Some tell me I’m a fence-sitter. I’m a coward who won’t commit to a side. I’m an ideological weeble wobble. But when it comes to religious claims, I’ve always held to the ideals of Carl Sagan: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
If you can’t prove your claim with empirical evidence, it’s merely an opinion, not a fact.
But of course, most religious doctrine is based on faith, not evidence. I just choose not to engage with any creed that requires the suspension of empirical evidence as an essential component of belief.
If I was forced to print a label across my chest for all to read and then make assumptions, it would read agnostic . . . which means what, exactly?
The biologist Thomas Huxley, who is credited for coining the term, wrote, “it is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of a proposition unless he can provide evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what agnosticism asserts and, in my opinion, is all that is essential to agnosticism.”
Or if you want the bumper-sticker definition of agnosticism from Skeptic Magazine founder, Michael Shermer: “I don’t know, and neither do you.”
For me, being agnostic means being okay with uncertainty. Is there a God? What happens when we die? Why is melted Havarti cheese on toasted bread so addicting? Well I don’t know, and neither do you.
There was a time I once held onto the certainty of faith. I grew up in a Baptist home where church was on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights. I was baptized when I was only 5 years old, and I can still quote Bible verses verbatim that I knew by memory when I was just a child struggling to tie my shoes.
As a teenager, I was well on my way to becoming a youth pastor. But I was also gay (deep in the closet), and God made it clear in the Bible that I was without redemption.
I started to question claims made by church leaders, asking why God hates gays so much that he would write out very specific execution orders in Leviticus 20:13, where homosexuals “have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
The more questions I asked, the more the reply was faith. I realized the Church’s certainty through faith was based on opinions, not absolute truth.
And I don’t have the faith that atheists do, either. How do you prove a negative? The universe is just too weird for me to dismiss the possibility entirely that some other lifeform created humans. Perhaps the Earth is just a petri dish labeled human bacteria, stored in the back shelf of some extraterrestrial college lab.
I try to think more in probabilities than absolutes. It’s highly improbable that there is a God who thinks gays should be put to death, just as it’s highly improbable that Thor once harnessed the power of lighting.
Ultimately, these questions are indeterminate, as no one has come back from the dead with a smartphone video revealing what happens after we take that perpetual dirt nap.
Being agnostic means living this brief, precious existence in uncertainty, and that’s okay with me.