The Crowd of Unknowing
Posted by spritzophrenia on December 23, 2010
A while back I wrote a brief summary of my life story for Crystal’s blog which I’m re-posting here. There was a word limit, so I condensed a lot. You earn extra points if you can pick where my title above comes from
My Agnostic Journey
It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while… But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.
I used to agree, so how did a born-again Christian become agnostic?
After university I became bored with a church culture inherited from 19th century Europe. I read about rave churches, picked up the newly published Post Evangelical and tried to do church from within my own culture. These days we call this “emergent”. I love techno, extreme metal and folk music. We support contextualisation for other cultures, why not our own, right?
Skipping ahead a few years, divorced and drifting, I decided to return to a more conservative faith. I prayed, “God, I don’t understand why, but I’m gonna try and do things your way,” specifically praying for a Christian girlfriend.
Shortly afterwards, I met a Christian woman and considered this an answer. Long story short, I fell in love but she’d been lying all along. It ended with my suicidal despair after discovering her multiple betrayals. I raged at divine betrayal too; I was angry at God for years.
I know that compared with the suffering others go through, mine seems incredibly trivial. But we can only experience our own suffering, and for me it was shattering. My departure from churchianity was caused by three archetypal problems: Why prayer isn’t answered, the problem of evil, and the hypocrisy of Christians. Ironically, I’ve always been an intellectual and spent many hours wrestling with these arguments. Conclusion: It would have been so easy to make a couple of small changes in my life without violating anyone’s freedom or requiring miracles. God failed and a twenty year faith died. Or did it?
I’m not sure I could honestly claim to be an atheist after God let me down. For a few years I simply ignored God. I still find nihilism compelling, if I were convinced there were no God I think I’d become totally self-indulgent, and for a while I was.
When I came to think about spiritual things again, I found myself not knowing if God is there or not. I’d become agnostic. Agnosticism is about knowledge, and is a solid belief, rather than an in-between state. I’m an open agnostic, but it seems the majority are atheists in practice. I’m not satisfied with standing back and assuming God isn’t there, I’m still searching. There are even Christian agnostics, though I don’t count myself among their number. I’ve written that all believers are un-knowers.
What’s it like being agnostic in day to day life? I never pray, lost the habit. After reading through the entire Bible every year- even the boring bits- I never pick it up. Occasionally I’d like to find a local group of similar souls, but this is hard. And I’m SO over meetings. Wiccans have a concept of the solitary practitioner, perhaps Christians need to recover that practice, based on the desert fathers?
Do I feel guilt? Well, one of the really good things I took from Christianity is the concept of grace, something that seems to be lacking in most public Christian proclamations.
My gateway to God was always the mind; reading Antony Flew’s biography and a book on the Mystics inspired me recently. My girlfriend gave me the three volume Integrative Theology, I love that stuff. At this point I’m closer to believing in a g0d than for some time, but it’s an expansive g0d, a beautiful Mind behind the universe. If I do return to Christianity, it will be on my terms. I cannot believe in a God who condemns gay people, treats women as second-class or tortures people eternally.
I’m agnostic but I’m genuinely seeking truth. I find the search wonderfully fresh and am surprised at the progress I’ve made. I don’t know if God is there, and maybe I never will. I do know that love is more important than belief. I think I’m OK with that.
? What do you relate to?
Please subscribe (top left)
Paul Collier | Facing the Unknown