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Lessons to take from religion as a self-identified agnostic

As a non-religious, agnostic individual, I have been able to find spiritual value in the scriptures analyzed in my religious thought class at the University of Florida

CREDIT: Christiano Fernandes

 

Finding your place in the world of spirituality can be an intimidating task. However, I hope that through the vulnerability of my own experiences, I can inspire you to consider discovering your soul. It’s ultimately your journey to discover yourself, and I do not want to tell you how to explore this realm. Rather, I aim to widen your divine horizons.


To give some background, I grew up in a conservative Jewish household that had a culture centered around the values of education, kindness, empathy, and friendship. I was never very religious growing up but, in the past four years, I have found my identity's spiritual side. My newfound spirituality was mostly unrelated to Judaism. I came to find my connection with the universe in a way that was separate from my religion, in that I found my way through agnostic spirituality books. However, I continue to uphold Judaism's core beliefs, ethics, and culture, with which I was raised.


Over the past few years, I struggled over what best describes me religiously.

Am I an atheist? No, that seems too harsh of a statement, as I believe in a higher power. So maybe I’m agnostic? That title fits better; it gives me room to believe in a higher entity but not be sure what it is. I don’t think I will ever know the answer to the big question, as I’m convinced it's beyond human comprehension.


What does it mean to be agnostic? Merriam-Webster defines agnostic as “a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (such as God) is unknown and probably unknowable.”

Since I do not follow a religion, I never got a blueprint for ‘how to connect with your spirit or higher power.’ I’ve had to figure that part out on my own, and what a journey that's been. It started by reading self-help books that hinted at the existence of a higher entity. Through years of self-work in the form of journaling and meditating, I overcame my hesitance to acknowledge my spirit. Today, I would describe myself as a spiritual being.


I believe the universe is always working in our favor, and we can’t see the bigger picture yet. I do not believe in coincidences; I believe everything happens for a reason. We are all on our destined paths. When life is hard, it is part of a larger story, leading to something better in the future. Everything is happening exactly as it should, and my role is to learn to trust the universe’s plan.


This past semester, I enrolled in a course titled “Introduction to Jewish Thought.” In this course, we have read biblical texts, Torah writings, and philosophical debates regarding life's big questions. With my previous self-discovery, I have been able to lean into the learnings from this class, connecting them to the foundation of lessons I’ve previously learned in spirituality readings.


With religious texts, I identify with the writings regarding spirit, doing good for the collective, and understanding that we are all connected through the universe, god, or whatever you want to call it. However, when the religious texts discuss specific rules that humans must follow, this is where I start to feel the disconnect. The particular rules lined out in religious texts do not feel very authentic or spiritual. It just feels like a tool of the state. Therefore, I strictly only look to religious texts for spiritual wisdom.


For example, an excerpt that I read from the third book of the Torah explains a valuable lesson about loving “...your neighbor as yourself” (Wenham, 2009). Here, we are subtly pointed to the bigger picture. We are all one, and therefore, we should love our neighbors just as we would love ourselves.


In the Gita, a centuries-old Hindu scripture, there was a quote that personally stood out to me. The quote emphasizes the importance of detachment from material things and instead seeking the “...wealth of spiritual awareness.” Furthermore, the text claims that someone who is motivated by material objects is miserable. (Eknath, 2019) I took away lessons regarding the downfalls of choosing materialism over spiritual awareness.


Lastly, I took the following quote from the tenth book of the New Testament of the Christian Bible, which points to a similar message discussed in the Gita quote. “So be careful to live your life wisely, not foolishly.” (Oxford, 2009). You can see the lesson of following wisdom in life emphasized here. We must continue to learn and grow.


The best we can do is to keep an open mind and not close ourselves to any available wisdom. Read, learn, and take what you can from the scriptures. You do not have to agree with everything you read, but hopefully, you will find some information that resonates with you.

 

Ilyssa is an online writer for Rowdy Magazine.



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