I have long identified as a “Spirit-Filled Agnostic”, meaning that while I happily accept that there are forces at work in my life that are older, wiser, and more powerful than myself, I choose not to limit the mystery and wonder of those forces by naming or explaining them, or by adopting the names or explanations others might prefer me to use. Life’s just more alive for me that way.
The very word “agnostic” may conjure a vision of a secular sourpuss with furrowed brow and crossed arms, hell-bent on fighting the dominant paradigm in all its forms, just because. I will allow that at times in my life I could have sat in for that snapshot, but it’s not where I’m at now, honest.
Embracing identification with a label that aspires to encapsulate and represent all that one holds sacred, (or not), is no lightweight matter. Such a proclamation, fraught with risk and social liability, should be made only after sober reflection and painstaking examination. I can say without equivocation that I have crossed the River Jordan, walked the Valley of the Shadow, and am at peace with my choice. Adopting the Spirit-Filled Agnostic mantle, (S-FA), is both an accurate expression of sentiment and a challenge to myself.
Recognizing the awesome power of established belief systems requires no special insight or intellectual rigor. In a world where “conversion at gun-point” is still very much in vogue and atrocities carried out over differences around creation myths are all too common, seeing the potent and hypnotic sway that many strains of religious fervor have over their adherents is a no-brainer. Citing the benefits that religion has brought to the world is a popular counter-narrative to the excesses sometimes carried out by the wild-eyed faithful, and in truth, hungry people have been fed, orphans have been housed, and inspiring architectural wonders have been wrought in the name of one creed or other. Call it a toss-up?
However, my choice of designation has its roots in the personal more than the political or the theological. Choosing to unhook from any established belief system signifies my desire to live my life as filter-free as possible. Experiencing the world just as it presents to me, without information having to conform to a fixed grid of ancestral legend and cosmological gobbledygook, is a freedom I cherish. Letting the universe speak directly to my mind and heart, without interpretation from dubious middlemen, doesn’t mean I’ll be instructed to steal your bicycle. Not being swept away by the fear-mongering spin or moral outrages du jour foisted by media outlets in service of the dominant narrative is like breathing mountain air or swimming in sweet spring water- such a relief.
As hinted above, adopting the S-FA identification carries potential risk and new responsibility. Not running with the pack can lead to being trampled. Not spouting the dominant paradigm’s buzz-phrases or flashing the gang signs of uberthought can make you the object of suspicion and scorn. Family and friends may turn away in fear of taint. Mothers may huddle small children near as you pass. Dogs may bark, harpies may taunt. You will have to make up your own mind about stuff. It ain’t easy or particularly safe. (That’s why it’s best to only talk about it in your blog).
Consider too the freedom of interacting with others unencumbered by traditional “my deity can beat up your deity” rivalries. How much easier would it be to solve practical issues around territory and resources along pragmatic lines of fairness and cooperation, without invoking supernatural land-grants long ago issued from on high? How much lighter could we all walk in a world with, as one prophet spake it: “no hell below us, above us only sky”.
I can imagine, can’t I?