75 % Atheist and 25 % Percent Agnostic

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I grew up in an Italian Irish family.  What else would I be except a devout Catholic?  The bigger question is how did I go from being a Catholic to an Atheist or at least a 75% percent Atheist?  I now claim I am seventy-five percent Atheist and twenty-five percent Agnostic.  I will explain this formula later.

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Well, my journey from one God to no God started many years ago and perhaps mimics the trajectory of many a lapsed Catholic.  Went to a Catholic school.  Lots of Catholic theology.  Bible study each week.  Surrounded by priests and nuns.  Confession on Fridays followed by ten “Our Fathers” and twenty or so “Hail Marys.”  Church and communion on Sunday.  Back to being bad, masturbating and thinking dirty thoughts about the girl in the pew next to me on Mondays.  She kept wearing skirts that hiked up above her knees when she sat down.  The nuns kept telling her that her skirts were too short, but she somehow ignored their admonitions.  I was personally awfully glad that she did.

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Sounds a little bit like I should have been a priest.  Sadly, I did not even make altar boy. Along the way, my questions about God received the standard answer.  Question, “Who made God?”  Reply, “God always was and always will be.”  Just before my 12th birthday, a godly priest damned me to hell for taking an unauthorized ride at a carnival that was set-up for a Catholic fund raiser.  Between bull-shit answers about God, condemnations for horny thoughts and being damned to hell, I decided to leave Catholicism for (as they say) greener pastures.

HuffP1-1Like Dion DiMucci’s “The Wanderer,” I spent years wandering from church to church and religion to religion to explore other venues for spirituality.  Dion was my favorite pop singer in the sixties.  As I write this, he is still alive and performing.  One of his most popular hits was a song called “The Wanderer.”  The lyrics grabbed every guy I hung out with, and we all dreamed of being macho and tough like the guy in the song.

Oh well I’m the type of guy who will never settle down
Where pretty girls are well, you know that I’m around
I kiss ’em and I love ’em ’cause to me they’re all the same
I hug ’em and I squeeze ’em they don’t even know my name
They call me the wanderer, yeah the wanderer
I roam around, around, around.

Oh well I roam from town to town
I go through life without a care
‘Til I’m as happy as a clown
With my two fists of iron and I’m going nowhere.

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I suppose I had somewhat of Dion’s attitude towards religion.  To me they were all the same.  One God, their God, their rules.  You bought into their shtick, or you did not belong.  The price of admission.  Sell your soul for their traditions, their beliefs and their theology and you will be saved and adored and admitted into the flock.  Ask any questions, challenge any favorite tropes and excommunication and hell fire awaits you.  Their God always reigned supreme, and any other Gods were fake.  That is why the term for parishioners as a flock is so appropriate.  Most people are like sheep who flock together and have little stomach for questioning authority.  I have to say most, or my spouse will jump on me for a really gross generalization.  She helps to keep me in line when my cynicism towards the world outruns reality.

After not finding any religions that met my standards of objectivity and open-mindedness, I came to reject organized religions as evil and dangerous.  Witness the many wars fought in the name of someone’s God.  I started defining myself as an Atheist.  I despised all religions.  I sought out other Atheists but paradoxically found that I did not fit in with the Atheist groups that I met.  Atheists profess a strong orientation towards science, logic, and evidence as a basis for spirituality, but many of the Atheists I met were narrowminded, bigoted and worst of all made decisions without sound evidence or data.

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My faith in Atheism was shaken many times by highly religious people who had more in common with my beliefs than the Atheists I had met.  For instance, when Sister Giovanni was interviewing me to teach at Guadalupe Area Project, I informed her that I was an Atheist.  She replied, “I don’t care what you are as long as you are a good teacher.”  I still could not find any evidence for God, heaven, hell, or an after life not rooted in hopes and dreams but nevertheless my Atheistic roots over the years have continually been shaken.

Some of the things that have shaken my beliefs are the many good people who passionately believe in God and their religious obligations towards others.  Jesus said:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” — Jesus Christ, English Standard Version (Luke 6:27–31)

I have met people who follow these beliefs in a variety of religions.  I came to accept that religions have done much good as well as much bad for the world.  Not being God, I have no way of knowing or proving whether the bad or the good outweighs the other, so I have simply stopped judging most religions.  I say most because there are still some religions that I see as hypocritical and even evil.  The idea of a “Prosperity Gospel” strikes me as a justification for greed and selfishness.

Another finding that has shaken my moorings as an Atheist are all the really smart people who believe in a God.  I weigh myself against such people and come up noticeably short.  If these people are so much more intelligent and accomplished than I am, maybe, just maybe, I might be wrong.  How can I sit here and argue that they are wrong?  It would be arrogant to think that I have all the knowledge and information to assert that “there is no God” when much greater thinkers than I have affirmed and argued a belief in God.

I started calling myself an Agnostic to reconcile some of the above dilemmas.  The definition of an Agnostic is, “A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.”  Being an Agnostic, I could go happily through life never having to attack or defend my convictions concerning the existence of God.  This position has certain benefits, but it is not without constraints.  The biggest constraint is being seen as a copout or wishy washy.  Someone who straddles the fence because they are afraid of taking a position.

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I want to avoid being seen as wishy washy but some days I feel like an Atheist and other days I feel like an Agnostic.  If there were a continuum between Atheism and Agnosticism it varies from day to day for me.  Today, I feel like I am 75 percent Atheist and 25 percent Agnostic.  Tomorrow I might be fifty-fifty or sixty-forty.  Life is a process that is continually in flux.  Change is inevitable.  Our moods change, our likes and dislikes change, our aches and pains change, our joys and sadness’s change.  It only makes sense to me that my affinity for one religious position or another should change.

So, if you ever want to know what religion I am, it will probably be somewhere between 100 percent Atheist and 100 percent Agnostic.

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”  ― St. Thomas Aquinas

“As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.”  ― Bertrand Russell

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