I recently read Michael Krasny’s “Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic’s Quest.” In this book, Mr. Krasny traces his spiritual journey from believing in a God who watched over him to observing a personal code of ethics that respects all forms of belief and non-belief as long as they are not forced upon him. As far as God, heaven, hell, etc. go, Krasny correctly–in my opinion–holds the view that we simply cannot empirically prove nor disprove their existence. His book is well-written, well-reasoned and accessible. Mr. Krasny also does an excellent job of relating the positive and negative aspects of religion, agnosticism and atheism.
At the same time, I felt a certain sadness in the book. Mr. Krasny admits that he longs for “a God he can believe in,” and that he “simply wanted to have God in his heart.” Those statements make sense to me, too. That is, it seems a lot simpler to believe or not, right? It has to be difficult for people to live in limbo–neither completely buying into belief in God ala (insert the religion of your choice), nor completely writing off belief ala (insert the atheist organization of your choice).
Call it “Agnostic Hell.”
I will admit the feelings I’ve experienced during my spiritual journey have been quite disorienting at times. After all, I’ve gone from being a pre-teen Pentecostal who was most certain I was on the one correct path for all time–and too bad for the rest of you–to being a Unitarian Universalist who feels I am on the correct path for me–today. Don’t ask me about tomorrow; it’s not even 2:00 p.m. yet.
Now, there are things I carry with me from the faith of my youth: a sense of taking responsibility for my actions, saying I’m sorry (and meaning it) when I’m wrong, and standing for those values which I hold close to my heart. And for those things I am thankful to certain members of my family–both biological and church families.
What I don’t miss about the faith of my youth is the image of God looking down on me, watching my every move, and continuously either writing my name in the Book of Life (think “Guest List for Heaven”) or erasing it when I messed up (which was often). So if you think about it, while I was a firm believer in a certain image of God, I was still in a very personal “hell” of not knowing–not knowing whether or not I was good enough to make the final cut for a sweet afterlife.
The not-knowing I experience now is very different from the not-knowing of my youth. Most of the time it brings me a sense of peace and freedom, rather than fear or dread. Sure, I still wonder about things like the existence of God, the nature of Jesus, the existence of an afterlife and so on. At the same time, these issues are no longer my primary focus. I prefer to remember the past, live in the present and look forward to a future filled with light, life, love and peace.
To reach that future means learning from our past, both individually and collectively–taking the values and teachings of all faiths–and of no faiths-which point to a bright and peaceful future and then adjusting–yet not losing–those values completely to today’s realities. That is, we must learn to live in the present in ways that seek to establish a sustainable and peaceful future for this world, rather than try to figure out how fast we can escape this world–our reality–for a world which may–or may not–exist.
So what does God think of my comments? I don’t know. Will these comments prevent me from experiencing a blessed afterlife? I don’t know.
What I do know, however, is that by caring for one another, our planet, and ourselves we are following at least some of the teachings of the world’s great religions. And if at least part of the reason for those teachings is to encourage us to experience the Great Mystery many people call “God,” then I don’t think such a God would be too upset with me for voicing my opinions–as long as I backed them up with appropriate actions.
Can I be sure? Nope. Still, I think it’s worth a shot.
What about you?
Blessings on your journeys!