As far as religious beliefs go, I don’t think there’s anything out there as powerful as agnosticism. For those unfamiliar with the term, being an agnostic simply means you don’t follow any particular religious system. It doesn’t mean you’re an atheist and don’t belief in anything at all, but it means that you keep an open mind and form your ideas and opinions based on what you think, not what a religious text tells you to think.
Create my own religion?!
It’s actually not as crazy as it sounds. I don’t mean coming up with my own list of commandments or something like that, but rather living the lifestyle that I find most suitable for me. Creating a set of beliefs that would inspire me, not hinder me. In fact, many people already do this, religious or not, it’s just they do a good job of hiding it. Think about how many people you know that choose to follow one aspect of a religion but not another. Or who deeply believe in one thing but not another. They’re not going 100% “by the book” but are instead putting their own spin on whatever religious belief they subscribe to. In fact, depending on where you live, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find a single person that followed their religion 100% to the core. Most prefer to put their own personal touch on things in an attempt to better integrate their belief system into their lives.
Except there’s just one small problem with this kind of behavior. I’ve noticed that a lot of people who engage in this sort of thing, especially those who are deeply religious, almost feel a bit guilty afterwards.
I guess I’m not as good a Catholic as I thought I was… I can’t believe I was using birth control, and I know that’s usually frowned upon.
This naturally presents a problem if people can’t follow the behavior style they’re most attracted to without having to feel guilty in the process. It’s one thing if someone is committing a legal crime, especially if it involves another individual; however that’s not what we’re talking about here. Your choices should be based what YOU think is best and most practical to suit your needs, not what your church or priest tells you to do.
The most ironic thing is, the power of agnosticism actually comes from the fact that it’s nothing at all. By being agnostic, you’ve essentially shed yourself of all labels and predetermined beliefs and are therefore able to sculpt your reality in whatever way you see fit. You can go where you want, do what you want, and believe in what you want, all without feeling confined or trapped in a particular religious system. The only rules are those which you impose upon yourself, and suddenly you have the entire world at your fingertips.
Of course, this is initially going to be extremely difficult for those with a strong religious background. Imagine growing up your whole life with your family, and then one day someone comes up to you and says that those aren’t your real parents and that you’re in no way related to the people you thought were your siblings. Hearing something like that would put you in shock, and your first reaction would probably be denial. If you’ve grown up with a strong religious background, it’s hard just to drop those beliefs overnight. To top things off, the longer you’ve been attached to something, the harder it is to break away from it. Most people grow attached to the security that a religion can provide for them, especially the promise of an eternal afterlife in paradise if they simply abide by a particular set of rules. What a deal!
Dealing with Critics
Being agnostic brings a lot of critics to the table, and while you may find that you’re not threatened at all by the beliefs of others, others may certainly feel threatened by you. For example, a big question I get asked a lot is “do you believe in God?” and to which I reply that I believe in a higher power, but to what extent such a higher power influences my life I don’t know. “But… but… the Bible says…” is usually the response I get in return. Some people just have a difficult time comprehending the fact that such a freedom exists in this world, and instead of getting hostile with those kinds of people, I’d much rather help them break out of their shell like I have. Don’t confuse this with overconfidence, though, it’s not about me being right and somebody else being wrong, it’s about having the option to explore and make decisions based on what you truly think and feel and now how you feel inclined to act.
For example, there was a very short time period in my life when I considered myself an atheist. In truth, I think this may have been a temporary act of rebellion in my younger years but that’s beside the point. As time went on, I started to think that the entire idea of all life being created through “science” seemed a bit silly. How could a void of nothingness simply transform into the galaxy that we know today? And while all these “laws” of science may hold true, who wrote these laws in the first place? I came to the conclusion that some sort of higher power must have put these acts in motion, because I just couldn’t see how anything else could be possible. In a sense, I was always “agnostic,” but as my perspective on the world widened, I began to see things in a different light.
How does all of this help me, though? What difference does it all really make? Well for one, it gives me a lot more creative and mental freedom. I’m not forced to view the world through any particular lens, and I can instead interpret things based upon my own observation and not the observation of a religious system. In truth, though, I really can’t even begin to explain what it’s like “having my own religion” because until you’ve experienced it yourself, it’s impossible to compare it with a traditional belief system. There is no holy book or scripture, there’s only you and the infinite possibilities your mind can dream up. If that kind of thing sounds scary to you, then you’re the exact person this article as aimed at. If even for just a day, leave everything you THOUGHT you knew behind and take a walk on the more adventurous side. Don’t let what you were told to believe get in the way of what you WANT to believe.
Still, many people will refuse to step out of their comfort bubble and will cling to their religion with every ounce of strength they can muster. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. There’s nothing wrong with holding onto what’s familiar if that’s what you truly want to do, but you may one day regret the fact that you never took the time to explore the horizon that was always right there in front of you.
We all know that talk is cheap, though, and action has always been much more potent. In other words, how do you actually go about creating your own belief system and living up to YOUR standards and not the standards imposed on you by some kind of religious system? That’s the easiest part; simply put everything you thought you knew behind you, and take a fresh perspective on everything that’s around you. It’s that easy. Stop worrying about what you’re SUPPOSED to believe and worry about what you WANT to believe. Suddenly the unknown will stop being quite so scary, and you’ll notice your fear being replaced with curiosity and excitement.