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The Dying Habits of an Agnostic – Tahirah Abdulazeez

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays”

courtesy of deviantart.com

The first humans, our direct ancestors, walked this Earth maybe 250, 000 years ago. The oldest monotheistic religion, depending on your point of view, is 5,000 years old. As we evolved, we discovered what we needed to survive in instalments. And then we refined the ideas. Along the way, there are stops and starts, a linear path will suddenly split off and go its own way, but the original idea continues to deepen, to distil. To me, faith is a type of intellectual refinement. It is the outcome of reason, an embodiment of, not its antithesis.

For years I was an agnostic, unsure whether there was a God. After stumbling around looking for answers, I came upon the philosopher Kierkegaard. In Either/Or, he postulated that there are three types of development. The aesthetic, which is where you develop your tastes as an individual, the ethical where you assemble your value system, and the religious, which is the most important, when you realise that all the answers of how to lead a good life are with God. Simply put, of course. At the point of reading that I figured maybe I was in my ethical, values building stage, and one day I would cross over into faith. And I suppose I have done just that.

It hasn’t been so easy though. As always, when you try to elevate yourself, your mentality, to change from one set of behaviours to another, the one thing you will have to conquer are your bad habits, the old system of thinking keeps popping up, sneakily trying to usurp your good intentions. For me the one habit, among many, which I struggle with daily, is prayer. When you are agnostic, prayer feels a little absurd. Because who are you talking to? Years ago I developed an ideology about prayer partly inspired by a nun I’d heard speak during a debate. A massive survey had been done about the peoples of the world and religion. She was on a panel of people discussing the results. About prayer, she said that when you reach a certain point of understanding and submission, everything you do, watering plants, meditating, even breathing is a prayer. For some reason I was moved by that. I thought about the Universe. I had believed in a form of interconnectedness, that this energy flowed within us all, humanity is a massive grid powered by an unknowable force. So, as an agnostic, my idea of prayer was to be still and diffuse into that feeling. I didn’t ask for anything, didn’t start with Dear God and end with Amen. I just tried to tap into that grid, that energy.

Of course now, that isn’t enough. There are rules, codes and laid down systems of prayer, especially for a Muslim. The difference between both types is important. Because the one thing about being irreligious is you cannot give yourself mercy, or forgiveness, even when you are tapping into energies. But sometimes, I find myself doing the old thing, lying around, waiting for the Universe to fall into me, to be made small, yet made to feel whole.

4 Comments

  1. Excellant writing. We are living in an age of free thinking which has long been forbidden since our ancesters were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Nobody will balme on you about what you think and what you feel. We also are guided and trained to make our thinking helpful to ourselves and our friends.We naturally think differently to our own situation. Think best to help your own situation and others. Everybody has his/her own thinking different frome each other even in the same situation. This is the Democratic Age even the most powerful of kings cannot control. Can this age be controlled? Is it justifiable to control it in a single paradigm…..This is why the modern human brains continue to expand and sometimes explode…..Whatever……

  2. Good, good read. If I should add… Today’s spiritual environment reminds me of that of ancient Greece, where all kinds of spiritual discussions and ideas floated around. When the apostle Paul entered the scene, rather than bash those with different perspectives, he affirmed the quest itself. He basically said to the,. “I see that you are a spiritual people, building an altar to Unknown God. This Unknown God is who I’ve come to tell you about.” He told them that God wanted a relationship with them, as He still wants with us now. We just have to seek after him and find him. Even further, he said our very own existence and purpose is wrapped up in him (God).

    Like you, I had to make a conscious decision to move, shift my mind, into a faith in God, a higher supreme Being that controls and sustains this “grid” in which we exist. But we may never experience that “power” until like the nun you listened to said…”that when you reach a certain point of understanding and submission…” I found it! I remember screaming one night while studying the Bible. I could not experience God, or forsake my “old ways” until I came into a knowledge of who he really was.

    This is a journey for me, and I am glad that you are here with me my love 🙂

    Thank you for this post, and apologies for taking up space! (I must stop now…)

  3. Sir Farouk says

    Although I have faith, i think I might have to disagree that it is a type of intellectual refinement. I have seen faith used in varied contexts to justify disrimination, persecution and destruction of others. Faith in itself is not bad but when faith is coupled with a dogmatic man made entity called religion and laced with a fundamentalist approach then we have an issue that has, is currently and will continue to plague mankind. Religion is the opium of the masses as my brother Marx said. I am a religious leaning agnostic not because I inherently believe in the absolute nature of religious belief but because I have been brought up that way and cannot entirely divorce myself from what has become second nature. I pray to God in the way I know how to but keep in mind that there much about God I do not know and cannot know and hence I cannot square peg the entity we call God to one religion. That is how I define my agnosticism and that is my divine habit.

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