I am an agnostic.
I wanted to make that abundantly clear before I say anything else. A lot of people equate that with being an atheist. I guess from the outside, it may look like that, but we’re not the same.
As an agnostic, I think atheism is only slightly less arrogant and misguided than Christianity and other evangelical faiths. Why? Because atheists have no hard evidence that God does not exist, in the same way, Christians have no indisputable proof that God does exist.
Subsequently, to sit smugly on either side of the fence seems to me to be an inability to accept that we don’t know everything; that we’re still learning about the world we live in; and that there is always a possibility of what if…
Me? I prefer to sit on the fence and enjoy the view.
A Semi-Catholic Upbringing
I went to Catholic school twice in my life for a total of seven years. My first two years of school were at a Catholic kindergarten, and in high school, I attended Mount Alvernia Catholic High School for Girls for five years.
In fact, I spent the first two or three years of my life growing up in a Catholic convent. My biological father’s college had bought it and handed it over to my family for a while, for us to live in and take care of.
Unfortunately, that was 24 years ago and I have no pictures of the place. Instead, here are other pictures from a monastery I visited one weekend in the fall of 2015: The Monastery of the Holy Spirit.
Entering Holy Ground
When I received the invitation, my very first thought was, “This is going to make an awesome blog post!”
However, I didn’t think it would be one that in any way explored my thoughts on religion. I initially just wanted to share my visit. However, my experiences there really made me examine my religious beliefs – or lack thereof.
Let me include in this examination that despite seven years of Catholic-inspired education, I did not grow up in a Catholic family.
My [Actual] Seventh-Day Upbringing
My family was devoutly Seventh Day Adventist, which if you don’t know, is a denomination that survived what is called “The Great Disappointment” in the Millerite Movement.
Don’t know what that is, either? Do you remember in March 2011, when a cult led by Harold Camping predicted “the Rapture”?
They believed that Jesus would come for them and the world would go up in fire and brimstone, while they would be saved. People sold their properties and gave up their life possessions in expectation of Jesus’ arrival.
Denomination? — Or Cult.
Well, the Millerites did the very same thing in 1844, and after Jesus failed to show up in all his glorious splendor, the Seventh Day Adventist Church became one of the surviving offshoots of the belief.
As most cults (and offshoots of cults) tend to be, there was a world of rules that didn’t quite make sense. I couldn’t eat shrimp, because it said so in Leviticus; right next to where it also advises farmers not to mix breed their cows or plant more than one crop in the same field.
Today, we know that monoculture actually kills farmland, and the practice is discouraged. In case you’re wondering, the law against homosexuality is smack dab right there, too.
I couldn’t wear jewelry because it was unholy, but King Solomon was allowed to. And Sabbath was a whole day affair. Every Friday at sunset, I was plunged into depression and religious prison.
However, I never believed any of it. Even at three years old, I remember asking hard-hitting questions about religion and getting literal hard-hitting answers, because it was considered “blaspheming”.
A Losing Battle
I pleaded with God every night to reveal himself to me in some way so that I would know I wasn’t just talking to myself or something that didn’t exist. I read the Bible — and still know it better than most Christians and pastors that I’ve come across.
I pondered and I analyzed and I begged some more, and then finally, the burden didn’t seem worth bearing anymore, and I gave it up.
Most Christians will find this to be a hard line to swallow, but: I never felt more at peace than I did the day I decided I was done pleading with Jesus to prove he was more than a myth.
That burden I had been carrying around, I left it at the foot of the cross and wore the pendant around as a Gothic fashion statement, instead.
Free at Last
Life became a whole new place for me after that. I delved into Existentialism and loved the philosophical teachings of Kierkegaard, Marx, and Voltaire. They understood life. They understood reasoning.
They asked the same questions I had asked at three and five and ten and fifteen and had come to the same conclusions I had, with added insights.
I finally met (dead) men who understood what I had been battling with all along. It was freeing. I was sixteen years old, in my first year of college, and on the road to becoming a better person.
After that, I lived a life much like the rest of my atheist and agnostic friends, which basically rivals the “purity” and “goodness” of my Christian friends. My Christian friends were always up to no good and then needing prayer on the weekend to feel better about all the wrongs they had done all week.
