For the greater part of my life I have considered myself an agnostic. But perhaps one of a different stripe. I will try to explain.
I was born into a Catholic family. From my earliest days, I seemed to harbor instinctive misgivings about Catholicism and its teachings. I remember being required to attend catechism class, age eight, taught by rigid, joyless nuns dressed like death figures from an Ingmar Bergman film. The Old Testament stories we were taught left me dumbfounded with horror- especially the story of the flood. Nearly all of humanity- men, women and children, drowned by a self- admitted jealous and vengeful god. I remember the nuns’ demeanor after relating this nightmarish tale. They were aglow with love and awe for this wonderful deity who, even at my tender and impressionable age, appeared to be a genocidal, infanticidal psychopath. But the assumption of the nuns was that we children would likewise love and worship the deity without question. Yes, always without question.
And as we continued to be indoctrinated by these nuns, who as time went by seemed less like Bergman death figures, and more like waddling lunatic penguins, we were taught about The Holy Trinity: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. But I knew, albeit innocent child that I was, that behind the official Trinity, another Trinity lurked- the true Trinity by which The Church wielded control over its minions- the Trinity of Guilt, Shame and Fear.
By the time I was fifteen, after being hospitalized for the fourth time since the age of ten with a potentially life threatening illness, my discomfiture with Catholicism changed to doubt and ultimately to disbelief and rebellion. My prayers for healing and cessation from pain seemed unheard. How could a just and loving personal god not only allow all the extreme suffering and injustice in the world, but in fact inflict it, as in the flood? I was tired of kneeling in church, tapping my chest to the sound of Pavlovian bells and begging for forgiveness for sins never committed. And thus my life as an agnostic began.
For years my philosophy toward a higher power was empirical. I wanted evidence. Show me. Put up or shut up. If indeed the higher power embodied within a singular deity existed, that deity should be manifest; why would the higher power- highest power- be coy and reluctant to show him/her self? Conversely, how could we be absolutely certain that Supreme Being, who we have been taught moves in strange and mysterious ways, may not have a reason for being impervious to empirical scrutiny?
And so it went. My religious friends were disappointed I had wandered astray from the flock, while my atheist friends looked upon me as a cowardly fence straddler. The irony is that both atheists and believers ultimately rely on faith for their positions, although the atheists would have a leg up with their argument that you cannot prove a negative.
But even as a child, Before fully rejecting Catholicism, a parallel belief system antipathetic to Christianity began to take root.
From as early as I can remember, the wind fascinated me and seemed more than just the wind. I remembering believing that the trees that danced and writhed in the wind were in fact generating the wind. When the early Autumn Santa Ana winds for which Southern California is famous would blow, it seemed that everything would come alive, including things both inorganic and inanimate. I felt the presence of a power, but not one that was necessarily higher. This power was, if I allowed myself to be receptive to it, everywhere. And it was not personified as a jealous, wrathful and vengeful old man on a cloud, pummeling humanity without reason with plagues, floods, wars and famines. No, this was a power more associative with a mother who manifested as a nurturing, regenerative force.
And as I grew older and studied, I learned that there is a term for the belief that a spiritual power is manifest in nature- pantheism. And there is a term for the belief that there is a sentience- a consciousness in all things, organic and inorganic- animism.
These beliefs are ancient, predating the major religions by millennia, and were common to the native peoples of the entire world. Today, these beliefs would be considered Pagan. But as I grow older, they resonate with me. These beliefs are neither codified or centralized, and co-exist with my agnosticism.
And so, I suppose I have evolved into a hybrid- Pagan in one sense, agnostic in another.