By way of identification

Being new in the blogosphere... again... I've been poking around at various blogs, some that I used to read and some that are all shiny and new. I came across this super old post regarding atheism, agnosticism, and self identification, and thought it might make a good start.

It used to be really important to me to know where I stood, theologically speaking. As a youngun I was what Astasia likes to call a "superchristian" and even my memories of myself back then are annoying, so I can only imagine how I seemed to people who weren't me. My adherence to strict doctrine provided me with a sense of purpose and belonging which I so desperately needed. When faith couldn't keep up with questions, in my mid twenties, I made good use of the intrawebs to track down a new religion that made sense to me.

Universal Reconciliation, Gnosticism, Taoism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, some weird Atlantis religion, anything was subject to my perusal. I spent every day blogging my deconstruction of some aspect of my childhood faith until all that was left was nothing. I had a vague sense that I believed in a God of some sort or another, but I had no idea what that might look like. The resulting vacuum left me desperate to figure out what I believed and where I might find more who believed the same. I tried on various philosophies. I liked the Gnostics best but I wondered if I was smart enough to read their blogs. The Universal Reconciliation guys were super nice but too much of their doctrine was too close to what I'd grown up with. I was gun shy. The Taoists hardly ever updated. The Children of Atlantis were just fucking crazy.

I say all this because while reading Greta Christina's blog it occurred to me that I wasn't really sure what I identified as, and more startling, that I hadn't even given the matter any thought in a good long while. At some point I got involved in Ninjutsu and Parkour, and that seemed to be enough. Now I feel that the categories of believer, agnostic and atheist are insufficient.

For example, do these categories deal only with an individual's belief in a god, or does the definition of god play any importance? If you asked me if I believe in a conscious creator who interferes with the world, I would say no. But that doesn't mean that don't believe in a Something. Something that maybe animates the living? Something like a soul, or a collective soul, or a Tao..... a good vibration perhaps? Maybe. Will scientific evidence one day come out in defense of Reiki or therapy crystals? Is there a soul inside me that will somehow continue after I die? These are all things that I refuse to take a stance on.

So maybe a 5, where 7 is atheist?

I agree that people should be allowed to identify themselves as they please, though it helps to pay some attention to what a word means. When kids at college tell me "You're a lesbian? That's great, I'm a lesbian too!" I really want to smack them. I know they're making a joke, but a man who likes women is just a straight guy. Meanwhile, there are actually men out there who identify as women who are lesbians, but will certainly have a long road ahead of them. I don't think it's a laughing matter. Try to tell freshmen that. I personally am probably just mostly gay. Sometimes I wonder if I don't just identify as a straight man. I'm happy to leave it ambiguous in my mind, but people like labels, nice and tidy simple labels. The whole idea of identifying as one thing or another is really just about categorizing yourself in a way people can understand.

When it comes to self identity, I think it would be so nice if we could all just accept one another's intricacies at face value.

1 comment:

  1. You've been through a similar spiritual journey to me, I eventually realised that organised faiths didn't offer me anything.

    I agree with you about categories, categories are there to make life easier for others. Especially the kind of people who like to organise and keep other people in neat little pigeon holes.

    But they are just mental constructs and we shouldn't take them too seriously. The problems start when we do and then get trapped in our own net.