It was a luxury asset that they had: do bad things now and pass the guilt on to Jesus on Saturday or Sunday. By Monday, they were as good as new!
My non-religious friends and I didn’t have that luxury. Our guilt was ours to bear when we did wrong, so though none of us would claim to be perfect, we did our best to live good lives. And in the end, we did a much better job than my Christian friends, at that.
Damned to Hell?
A few years later, I pointed that out to one of my friends who considered himself a believer, and he had an interesting take on the whole matter. He admitted that he had noticed the same thing: that his atheist and agnostic friends lived much better lives than his Christian ones.
And he knew why. In his mind, the Devil has no need to tempt us, because we’re already damned and going to hell. We’re a lost cause. Christians are still holding on to God, and need to be tempted away into sin.
Who knows? Maybe he’s right. Or maybe people who gravitate to gods and deities are people who refuse to accept and take control of their own lives and need someone else to blame for all the bad in the world.
I don’t know.
That’s the beauty of being an agnostic. I can theorize and postulate, but I can also frankly admit that I don’t know — and I am perfectly okay with that.
A Paranormal Past
In fact, while sharing with Michael, the many paranormal experiences I had growing up, I admitted that one would believe that that would make me a believer.
He nodded and admitted that that was true. It’s amazing that it didn’t. I said to him, “You know why it didn’t? It doesn’t, because I refuse to be an Arawak.”
He had no idea what I was talking about, so I explained:
Arawaks were the Native Indians in Jamaica at the time that Columbus came. From the hilltops and the shores, they saw these mighty ships approaching, and soon, they saw White men pouring out of them.
They had never seen such fine naval craftsmanship before and had never seen White men. They believed then, that they must be gods.
In the end, Columbus and his men wiped out the entire population of Arawaks on the island. Not one of them survived. It is one of the most complete cases of genocide in the Americas.
I have seen and experienced a lot of things that I do not understand and will never understand, but that does not make it God. What was God to man centuries ago, turned out to be Spaniards led by one Italian, in ships.
Learning Lessons from the Natives
Thus, I refuse to be an Arawak. I refuse to attribute my ignorance to God. I am able to admit that I simply do not know, and that one day, there may be a perfectly rational explanation — or not.
Still, I respect the people who have managed to believe. In fact, for a long time, I envied them. I wanted to believe, too. I wanted to be a blind sheep, stumbling back to the Shepherd for guidance, but ultimately that life was not for me. I am unfit.
God, if he exists, gave me a brain to think and challenge what we think we know, and I have used it for exactly that. If questioning existence and nature and knowledge and life and lies and the status quo is ungodly, then that’s not a God I want to worship, anyway.
To Each Their Own
In the end, I truly believe in living my life by to each their own. We all have to find our own paths and our own truths in life. It’s important to respect that. I may not believe in Christianity and the Christian God, but I respect that there are people who do.
So when I visited the monastery, I respected it as Holy grounds, though I felt not a stirring of exceptional Presence. And when Michael wrote a petty comment in the prayer book, I was quick to scold him for his childishness.
I expect my non-religious path to be respected, and in return, I respect the path of the religious — whether it’s Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or god knows what else, as long as they’re not hurting anyone. Subsequently, there’s no need to post nasty signs like this:
Christianity is no more or less believable than Islam, and let’s be honest, Muslims and Jews are better at being Muslim and Jewish than Christians are at being Christian.
Yes, Islam breeds radical thoughts, but so did Christianity back in the day. Where do you think the Crusades came from: when it was god’s will to murder Muslims? In any case, that’s a debate for another day. I’ve said enough already.
As for me, I appreciate and thank and revere what I know for a fact exists: Mother Nature. Some people might say, well who made nature? What created the “big bang”? Well, I ask you, “Who made God? What created Him?”
The answer is simple and yet so difficult for people to accept, despite acknowledging our shortcomings as humans. The truth is:
We. Don’t. Know.
What I do know is that these plants and this air and the sky is real. I can see it and touch it and smell it and feel it and science can measure it. Those, I do know exist, and that’s all the mystical wonder I will ever need in my life.
