I'm an agnostic. This revelation, more than any other I've made on my blog, is the hardest to make.
I wasn't raised to be agnostic. My parents both grew up Catholic. While they were determined not to indoctrinate me and my brother into that particular faith, God was still present in our lives. We attended a Lutheran church when I was a child. I went to Sunday school, the preschool attached to the church, and bible camp. My brother believes in God. My disbelief is not the fault of my parents or any flaw in their parenting.
My brother and I were taught to live moral lives. Not because God wanted us to be good, but because it was the right thing to do. My parents wanted me to think for myself and not simply accept everything they, or my Sunday school teacher, said as gospel. I learned that lesson a little too well. I don't ever remember believing in God.
That isn't to say that I've never struggled with my beliefs. I have. I understand the purpose of religion. It can be a great comfort in times of need. A church community can be a thing of wonder when its members rally around a parishioner or a cause. Often I wish I could share in that comfort and community.
For most of my childhood I struggled with my beliefs, but junior high was the turning point. I was in an American school in Germany, where my father was stationed in the Air Force, when I became friends with an evangelical crowd. They attended youth group meetings every week and urged me to do so as well. I finally explained that I did not believe in God, but they didn't give up.
Mandy and Wendy, and a few others whose names I've forgotten, passed me notes in class about God and finding my faith. One letter I remember involved the story of a girl who asked a dead friend for some proof of God's existence and found it in a bird alighting on a nearby fence. I'm not sure why that story sticks with me, but I do remember sitting in my room after reading this particular letter for the 50th time, looking out my open skylight up into the blue sky and wishing fervently that I could just believe. That I could just be like everyone else.
If there was to be a moment of conversion in my life, that was it. But no bird landed on my window, no sudden belief filled my head, no warmth filled my heart. After that I accepted that this is who I am and that religion is not for me.
Although I've struggled with my problem of faith for much of my life, I'm no longer looking to be convinced or converted. In fact, when my beliefs or lack thereof are questioned now, I find it insulting. I am by nature an introspective person. Trust me when I say that no further look "within my heart" will find God, Jesus or Muhammad waiting for me. I simply don't believe.
As you may have guessed, I don't often discuss this. If asked directly, I will discuss it with anyone who asks. But I also don't volunteer that I am an agnostic if I believe the information will be met with hostility. Why? Here's an example from a post that Gwen recently wrote:
When I was in Mexico, I had a discussion with someone about the narrow mindedness I encountered in my childhood experiences with (modern, evangelical) Christians who seemed to derive unending joy from finding the dust motes in everyone's eyes. This person was reminding me of how impressed I had been, after two years of secular university, with the lack of judgment I felt from my new peers, especially in contrast to the habits of the Christianity I had grown up with.In case Gwen's sarcasm sailed right over your head, let me be very clear. I am a moral person. I'll put my values up against any Christian any day. My failure to believe in God or to engrave the Ten Commandments on a tablet on my front lawn does not give me license to steal or to treat others badly. It does not absolve me of my responsibility to my children, my family, my country, or the human race.
Me: "That's still true today, by the way, or at least true of my friends, that refreshing absence of criticism disguised as morality."
Other Person: "Well, of course. It's easy not to be judgmental when you don't have any values."
Me: " ........ " (is that the universal symbol for gaping mouth? Because maybe it should be).
Apparently, you see, I have no values. I am, after all, not a Christian. So whatever it is I am attempting to do with my time here on Earth, it can't be informed by any value system. I don't have one.
Let me say it again. I am a moral person.
Despite my clarity regarding my own beliefs, I struggle with what to teach my children about God.
I don't want to deprive H&H of the comfort of religion. But I can't be the one to teach them something I don't believe. I can't be that hypocritical, although many would say I already am. Both of my children were baptized in a church in T's home town. We stood up before the congregation and stated our belief in God and Jesus Christ. I chose the easiest course, a lie, for my children and family. I did something similar when T and I were married. In a church. It was what T wanted and while I don't think my parents cared one way or another, it made our extended families happy. And, no, my particular value system did not forbid me from offering comfort to my family and my husband-to-be.
T and I want H&H to learn about God. Hollis is currently attending a pre-school attached to a Presbyterian church. He says a cute little chant every morning that ends in "God made the world and God made me." I think this is an easy way to break him into a topic he's heard nothing about at home. Eventually we will take H&H to church. Although, depending on the church, it may be just T attending with the boys.
I want my sons to have the community and the foundations for belief. I don't want to impose my beliefs (or lack thereof) upon my boys. I want them to choose for themselves. If I give them the tools to do that, then I think T and I will have fulfilled the spiritual portion of our role as parents.
I don't want to leave you all with the impression that I believe in nothing. I'm an agnostic, not an athiest. In the back reaches of my mind there still lurks the possibility that I am wrong. That there is something bigger than me, than all of us.
If there is a God, the proof is in the world around me, in the things I love: autumn leaves, my sons' laughter, warm sand, random acts of kindness and, oddly, the smell of chlorine. I prefer to find my miracles in the physical realm rather than the spiritual. I believe in people rather than a higher power. This is my religion.
Cross-posted at D.C. Metro Moms.