
“Agnosticism doesn’t fear uncertainty. It doesn’t cling like a child in the dark to the dogmas of orthodox religion or atheism,” said Ron Rosenbaum in his article An Agnostic Manifesto. “Agnosticism respects and celebrates uncertainty and has been doing so since before quantum physics revealed the uncertainty that lies at the very groundwork of being.”
One of the same friends who travelled with me in that cozy CR-V, and debated me out of my God-loving behaviors, comes from a strong and lifelong background of Unitarian Universalism. Unitarian Universalists are basically a group of spiritual, agnostic folk who gather to explore their spiritual capacities and discuss concepts that fit into their seven basic principles, which are philosophies that I believe any mindful human being could, and probably should, connect with in some way.
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove stated, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.” This beautiful, loose structure makes up the basis of a religion. In contrast to my religious beliefs, which were already much more progressive than traditional beliefs, this was so advanced. Imagine – rather than kneeling and reciting psalms at church on Sunday morning you could discuss mind-opening pressing topics with no boundaries. That is a reality.
Self-exploration can happen with only questions and no definite answers, because really, there usually aren’t any. I’ve learned that skepticism is valuable in every way. I plan to explore my agnosticism to the greatest of lengths.