I hope my post has inspired some thought, and that I’ll see some of that in the comments as the week rolls by. Have a good week, and always remember the Arawaks!
93 thoughts on “Revisiting Religion: Refusing to be an Arawak”
Alexis God is real. I have evidence via empirical evidence–my personal walk with God over forty plus years. 🙂
Good for you. I’m happy without him.
Interesting and thought provoking post – and brave, I might say. I don’t have the nerve to post on my personal take on politics or religion – too many haters out there, although WordPress is remarkably civil.
If I was to weigh in on the discussion, I’d tend to think the whole basis of what is a theist/deist/agnostic/atheist ultimately comes down to semantics: how would you define God? Theists not only believe in a God, they have specific ideas of its attributes. The fact these ideas vary widely and tend to reflect the limits of human perspectives and cultures doesn’t seem to discourage folks from digging in on their favorite dogma. Atheism is really the same as theism, it’s also a specific dogma, mostly based on rejecting other dogmas, even the reasonable parts. I’d say deists and agnostics are somewhat similar in being more uncertain about the nature of God: agnostics just say “I can’t know” and deists might say “I’m ok with the idea of God, it helps explain those feelings of spirituality, but I’m uncomfortable with defining him/it with specific dogmas.” Where we all land in that spectrum is often based more on culture, family, and how secure you are with yourself than a conscious search. Or to put it another way, do you evolve towards your own definition of God, or do you just accept someone else’s definition on faith? Looks like you gone down the evolving path, and aren’t afraid to admit it.
Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.
I’m not sure I’ve gone down the evolving path. I accept what the Bible puts forward as the nature of the Christian God. I reject the plausibility of the theory, alongside the true benevolence of such a God.
At the end of the day, as far as titles go, I only meant to point out that no one ever truly knows whether a God exists or not (agnostic), but few are willing to admit it on either side.
I have evidence that God exist. I’ve had many encounters and prayers answered that leave me knowing without a shadow of a doubt that God exist and His words are indeed true! I do not believe in fairy tales and fables, but I do believe in Yahweh! For those who doubt the existence of God, I say try following His commands and see how quickly He appears and reveals Himself to you. Once you’ve had an encounter or two, three or four and actually more than I can count, you don’t need others opinion or doubts to make you think twice about the God you know. Unfortunately for most they have never experienced the presence of God. I feel sad for those who do not know God. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Check out my website guidinggodspeople.net. Perhaps you may see some things differently that may make you want to experience God as I have experienced Him working and manifesting and performing miracles on my behalf.
It says your website does not exist. In any case, there is no such thing as evidence of God. That’s the whole point of Faith. Like I said, to each their own. I’m glad you’ve found what works for you, but this is what works for me.
I call myself an atheist because I don’t feel that we need to prove the absence of something. Most humans believe that mermaids, bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster don’t exist. It’s because there has never been any real evidence that they do. Nobody has ever “proven” the absence of their existence. Nobody has proven that vampires don’t exist, people (at least the reasonable ones) just understand that they don’t.
I can’t say I’ve ever been asked to prove the absence. Everyone’s too busy trying to prove the presence.
I’m just responding to this paragraph of your post:
“As an agnostic, I think atheism is only slightly less arrogant and misguided than Christianity and other evangelical faiths. Why? Because atheists have no hard evidence that God doesnot exist, in the same way Christians have no indisputable proof that God does exist.”
I’m aware of that. 🙂
Actually the Muslims who are more prone to radicalization are usually those who have very very little in terms of religious education.
Most of them, if you examine their collective behavior, are the ones who drink and fornicate and swear and are generally not following Islam.
Couple that with high levels of PTSD in many Muslim majority countries across MENA and you get a bunch of angry people who feel disempowered who do not know how to tell truth from fiction when it comes to what Islam actually says to do.
It’s really easy to convince someone that what is actually forbidden is permissible or even desirable when they really have no clue what the Quran says, much less the rest of our religious works. Even the Arabic speaking Muslims don’t really know what the Quran says as the modern dialects have completely different meanings and even idioms from the Arabic in the Quran.
So I would argue that Muslims are prone to radicalization due to the heavy influence of secularism across our nations and not because of Islam itself.
