Over the past several weeks, I packed up all of my belongings and moved them from Spokane to Springfield, MO. As I first got into the moving truck, I was very uncomfortable. First, I hate driving. Second, I enjoy my car but am never at ease when driving another vehicle. I have found that even driving the same make of car presents differences — the windshield wipers never run at the “right” pace, the brake pedal is a bit touchier and the button for the emergency flashers is always a mystery. And — were those things not enough — I constantly think I am going to damage a vehicle that is not my own.
But, once I have spent a little time in the foreign vehicle, I find my groove. While not everything functions exactly the way I expect or how I would want, the windshield wipers work, I am able to ease into using the brakes, and I find that ever elusive button for the emergency flashers. In the end, I manage just fine!
In an odd way, I find religion to be the same way. Studying religion so critically, I have come to the point where I can simply say, “I don’t know…” “Is there a god/God?” I don’t know… “Is Jesus the Christ?” I don’t know… “Are there such things as heaven and hell?” I don’t know.
There are things I do know — Jesus was a pretty cool guy. So was Buddha. So was Muhammad. Every major world religion has some version of the Golden Rule. And I know that I like to ask questions, too. So while it is true that my answers are few, I am constantly seeking wisdom and understanding.
From my standpoint, my willingness to ask questions defines me a bit from the “typical” agnostic. I meet a lot of people who identify as agnostic and are satisfied with the label — there is no need to experience faith traditions, no desire to converse with others about faith and spirituality, and no true pursuit of knowledge that would help to illuminate the unknown. The label “apathetic” seems more applicable.
So when I am labeled agnostic (whether the label is valid or not), I at least need to plead my case. As mentioned before, there are many religious figures who were/are cool guys. But I would hesitate to say any of them would be happy (or even satisfied) with their modern followers using their names as a means to an end (salvation) but not being involved in matters of social justice (Jesus spent a lot of time with the marginalized and much less time preaching about some life beyond this one).
The challenge I have for myself, then, is bringing out the best of any faith tradition I encounter and truly seeking to live out the heart of any teaching. In reality, “agnostic” does not mean dormant or unseeking — but “apathetic” embodies those notions.