An Interesting Study in Progress

I follow a few different religious pages on Facebook. It’s interesting to see what people will say, though I know what I am seeing is very biased as they are either very liberal Christian or a mix of multiple religions. One of them, a Buddhism page, posted a link to a study that one of his colleagues just got up and running. The study is a very long survey specifically targeted at agnostics/atheists. There’s so little research surrounding this growing population in the US, so I’m really excited to see that there are people out there recognizing us.

I include myself in that category because I’m something of a Buddhist(non-theist)-pantheist-agnostic-trending-to-atheist sort of person. Yeah, it’s a mouthful so I usually just say Buddhist or pantheist or if I really want to confuse people, non-theist. Much easier to say. If anyone is uncertain whether they fall into the agnostic/atheist category, here’s a really great piece on different kinds of “non-believers” or however you want to think about it.

Anywho, if anyone here is interested, here’s the link to the study, and if you’re more interested in seeing what/why/etc. here’s the answers from the people who are doing the research.

I’ll be posting more of my thoughts about the state of religion in America later, especially after the results are published.

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What I Really Believe

I am a fairly vocal a-religious but spiritual/pantheist/non-theist type person. I am not exactly anti-religion. I can see how it helps a lot of people, and while I don’t understand it, I try not to say much about whether I think they should or shouldn’t believe in a particular religion or spiritual system or whatnot. I am usually curious and want to understand a bit more about why it is that they believe what they do, but more often than not I can keep my questions to myself and most people don’t know that I am not nodding because I agree with them but that I am nodding so I am not asked to comment further and thus prevent me from either lying or shutting down the conversation when I tell them I understand. No, I don’t understand and continuing to explain or preach at me will not help.

What it comes down to is that I just cannot wrap my head around the concept that religion is anything more than a construct of the human race. I feel that it is “designed” specifically for the purpose of unifying us as a group of disparate individuals into a cohesive group, but that the actual religious teachings have little to do with why it works. That only says whether something will have any staying power. Some religions encourage more cohesion, more sense of community and unity, usually through some way of demonstrating how the members are special in some way, shape or form and thus creating an “us versus them” sort of thinking.

It is for this reason that I have come to the conclusion that I am a-religions, meaning “without religion.” I’m not atheist, I am not without a god/higher being. Well, at least not in the sense that I would be considered an atheist. Neither do I truly follow any particular religious teaching. I still consider myself closest to being a Buddhist, but pantheist fits just as well and that’s easier to explain that than it is to explain the differences between the different buddhist sects. Not too mention I just don’t practice my Buddhism much anymore. Though, when I do send out a prayer/good mojo energy out into the universe, I always chant. I just feel like it helps and usually I am only praying or sending out those good vibes for a special purpose or person. But that has more to do with the feeling that if there is something to the concept, then why not try to use the tool?

And that’s my problem. I am stuck somewhere between believing in something – truly believing in something even if I can’t express it with words – and constantly wondering “how can I say this is real?” Even as I am able to understand that “real” is also only a concept that cannot be proven and that each person’s reality and thus “real” or “truth” is different, even if only minutely. Maybe there is some truth in each religion – there are people who have devoted their lives to proving or disproving this theory – but what does it matter in the long run? Does it really or truly impact my day to day life? So why should I bother figuring out what it is that I believe?

Except… I have to feel like there is something more to this life that I am living. There has to be more to me, to this world, to what is going on. In my heart of hearts, I need to know that I have been a part of something greater than myself and that my actions have led to greater knowledge and understanding. I want to have something that I can point to as why I strive for doing more for others, why I care so deeply about their well-being, their welfare. Otherwise, everything I do would be so much wasted energy – there would be no purpose behind it. There are those who would argue that there is purpose in action even if there is no universal impact, and I can see and understand it to a certain extent, but I also see how I could do other things that would actually help people in a measurable way. What I do now is pour an overwhelming amount of energy into two dozen or so people who are so stuck in their own versions of hell so that what I can give them does not even light a candle in the dark. Or so I feel. However, if there is that something greater, then that energy is not taken and lost, it is still there, slowly storing up so that there will be change, even if it will be lifetimes from now. Thinking about it like that, while being somewhat selfish, makes it so that I can still get up in the morning and make it to work and still try to have something left over for others in my life.

So I guess in the long run I do still believe in something. I just question and doubt it constantly. I doubt so many things that I believe. I doubt things that I don’t believe. In many ways I am a paradox within my own self. To an extent, it’s probably healthy to always question and process and determine whether my truth is still true, but at the same time I also feel that I am casting doubt upon my very soul. If there is such a thing. If there is a higher power. If there is something that connects all of us. Even as I type that out, I can feel the stronger, older part of myself laughing lightly and smiling mysteriously and shaking her head, “you know what you know, travel whatever roads you must, but soon you will see that all roads are the same.” Maybe one of these days I’ll even listen to her.

So keeping all that in mind, how is there any way that I could ever look to any religion and find my truth? The Abrahamic God is too… human. As are the vast majority of the pagan gods and goddesses. I could maybe accept the explanations that they are described and androgenized as they are so that people can understand them, but that feels so false, so misleading to me. Why would anyone want to follow a deity that must make themselves less so that you can understand them? Shouldn’t the entire point be that you expand yourself, your understanding and experiences so that you come closer to the deity/higher power/universe, whatever you want to label it. So what if it takes lifetimes – that is the entire point!

Ah, but that is where something that I believe (and apparently cannot deny even as I try to say that I don’t believe anything) comes shining through. I suppose that it really doesn’t matter if I can’t explain what it is that my heart of hearts and soul know. It comes out in my speech, in the way that I live my life, in the way that I interact with others, in the way that I try to inspire them.

You know, I think I can live with that.