Claiming the name Agnostic amdist my uncertainty

I had the strangest dream last night. I dreamt I was visiting my old church from back when I was 17, and observing a church service. I’d say taking part, except I wasn’t. I was me as I currently am but the folks there were the ones I remembered, unchanged. They were friendly and rather pleased to see me but I cannot say the same of myself. It was nice and all but something was missing. I went through the motions of the service, thinking about what I liked and what I didn’t, what I missed and what I was very glad to see the back of. In the end the paper list in my hand had just one item ticked off that I missed. Or at least, only one that I could remember on waking. That item was prayer/mindfulness. Seems my subconscious has linked the two. In the dream, I remember thinking “oh, but I get that from Yoga”. That time and space to concentrate on what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling is still very important to me. Both my current yoga teachers invite us to dedicate our practise to something outside of ourselves, which is an opportunity I really appreciate. I would also say that I still “pray”, if by “pray” you mean ranting at thin air in an empty room, giving voice to my deepest feelings and darkest fears. I still talk to “God” too, mainly to accuse him of neglect and inactivity, usually prefaced by “if you’re there, and if you’re listening” or “if you even exist, which I’m not sure you do”, and occassionally, “if I still believed in God, I would attribute this {postitive thing} to You.” In days past, I would have called upon the examples of Job or Jacob as people who were struggling with seriously difficult questions with God and would have said there was still hope for my salvation, but no longer. I called myself agnostic in conversation the other day, after using it for the first time to describe myself to me. Before the most you would have gotten out of me was an “it’s complicated”, like that dreaded Facebook relationship status. So many things are still, still, too painful to talk about to unsympathetic ears because too many are willing for a cut and dried, black and white, atheist answer.

I was talking to my bestest best friend in the pub the other night over a couple of pints of cider and we were reminiscing about our undergrad years. My friend hated her time at our university, with good reason, and we were also discussing our mental health back then, which was shaky to say the least. She was talking about how different her life would have been if she’d gone somewhere else, or taken a year out, but I reminded her that she was one of the best things to happen to me in Undergrad. She was my first truly atheist friend and she supported me and understood me when all the Christians in my church hadn’t a fucking clue how to deal with me. She was the first person I truly knew who had developed her own morals off her own back after much thought and philosphical study. Through her friendship and that of her housemates, I realised you didn’t have to have a faith to have a moral compass and I also realised that the atheists I knew were better human beings than the Christians I knew. They were more accepting, less judging, were for LGBT rights and social equality, were against hypocrisy and holier than thou attitudes and were just genuinely good people. They *got* me whereas in my own church I was an outsider, oft forgotten, a disposable extra unless I was bringing souls to God. Those experiences shook my world view and gave me the opportunity I needed to come to terms with my sexuality, amongst other things. I would not be who I am today without her friendship and support, even if I did hate most of what she had to say about religion back then!

Her comment in the pub that stuck with me was to not confuse religion and faith. I’d been bemoaning the fact that my partner, dear to me as he is, just doesn’t get the extent of the damage and mental scars I carry from my time in the church, and she said that faith was something I had that my partner has never known, and that if I didn’t want to loose it, I didn’t have to. Untangling religion and faith is hard though when you were taught that the purest expression of faith comes out through organised religion. “Something, something, if you’re not baptised into this particular expression of the Body of Christ, you’re not really saved*” as an example of what exactly it is that is stuck in my head. Bullshit, I know, and an example of how cultish that particular church was, but there you go. It’s not the only bit of religious teaching I can remember that implied that if you didn’t go to church every Sunday, read the Bible and studied it in groups, then your faith was at risk, both in general and through the potential to develop heretical understandings of key passages of the Bible. In other words, there is a whole lot of reprogramming and unlearning to do before I can even begin to realistically untangle the two, if that’s even something I want to do in the first place. For now, being able to say unreservedly and without embarrassment that I am agnostic is progress, if by progress we mean healthier for me, rather than towards some ultimate goal of “atheist”.

 

*Never mind that I’d been baptised as a child into the Church of England and had been through Eucharist prep as a teenager so that I could take part in the Holy Communion.

Interestingly that community church didn’t do Holy Communion at all. During the three years I was part of that church only one Communion was taken. This didn’t make sense then and doesn’t make sense now either. Breaking the Bread and Drinking the Wine with the command “do this in rememberance of me” was the last set of instructions given by Christ to his followers before his execution. They are actual instructions in the Bible and yet that church wasn’t doing them for reasons it never explained and that bothered me a lot.

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One thought on “Claiming the name Agnostic amdist my uncertainty

  1. Religion is one of those topics you don’t discuss in mixed company, for so many reasons it’s unreal. I was lucky enough to be brought up in my “faith”, with little judgement for my actions, so I never felt an inherent guilt for what others said to me. But, then again, I engaged in a lot of…um…”activities” that I didn’t discuss openly either.

    I can safely say, that I was a huge advocate of the organized religion I once belonged to and part of it was due to the fact that I was in huge denial about my own sexuality – being an abomination just didn’t sit very well with me, and yet I always felt I could convince myself that I Was straight and not bisexual, because I had this belief that “sin” was a choice.

    Sigh…

    Even thinking about it now gets under my skin, because there are people that exist that don’t align with a particular system of faith and yet are so good that they make excellent examples of decent people.

    I dunno…it’s so convoluted sometimes.

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