Atheism, the belief that there is no God, has become very popular these days as more thoughtful people opt out of religion and magical beliefs. I have no problem with atheism but I just don’t believe there is no God. And atheism is a belief, after all.
So am I an agnostic? I was taught in catechism that an agnostic was someone who doubted the existence of God. I now know that agnostic means not believing in anything for which material phenomena do not provide direct experience. For example, I can't really know what will happen after I die. I don’t know if Jesus turned water into wine or how exactly Buddha experienced enlightenment. I don’t know if I will be reincarnated. I don’t know if people go to a heaven or a hell based on their behavior. None of these beliefs can be verified by material phenomena and I don't believe in them.
But I do know what it feels like to place my bare feet on a cold stone floor. I do know how a ripe peach tastes. I know the sound of my son’s voice. I know what my father’s handwriting looked like. I have no doubts about these things which are grounded in sensual experiencing. The mindful touchstone of the agnostic is trust in material phenomena one can personally experience. You would think that makes me an agnostic. But I am also drawn to God. Is that a problem?
An atheist might say I must find comfort in the idea of God, whether the old guy with the beard or some more sophisticated concept of God, as a way to cope with the ultimate fact of my death. I will acknowledge that I am probably comforted by God, but not the concept. Instead, I am comforted by my breath moving through me and pulling me into awareness, connectedness and bliss. This is the experience I identify as God. It is not a belief and I choose not to rationalize it. It makes me happy to feel it, even though I choose not to explain what I experience conceptually. Experience exists as a here and now feeling only.
I also refer to this awareness Knowledge of the self. I credit my teacher, Prem Rawat, with introducing me to its vast, wordless wonder through the practice of meditation. Mindful attention to knowledge has made it possible for me to live in a very painful, unjust world and experience peace. I am grateful.