Column: To know or not to know

By Jon Monteith

When it comes to religion, I am in a very odd position. My father, boyfriend and many of my best friends are happily atheist, while my mother goes to Catholic mass on weekdays and my sister is seriously considering becoming a nun. These are the most important people in my life, and in a crazy twist of fate, their beliefs are on opposite ends of the religious spectrum.

Needless to say, this ideological rift between my loved ones can lead to some interesting arguments. On top of that, I refuse to side with either party, which gives the impression that I am open to suggestion. There have been times when I felt that my sister was “lobbying” on behalf of Christianity or that a best friend is trying to push me in the direction of atheism.

So what am I? It’s not like I’m waiting for a believer or a non-believer to sweep me off my feet so I can gratefully subscribe to his or her (non-) belief system. I simply “do not know,” and, to be quite honest, I think my position is just fine. According to (quite a reputable source, I’m sure), I am 96 percent agnostic – which is the belief that God’s existence, or inexistence, cannot be proven.

Does “not knowing” make me crazy? To some degree, it does – I want to know what happens to us after we die and how we got here in the first place. Still, I believe that our urge to know should not be the basis for adopting a belief system that is not truly fulfilling, regardless of what side of the spectrum you’re on.

I’ve taken a lot of crap for not knowing. I went to church with my mom throughout high school, mainly to make her happy, but after a very judgmental sermon on the part of the priest, I exploded and vowed never to go back. It led to a considerable level of conflict, and my sister and mom were both upset that I no longer identified myself as a Christian. When it comes to the existence of God, they can “just feel it.” Unfortunately, this does not work for me.

But that was hardly the end of it. I have received plenty of criticism from the other side as well. “God is a crutch that people have created to deal with their mortality,” cry out my atheist friends. While I think there is more to religion than that, I also agree that God’s existence is highly questionable. I would think having this position would at least shut them up a bit, but that hasn’t really been the case. As one friend argued, “you have to believe in something.” The assumption here was that agnosticism is not a belief, but rather laziness on my part to pick a position.

I take issue with both sides. I refuse to believe in a God that would judge and condemn me for being honest about who I am. I believe that the Bible is a historical document, not the word of God. At the same time, I reject the idea that we live here on Earth simply as the product of science and that we completely cease to exist once we die. I feel like there has to be something deeper, but I don’t believe Christianity accounts for it. By no means am I trying to ignore the other religions of the world in my questioning process; Christianity and atheism are simply the two belief systems that I’ve found myself caught between throughout my life, and I haven’t even begun to consider the other possibilities.

Rather than hop onboard some belief system that I don’t truly agree with, I’ve decided to live with the questions rather than accepting answers that give me some false sense of assurance. Does that make me such a bad person? I’d like to think I’d be worse off pretending to believe in a God that didn’t fit my ideas, just as I would be unfulfilled eating up some purely scientific theory that explains our existence.