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.

6 Comments

  1. Tracy Simmons

    DrGonzo1203, on Reddit, said:
    I do identify as apathetic agnostic. I don’t know, and I don’t care. I see the major book writers (Jesus/Mohammed’s disciples) as just another group of old-world philosophers. I find the ancient Greeks much more interesting on the whole, considering they came earlier, and you know, had authors who admit they wrote it. If God exists, he doesn’t communicate via tribal word of mouth and bullshit. Only people do that.

    Read more comments: http://www.reddit.com/r/agnostic/comments/yq171/agnosticism_vs_apathy/

  2. Kyle,

    Some of my most profound conversations about faith have been those who don’t believe the same things (whether they be agnostic, or some other faith), but who are willing to engage in conversation and thoughtfully consider options.

    Perhaps it is because when we talk with someone who shares our beliefs, there is a bit of sameness about it. Could it be we have too much common ground? Therefore, I really appreciate being able to see things from a different perspective. It helps me reason out my beliefs as well.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

    Well that sums up the spirit of the age if I’ve ever seen it condensed into a tweet.

    I would hope and pray that I will be able to live, write and pass on something greater than anything that continues that kind of perspective.

    To sit on the edge of etrrnity’s glories and to taste of the depths of a mysterious yet tender communicating God and
    know that so many ‘don’t know and don’t care’ motivates me to ‘know and care’ even more.

  4. Hmmm. When the Pharisees scolded Jesus for not rebuking His disciples when they worshiped Him, didn’t He say something like, if they didn’t then the rocks would. Or then there’s always John 3:16-21. On balance, even though “gentle Jesus” covers one aspect, He is coming back with a sword the next time for all who reject Him (Rev. 19:15&21;).

  5. There is a purpose in life.
    We were made for more. How can we have any compassion without a true HOLY example?
    Who offers forgiveness and joy here and now the fullness of all life.

    Isaiah 30:18-21

  6. Kyle A. Franklin

    Libby, I appreciate your comment, but I disagree. I believe compassion to be spurred on by seeing human suffering or tragedy and responding. It is the pureness of sharing in our humanness.

    I agree that “holy” examples are full of compassion, but I do not believe that “ordinary” humans need that example to act compassionately. It is true that we sometimes fail (a lot of times), but there are times when we succeed, too, in being purely compassionate toward others and sharing in our humanness.

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