Over Spring Break, I attended Easter Sunday service with my family, like I do every year. Except four years ago, I stopped practicing religion.
I grew up Lutheran, but post-confirmation I went through as much of a mental mid-life crisis as a fifteen-year-old can. I decided it would be best disassociate myself.
By definition, I’m agnostic. Merriam-Webster defines agnosticism as a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (such as God) is unknown and probably unknowable, one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god.
This means I don’t disqualify religion, but I also don’t claim it to be real. The difference between that and atheism is that atheism is complete non-belief in any religion.
I have not, however, told any of my family members that I am agnostic. Although approximately 22 percent of Americans are not affiliated with religion, according to a Pew Research Center study on the nation’s religious landscape, I still think words like “agnostic” and “atheist” carry a taboo.
Although I identify as agnostic, I can’t help but think people associate those terms with hatred, nihilism and hostile. This is perhaps because of the people who have represented religious dissociation in the public’s view.
An atheism forum on the social media site Reddit conducted a “Faces of Atheism” campaign a few years back to showcase some of its users. It was promptly chastised by public because all the photos were of smarmy dudes with horrible grooming next to quotes about how religion means nothing to them.
These are the kinds of impressions that make me not want to fully devolve publicly, let alone to those close to me. My views on religion are pretty tame compared to some others who hold my same title; and in fact, I like going to church.
Church, in my mind, represents a community coming together to benefit the greater good. Take out the religious aspect of church and you have a group of people fundraising and taking part in events which highlight and promote kind practices amongst your fellow neighbor.
That’s why even though I’m not affiliated necessarily, I don’t dismiss religion. The good nature of its attendees only suit to benefit others around them. Promotion of kindness is something myself and really any other person would be hard-fought to argue against.
So I go to church, sing the songs, recite Bible verses and set aside my convictions. It’s not restraint; it’s knowing that even though the hymnal sits heavy in my hands, it raises the person next to me. The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want, but if my community needs love, then the shepherd shall give it.