I’m not an expert in that area, so I take your point. Although, I would also like to add that I’m sure the radicalisation is due to several factors and not just one.
Thanks for reading and sharing this comment. I hope others see it and learn something new!
It’s extremely difficult to look at radicalization in Islam due to the Western perspective imposing itself as the judge and jury. You’ll find many articles on radicalization that use evidence of radicalization that are absurd, like what women wear, how many times a day people pray in a mosque, or even people wanting their laws based on Islam.
I’m more focused on what we Muslims can do on our end than what the West wants to blame, therefore the imposed secular, Western hegemony on our lands is my hot button. There is obviously more to it than just that (especially when it comes to why Muslims think the answer to all our problems is the same secularism that has made us slaves for the past and present colonizers).
Beware! I did a lot of MENA studies in University including polisci classes so I can go on and on and on about this topic….. 🙃
Well when we look at radicalisation in the west, we have to look at the evidence radicals themselves provide. I suppose only other Muslims would know the inside story. For us, all we see is bloodshed and a constant screaming of Allah while heads get chopped off. You can thank ISIS for that, I guess…
If I’m thanking ISIS then I’ll also thank American Foreign Policy as the top leaders in ISIS are almost all former Saddam loyal secular Baathists who were forcibly taken out of power and banned from politics after the 2004 American invasion and occupation of Iraq.
America let them keep their weapon caches though… And the Iraqi Shia majority government America backed by America, which almost immediately started killing Sunnis, caused a huge number of Sunni refugees to enter Syria, which then caused their Alawi (Shia) government to begin a genocide after they lost control of their own Sunni population which had been successfully beaten into submission after the 1980s slaughter in Hamma by Assad Sr….
Yeah still having a really difficult time finding Islam as the primary reason for radicalization there.
I’m not American, so that’s neither here nor there to me, to be honest. I’m pretty sure America played a part in the issue, but I like to hold people accountable for their own actions. In any case, like I said in the article, Muslims and Christians are all in the same book to me. I’m a non believer .
“My non-religious friends and I didn’t have that luxury. Our guilt was ours to bear when we did wrong, so though none of us would claim to be perfect, we did our best to live good lives.”
I admire and relate to this quote.
Recently, I was reading a book that mentioned a story about a female saint. She was running through the streets of her town carrying a torch and a bucket of water. Someone asked her what she was doing, and she responded, “I’m going to burn down the gate to heaven and quench the fires of Hell, so that people will be good for the sake of goodness.” (paraphrased there)
Thanks for sharing! You have a beautiful blog, both in terms of aesthetics and content.
Thanks again Miles. That quote often upsets a lot of people in person, Christians in particular. They often refuse to see the truth in it or make excuses to invalidate it in some way. But that’s the life I’ve seen.
The most cruel people I’ve known were all devoutly religious, and absolved themselves from guilt through religion. Here’s one example anonymously submitted to my website: https://collegemate.org/2016/04/14/jesus-forgave-my-attacker-but-i-have-not/
I love the example you gave about that saint. What book was that? I would love to get my hands on it!
I’m sorry to hear about that experience! How awful!
The book was Looking for Alaska, by John Green. The saint was just a passing reference (and maybe my favorite part of the book). haha
Yes, I thought the same as well. I’m not sure if how she recovered is a recovery at all. Sad story.
My eyes lit up when I saw that. I want to read that book so bad. I saw a quote from it a year or two ago and it’s caught my attention since.
Thank you for your insight. I really enjoyed reading this post (even though little parts of me cringed sometimes or a prideful part of me wanted to get up on a high horse). There’s one rule I stick by when blogging: Read the entire post before commenting or do not comment at all. By the end of your post, I had nothing to say, and maybe that’s for the better. Suffice to say, I enjoyed this. I felt challenged. I felt enlightened. I loved the pictures. Thank you for sharing.
Haha. Yes, I know I’m strong minded but rest assured that I love others who are too, even when they don’t agree with me. As long as we can agree to disagree at the end, I have no probs.
I’m glad you got the full gist of my thoughts on the matter at the end, and I’m glad you commented to share your opinion.
Always a pleasure to hear from you guys!