THE BLOG
01/28/2014 11:10 am ET Updated Mar 29, 2014

You're Not Agnostic, You're An Atheist

One of the most popular phrases I hear amongst my friends these days is, "I'm agnostic."

According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, an agnostic is defined as

"a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly: one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god."

It isn't surprising that young adults in my generation have their questions about God, especially when you consider Pew's study results are showing 38 percent of atheists are aged 18-29.

But what does surprise me is how stumped the self-proclaimed agnostic seems when you ask them, "what did you do for God this week?" It's a question that I've asked, only because it once tripped me up. When I heard the question for the first time, the reality was that I'd done nothing for God in the last week. In fact, I couldn't remember the last time I'd done something with a greater being in mind at all.

Truthfully, I haven't come to any conclusions of my own about the existence of God. I believe that if you feel like the argument is 50-50, or you think there's a "51 percent chance God exists" (like I've heard a friend say), your best bet is probably devoting your life to that belief. After all, if you thought there was a 51 percent chance it was going to rain money, you'd probably go outside.

The point of the question is, if you truly are agnostic and don't feel like you know, shouldn't you do some things to find out? Shouldn't you pray and seek results? Shouldn't you study theological literature and explore avenues of truth? Shouldn't you consult a "religious leader" and ask for guidance? Regardless of your beliefs or affiliation, I'm of the opinion every person needs to ask, "why are we here and what are we supposed to do?" If your answer is, "the Big Bang, Evolution and spreading love" -- awesome! If your answer is, "I've never really thought about it," you should probably drop everything and start thinking.

This conundrum of the atheist-agnostic is of great importance for both sides of the "God argument." Perhaps the biggest flaw of the atheist is not being able to stand on experiential data to debate God's existence. There are plenty of believers turned non-believers, and you'd have to assume they gave God a fair shot before discovering another truth. If you came to your atheism in a biology class and not in an arena of faith, then that's about as useful as learning science in a church. There are brilliant men and women who are believers and non-believers, but the ones who open their mind to both have the strongest foundation of faith (or lack thereof).

Of course, the biggest flaw of the religious is trying to debate the intellectual side of God, an argument they rarely win in the public spectrum. Instead, they should be encouraging people to experiment with Him on their own, however they're comfortable, in a place where they can consult the minds of believers they respect and look up to.

In my own words, I'd say that I'm an agnostic. But I do that knowing that I pray frequently, sometimes try to talk to God (I still feel funny doing this), say blessings over kosher food, make traditional Shabbat kiddush every Friday night and do my best to eat a Shabbat dinner each week. Obviously, in these instances I'm subscribing to Judaism, and that's because it is the story of God I find most probable. The rest of my time I'm usually not thinking about God a whole ton, and I'm certainly not observing the many laws he's been said to have made. Still, I'm giving opportunities to each and discovering success in places I never thought I would.

With experience as both a person who was enthralled with God and someone who has hated and rejected Him, I've accepted the raw truth of both sides: In general, they are intolerant of the other. My message to anyone that honestly strives for truth about the reality of existence and wants to feel comfortable in their convictions is to give both equal opportunities for success.

If you're a non-believer, don't pick arguments with someone you feel superior to or point to the well-documented ugliness of religion; instead, see how your arguments hold up against real scholars of God, and try experiencing that God through passages of theology you might appreciate.

If you're a believer, don't preach to the world about the way you've experienced your own God or have blind faith in the scripture you read; Instead, see how your arguments hold up against highly educated atheists, and try understanding the way your God can correlate with how others experience our universe under the scientific pretense (note: there is certainly science in scripture and scripture in science, and this is not meant to make them mutually exclusive).

And, on both sides, we need to promote honesty. I've seen far too many atheists hide their convictions around religious people in order to be polite, and far too many religious people avoid their doubts about what's being taught in colleges for fear of being judged. The result is two sides that can't ever learn from each other, because they're constantly playing cat and mouse.

In the end, literature has taught us most people will travel on this journey of discovery their entire lives, some seeking answers forever and others finding them rather easily. The Rambam says life is like standing on a dark plain on a stormy night. You stand there beaten by the wind, lashed by the rain, hopelessly lost, no idea where you are. And as you stand there in total darkness, at the moment of greatest despair there is a flash of lightning, and in that instant of lightning you see the road clearer than by day -- and as you see it, it disappears. The rest of the night is walking through the storm on memory alone of the flash of clarity that you once saw. Some people see more flashes, some people see less, but it is up to you to decide what the lightning unveils.

Some relevant quotes on being agnostic:

"You can be against God or you can be for God, but you cannot be without him."

"Its scary though, when you're like: I don't believe everything my parents taught me, but I would also like to not go to hell."

tl;dr - You're not an agnostic if you never think about or serve a higher purpose. Good, smart people are everywhere.